Monday, August 31, 2009

"I AM DOOM!" (not really - God takes charge. Again) Pt. 4

I have been working all week on this costume, even getting so stressed out that I cancelled a Friday evening get together and got so little sleep I missed worship on Sunday.

I was obsessed with having the BEST Dr. Doom I could make.

Just in case, though, I had a Green Lantern costume I had been working on. Much less effort. Simply black tights, boots, a green vest & mask and big ring (which I had hand-made last year).

Now, this event was in Rockford, IL and I had to suffer through driving a full hour in one of the most gorgeous Mid-Western days I have ever seen. Skies so blue that you swear it has been retouched in Photoshop - a long horizon over flat fields so wide that you swear you have a virtual reality helmet on or something. Just breath-takingly beautiful, but I was so worried I almost could not enjoy it.

I sped to make up time. As I exited the proper ramp, I looked at the arrow for Loves' Park. I saw it pointing left, so I went left. After another 15 minutes of driving, praying in grousing frustration (I'm late with a costume 90% finished, you see), I ask for directions. Seems I was supposed to go RIGHT as I exited. It was only another 300 yards to the stadium.

I am NOW stressed and livid. I ask "Why, Daddy?!" (meaning God) as I whip my vehicle around. I KNOW I was looking right at the sign. I KNOW it said left. I KNOW I was eager to go EITHER direction. HOW did I miss THAT?

Then I heard: "You are my son. You are not permitted to cheat."

You know that 15 minutes I 'made' by driving fast? Yep. God took them away.

Now you do not have to believe me. Heck, it was so soft, it could have just been my own guilty conscience. But it made sense. It was a ridiculous error that did EXACTLY what was necessary to show me Who's in Charge.

Then Divine Intervention Part Two: I did not say so on this board, but I had some reservations of portraying such a malevolent villain. A lot of the kids here for "Superhero Sunday" are very young and easily frightened. Two, it would be a little strange to play a Marvel villain if most or all of the other members of my team were DC Heroes.

Though, of course, Doom would win in a fight. And how could that encourage the wee little ones I ask you? ;)

Dr. Doom defeats the JLA in this commissioned art from John Byrne (from John Byrne's website)

So - at the last minute, I packed all my Green Lantern costume as well. I thought I would 'switch-out' about an hour later to be Dr. Doom (and to be fair, my crew thought it looked pretty good and were encouraging), but I just couldn't.

I was walking around as a hero with heroes and even though I had some character-recognition problems, one older lady, wearing a Peace-symbol necklace whispered "Green Lantern!" as she walked by.

She didn't recognize the costume, but she saw the logo. She had her own to wear and was keen enough to recognize mine.


So I wasn't Dr. Doom. Not this time. But rather a member of the intergalactic police corps, the Green Lanterns.

You know what? It was cool signing "Green Lantern" and drawing the GL Corps symbol on baseballs and gloves and arms in permanent magic marker.

I had a great time, and I did not have to be a villain nor "cheat" to do it. We all stand behind some symbol, something that identifies who we are.

And maybe, just maybe, that's what God is trying to teach me - and us all - one way or another.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

"I AM DOOM! (for real this time) Pt. 3

One of the challenges in creating my Dr. Doom costume - and blessings - is that the good doctor has so many faces!

I am familiar with the 70's - 80's version with John Byrne doing the face one specific way. As I searched through the web, I found many different versions of his iron mask.

One has lots of rivets, one has a set opening for the jaw, another permits the jaw to move. One is more smooth and curvy, showing an almost alien line - another looks like pig iron drop forged.

So I can do my own version of his mask and still be 'canon' as it were.

But it must keep three things in my estimation:

1) It must look like Iron.
2) It must remind the viewer of a Skull (part of Kirby's original design intent)
3) It must look menacing, especially by use of the mouth piece. Utterly menacing.

You see, strangely, Doom can be shown a multitude of ways, and we still recognize him. I think between the green cloak, armored suit, and gold medallions, we have we need for a classic villain, visually dramatic and ready to take on anyone.

But that metal face with its frozen rage - THAT makes DOOM!

Another thing that makes Doom is his dialogue, his arch villainy is only completed with his extensive vocabulary being used to demean his opponents, to put them in their proper place. Like Thor, he has a distinctive way of speaking. Take that away, and you lose a major part of Dr. Doom.

On the blog Occasional Superheroine, by Valerie D'Orazio, the failure of one writer Brian Michael Bendis -is lifted up for examination. [Bendis has won a lot of recognition; he's good, but here he put words in Doom's mouth that are both lame and offensive]:

John Byrne, possibly one of the "grandaddies" of comics, who also used to write Fantastic Four back in the 80's and did a great job of exploring Doom's character put up his version of the same scene:

Classy yet threatening. Menacing and malevolent with disdain oozing out of his very stance. [Note: I know this was a commission for someone else, but Byrne choose it for this reason - Doom's aloofness - and a strange pistol in his right hand. Now THAT'S how the Ruler of Latveria shoud speak and act!

In the same way, we can mischaracterize even God. We CAN know His heart and His tone - if we hear God's Word - if we get to know Him.

I won't belabor the point, but I have come to realize that the Bible doesn't scream at me any more about how bad I am.

It rather shows me now Who I belong to - and where I no longer fit in.

Above, it is clear Brian Michael Bendis does NOT have an ear for Dr. Doom's dialogue.

You know what? I can "hear" how Christ says things now when I read scripture. I've been able to do it for years, actually, but I just realized - again- what a gift it was to me. Formerly "condemning" passages are now comforting - all because the 'tone' is different.

Liek those e-mails you get that can set an office to war because the 'tone' or 'voice' in one was not perceived correctly, I think many people read the Bible wrongly. They hear the wrong voice.

They therefore get God's character all wrong.

I'll hope to touch more on this later, but until then, when you read the Bible, and if you are a Believer, why don't you imagine Some One who loves you unconditionally speaking to you, telling you what happened and what is best for you?

The difference might be night and day.

Or the difference between heaven and hell.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gran Torino - or "A Racist Old Man Learns to Love"

Clint Eastwood's films generally have too much humanism and "Vengeance is mine, punk!" for me to appreciate them anymore. The message is usually the same: "You gotta go kick tail yourself 'cause there ain't going to be any Divine help, stupid."

But even as Eastwood loves to show the dark side of humanity and the seeming ineffectuality of faith in a God of justice, he does indeed seem to know what justice is -and redemption.

And that is what makes this movie so enjoyable in his portrayal of its crusty curmudgeon, Korean vet Walter Kowalski. I recommend young men to watch this move with their granddads and older men; I do not recommend it for everyone. [The language is very offensive - if you have a DVD player with 'foul-language filter' it would pass muster, though.]

You see, one of the redeeming features of the film is that Walt starts his redemption by helping out a young boy named Thau (who is renamed "Toad" on the spot by him) who has no father, no male guidance, and is being forcibly drawn to join a gang of youths, who naturally only want to make him a criminal like themselves.

Walt rescues the boy - after nearly shooting him for trying to steal his precious Gran Torino - and begins teaching him how to be a man. The path of this road from racist neighbor to reluctant mentor is short enough to keep the movie from dragging and long enough for you to see he's got no choice in the matter. He's amazed at what the boy doesn't know.

I said Eastwood was humanistic, right? As you might suspect, his mentoring is fairly comedic - teaching the boy how to curse and complain like a working class man, what tools are for and how to shake hands. Even more important - how not be clueless when a girl has her eyes on you.

I found myself wishing I had had someone more like Walt in my life - but with a deeper faith in God. I still didn't do too bad, but I have large gaps in my practical knowledge that I am only now filling in. [Side note: I actually tried to take Vocational School training in High School so I could learn all that cool stuff about electricity and mechanics, etc. School counselor wouldn't let me. Said that was for 'non college-bound students.' Crap on a stick - I can't tell you how many times I have wandered through a hardware store stupefied while the money I got for doing some ad in graphic design was long gone.]

I ended up liking this movie - with its sincere young "padre" who was like many Catholic priests a fine philosopher and humanitarian dressed up in religious robes. My bud watching with me and I both had come to Christ and been born again after years of religion and saw a lot of ourselves in him as well: we also knew the 'words' but not the 'tune.'

Jesus changed all that for him and me. Jesus became my mentor, my friend. And that is also why I liked Gran Torino.

Because whether he realized it or not, Clint got very close to the truth of Christ in the end. That Jesus did not die for everybody, but for His elect. The friends He's chosen. The ones He also taught and the ones who loved Him for changing their lives.

When Walt makes THE sacrifice to save Thau and his sister from this H'mong gang, we see precisely what Christ did for His sons and daughters who placed their trust in Him.

"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."

"This is the verdict: Light HAS come into the world - but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil."

Eastwood, for all his flaws, stands by this truth - that men who are evil hate the light. And light, even if it must be snuffed out, is worth living for. Worth dying for.

In Gran Torino, racist curmudgeon Walter Kowalski shines brightly at the end of his life, discipling a young Asian man into manhood and leaving him with his greatest treasure. That makes this film probably the best thing I've ever seen Eastwood make.

See it with someone who has anger issues and enjoy yourselves.



Monday, August 24, 2009

"I AM DOOM!" (for real this time) Pt. 2

On Sunday, August 30th, if all goes well and I do not pass out from heat exhaustion, I will be portraying one of comicdom's greatest villains in Rockford, IL: Doctor Doom!

To inspire me as I work diligently crafting armor and a faceplate out of old Halloween materials and leftover pieces of plastic and green cloth, I created a soundtrack for the villainous Doom - sort of a "mental movie soundtrack" culled together from various CDs I had.

To do that, I had to find pathos, hi-tech sounds, tragedy and glorious melodrama. I culled work from Moby, John Williams, Steve Jablonsky and a host of others. Its weird, it's eclectic, but it works pretty well. Seeing as how Doom has been called the "Darth Vader" of Marvel Comics - I used Anakin's theme from Star Wars Episode I. It works well, as both villains fell, victims of their own pride and a twisted desire to fix their world "their way."

[Image taken from Crave Online's article "Doctor Doom takes on Darth Vader"]

You see, Victor von Doom was a bright and promising child once, running around with his gypsy family (the Roma) in Eastern Europe as war tore that area apart. Doom was created originally in 1962 or so - so if he was 27, with a hate-on for Richards just after college and his personal self-training, then he was born in 1935 or so. That means he was 10 when Hitler died and World War II ended. Comics, however, are notoriously unconcerned with real time, so we can simply imagine a young boy growing up today in war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina, near Marvel's fictional country of "Latveria", so you'll have the same basic trials and origin.

I've also recently seen the film Slumdog Millionaire about a "slumdog" - a wretchedly poor Indian boy who somehow survives the violent loss of his mother by living from trash heap to trash heap on wits alone. I though about how poverty drives so many to lie and steal just to survive, and how harsh and brutal such a world would be to a child with no mother (and no father.)

Some have said "Dr. Doom is what Iron Man would be if he were evil." Maybe. But I think Doom is what Batman would be if he were evil. Maybe a bit of both? In any event, Victor Von Doom has nothing when he wins his scholarships and opportunities to come to America. By sheer intellect and personal study, this gypsy - a European "slumdog" if you will - becomes the foremost master of robotics and even succeeds in building a time machine!

One scary dude. Oh, he also "dabbles" in mystic arts - second only to Doctor Strange himself. And wears a powered suit of armor which is able to project a forcefield that can take a small nuclear explosion.

But when he rules Latveria? This is the kicker: he is mostly benevolent. I mean, you cause Doom any trouble, you are never heard of from again, capeesh? Like Vlad Tepes, their AIN'T no crime in Latveria.

Ain't no communism either. Nor democracy. Doom rules it all as an "Enforced Monarchy."

When Doom rules supreme over his little land, he is satisfied.

And that's where it gets really scary for me and all of those who have lost homes and loved ones suddenly. We want control so we will be safe.

Dr. Strange admires sorcerous ability of Doom's mother...

What is terrible is that Victor has a GREAT human quality: a survivor's heroism, undaunted by ANYTHING. But then like so many, he lost all compassion for any who were weaker. His trials made him bitter, not better. His self-hatred at being a victim is projected outward to ensure he will never be a victim again -by anyone's hand.

If you, like me, have trouble forgiving people for ridiculing you, despising your hard work or simply being stand-offish when you desperately needed their help, do yourself a favor and ask God to intervene. Let Him love you and humble yourself enough to realize not everyone who hurts you is an enemy.

Sometimes people are just thoughtless. Sometimes you really are the smartest one in the group. Here's an ugly fact: the smarter you are, the more you are going to have to forgive, folks.

Yeah, I know someone somewhere is going to take that as a proud proclamation of my intellect, but its not: I'm talking to the smart people I personally know who have been bitten by envy, jealousy and had to suffer through mindless politics, unconscionable societal "standards" (racism, bigotry, etc.)

We are all one step from being Victor Von Doom.

Keep your cool and wait for the Lord God Almighty to handle it.

Otherwise you may just end up in an armored suit for the rest of your life, drinking your butt off (see first pic above).


Friday, August 21, 2009

"I AM DOOM!" (no - for real this time)

Some time ago I did a piece on Victor Von Doom and what a cool villain he was and how we are all like that - especially perfectionist me - and yada yada yada.

Well, I decided to make his costume and help out a bud on the costuming forums up here in northern Illinois.

Budget: less than $20.
Amount of available materials that are usable for his costume: Some 90% WOW!
Amount of joy creating: Priceless.

I'll post pics later.

Should I feel so inclined - BAH! I AM DOOM!


In His Grace