Marvel Superheroes vs. the Universal Monsters

While it seems like nerd-vana with all the superhero movies coming out, people who don’t enjoy the genre however are dismayed by all the capes and cowls. But this is Hollywood and all things are circular; we’ve seen this before with the opposite of the superheroes, the Monsters.

MonstersBack in 1931 (and for the next 17 years), the Universal Monsters ruled the silver screen. Frankenstein, Wolf Man and Dracula had their own movies and then eventually began to cross over into each others films and either fought each other or somehow teamed up to fight a common enemy. Sound familiar?

Frankenstein and Dracula both appeared on the silver screen the same year, 1931. In quick succession, (’35 and ’36, respectively) The Bride of Frankenstein and Dracula’s Daughter appeared. Then came their hirsute friend, The Wolf Man in 1941. The Ghost of Frankenstein appeared in 1942 and then the first cross-over in 1943, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. The next three years gave us Son of Dracula, House of  Frankenstein  and House of Dracula.

The crowning achievement and ultimate death knell of the Universal Monsters was when they were forced to “fight” Abbott and Costello, in the Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein classic. Forced to play 2nd, 3rd and 4th banana to the comic duo, all three Founding Monsters met ignoble ends in that movie. As an Abott & Costello fan I love the movie, but it is sad to see Dracula (always my favorite) reduced to such comedy doings (and he loses?!!!)

The Universal Monsters, most of them, were based on a single novel and then the studio just repeated (with some small alterations) the process with each sequel. To their great advantage, the superheroes have some 20, 30, maybe even 50 years of stories to adapt and evolve into their movie adventures.

All of the above Monster movies are just the Universal monsters (not including The Mummy, The Creature of the Black Lagoon and others) and not the other studios who created their own versions and permutations of the monsters.

So that puts us at 12 Universal Monster movies. We’re only at 9 Marvel movies (out so far.)

What are the parallels between now and then? The looming threat of war, actual war, science we cannot control or understand, evil we cannot control or understand. The monsters were able to scare their audiences and leave the theater unscathed, safe in the knowledge that good had won once again. The visceral thrill of adventure and heroes triumphing over villains is something we, Mankind, has craved for as long as there have been cave paintings and tales of the hunt.

G. K. Chesterton wrote, “Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.

It’s 2014 and we need St. George.  But now we dress him in tights and high-tech armor.


My Last Meal on Earth

The Mars One project is an effort to send a team of people to the red planet to establish a permanent station there. The ship leaves Earth in 2022 and would land on Mars several months later. Any one can submit an application to go on the trip but there’s a catch… it is a one way trip. The travelers will land on Mars, establish/build the colony and then… die there (of old age, one hopes.)
So, what if you’ve been chosen?
What would be your last meal on Earth?

18505This is a question I’ve been adding to our verbal pattern warm-ups for some time. I think it’s an interesting question and the class usually gives some great answers. It usually makes me hungry.

The other day, I was thinking about the question myself. A giant steak would be nice. So would a chicken parmesan with spaghetti dinner. I mean, what would be the best way to celebrate my life on earth?
And then it struck me; how could I celebrate life on earth by taking a life? Killing something to satisfy my own personal celebration would be incongruous with the idea of bringing life to a new planet. The thought made me sad. I’m by no means a vegetarian, but my last meal on Earth would be vegetables and rice. Maybe some quinoa for dessert.

See ya later, Earthlings.

13 Extremely Short Halloween Stories


“It’s cold. I’m always so cold. I just want to be someplace warm, even if it’s for a few moments,” said the knife in William’s hand.


Sheryl watched the acid eat its way through the bathtub. It bubbled and sizzled. She followed the trail of acid across the floor and up between her legs. It was that time again.


John looked at his sleeping wife with suspicion. He knew the baby in her arms wasn’t his. For one thing, it was human.



Dana laughed as she stirred the slowly bubbling chili. This was going to be a Pro-Choice rally to remember.


The cast from Peter’s broken foot fell to the ground with a crack as thousands of roaches burst forth and scurried from the light.


Technically, thought Mike as he gingerly plucked the mushrooms from his wife’s corpse, this is organic.


After the virus, Mary was the last person on Earth. She dropped her phone when she read, “Where you at?”


Jill sat back from her meal, full and satisfied. Soon she would have twice the speed, twice the strength… that’s what clones were for.


“Free me,” said the dark brown liquid in the bottle. “I don’t know how,” said Tyson. “Drink,” said the bottle.


Sheriff Holbrook held the evidence between his outstretched hands. What kind of animal had a 4×5 placenta?



“I love you. I’ll never let you go,” Julia said as she put Rob back in his jar.


An asian baby. One irish child. Soon my gift will be complete. I better hurry, Mother’s Day is coming.


The old nazi helmet screamed orders directly into Mark’s mind. He would have to obey, it wasn’t his fault… he was just following orders.

Something Old, Something New, Please

I live in the past. I study the American Revolution. I know, perhaps too much, the canon of the DC comics universe, the Marvel comics universe, the Star Wars universe, the Star Trek universe. I re-read the Sherlock Holmes canon every year. I love musicals and not the new stuff or even Sondheim; I like Lerner & Lowe, Rodgers and Hammerstein. Hell, I make a living regurgitating the words of a decades-dead teacher.

That being said, I want new stories.

In the world of comic books the DC and Marvel have fallen into a rut of “updating” their characters and then, instead of creating new stories for these heroes, they repeat classic stories of the past. It’s boring. Even the best story in decades (Marvel’s Superior Spider-Man) was basically a retread of the ole hero/villain mind-switch.

Arguably the best Sherlock Holmes update (BBC’s Sherlock) still apes stories and characters from over a century ago.

star-trek-comparison-from-empireThe recent Star Trek movies are a perfect example of what is wrong with this remake mentality. It’s not new to use a younger cast and then just retell the same old stories from decades past.

I would have been more excited for the new Star Wars movies if they were set a long long long time ago and had no connection to the movies we’ve already seen.

I loved Twin Peaks, but I have no desire to see it return. It was a weird, classic show for a weird time in America and my life. Let it lie. I would love to see David Lynch do another show with a similar sensibility but not with the same continuity.

I crave new stories in these universes. Show me interesting and exciting things for Batman and Superman, give me a new detective that uses modern techniques, give me a a Starfleet 200 years from The Next Generation, show me the Star Wars universe 50 years after the Rebellion, show me Harolds that experiment and break the mold.

I like new stories.