friday odds and ends

Just finished reading The Big Bang: The Lost Mike Hammer Sixties Novel by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins. The Big Bang isn’t great but it’s a quick and dirty read that I enjoyed. I don’t know if you’d call that a recommendation or not.

I’m a bit of a fan of detective fiction, although my tastes usually run toward the other side of the pond in my leisure reading. I prefer Sherlock Holmes to Sam Spade, Hercule Poirot to Lew Archer. If I could get introspective for a moment, I would imagine this is because, by and large, American detectives are bruisers as well as keen observers of crime. As a kid who was never the most athletic on the playground, I preferred the English detectives, with their penchant for brainwork over physicality. Mike Hammer’s probably the best example of the American brawler detective, a brutal, prejudiced, sexist lout who shoots first and asks questions later.

The Spillane novels aren’t my favorites, but they have a roughness to them which distinguishes Hammer’s novels from many other private dick books. I suppose part of it is that, at the very least, Mike Hammer at least occasionally rises above the muck and tacitly acknowledges what a terrific jerk he is. I don’t want to say that redeems him (it certainly does not) but it makes him a bit easier to take as a main character.

Your average Mike Hammer story reads much in the way your average superhero comic book does- it’s pure adolescent male fantasy. Everywhere Mike Hammer goes, powerful and dangerous men are afraid of his power. Every woman he encounters is interested in bedding him. He talks down to pretty much everyone he encounters and doesn’t share much of what he’s thinking with the readers until the end of the story. He’ll walk around for 2/3rds of the book saying things like “I have a hunch about what’s going on…” and then sock you over the head with it in the last 15 pages. Of course, the mystery of The Big Bang isn’t exactly hard to piece together, but you get the feeling that Hammer enjoys knowing something while you do not.

LIke I said, it has its’ charms, but Mike Hammer’s not for everyone. I don’t know to what extent Spillane was involved with the publication of this book; he passed away in 2006. I do know that I’m a fan of Max Allan Collins’ writing, which takes some of the Spillane tropes and updates them with awareness. His Ms. Tree character is basically Mike Hammer’s secretary Velda in a starring role… and I’ve loved his recent return to his working class hitman character Quarry, who embodies all the nastiness of Mike Hammer… but in a persona that better fits being an unrepentant ass.


I am very late at weighing in on this, but by now most of you have read about the kerfuffle revolving around the Internet campaign to get comedian Donald Glover, an incredibly funny actor on the NBC sit-com Community, an audition to play Spider-Man, a traditionally Caucasian character, in the next big Spidey movie.

This prospect made a lot of people angry… or at least, it made a lot of Internet people angry. I’m never sure how Internet anger translates into real life anger. Personally I think Glover’s pretty darn hilarious on Community and I wouldn’t mind seeing him as Spider-Man one bit. He’d handle the wisecrackin’ aspect of Spidey really well.

Community was one of the few TV shows I was watching every week this past year. It was quite fun to see the show improve week after week, and I think Glover’s character Troy had a lot to do with that improvement. The thing I liked best about him were Troy’s interactions with fellow student Abed (Danny Pudi), which struck me as a happy accident that the producers seemingly stumbled upon. If you watch the first few episodes Community, they are clearly positioning Chevy Chase’s character Pierce to be Troy’s foil. Over the course of a few episodes of the show, producers must have realized that Glover and Pudi make a formidable comedic duo and they started pushing the two actors together to great effect. TV shows are often too expensive, stodgy, and mired in the “rules” of what they have already decided needs to be done that off-the-cuff pairings and story lines like this don’t get a chance to shine. My favorite bits of Troy and Abed can be found in the 30-second end credits bumpers that Glover and Pudi get to do every week. Here’s my absolute favorite:

Poor Dmitri, indeed.

I wanted to talk about this Glover/Spider-Man thing for an ENTIRELY different reason however… and that has to do with me. I suppose this story is finally making its’ way to people who are casual fans of pop culture. I don’t know if Nightline did a story on this or what, but over the past week and a half I’ve had three different people here at work, independent of one another, ask me what I think of a black guy playing Spider-Man.

THAT annoys me. Not the prospect of someone interpreting a comic book character in a new or different way than the accepted material, that doesn’t bother me at all. What bothers me is the prospect of being asked to sound off about this Internet flare-up over and over again for the next few weeks because I am… THE COMIC GUY. I draw comics and people know about my initiatives to bring more comics into classrooms, so I’m the go-to person with which to have this conversation.

I think the last time this happened en masse was when Iron Man 1 came out in theaters. I guess people hadn’t really heard about Iron Man in the wide world outside of comic books because I must have fielded half a million questions about the character and the movie. Nevermind that I don’t know ANYTHING about Iron Man (He’s a guy in a robot suit and he has a mustache and that’s pretty much all I know, even today). Nevermind that I didn’t see the movie until about six months after it came out on DVD. People just expected me to KNOW stuff, and I got nothing. It puts me on edge and makes me feel like I’m disappointing people all at the same time.

I suppose there are a lot of people who deal with this kind of thing. You probably have Sports Guy at your workplace, or a Video Game Guy, or a Guy Who Knows Everything About The TV Show M.A.S.H. I shouldn’t complain; there are far worse things to be known for!

One Response to “friday odds and ends”

  1. HA! I never saw that one. Maybe the DVR cut it off.

    I still love the Spanish rap one.

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