Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Death in the Wild Blue Yonder

I’m about 75% of the way through my copy of Showcase Presents: Enemy Ace and I must say it’s been one of the best silver/bronze age comics that I have read. Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert (which write and draw, respectively, most of the stories) have really created something special here. Choosing a German pilot and setting the stories in WWI was an inspired choice because it allows the reader to dispense with the usual jingoistic tripe and focus on one man’s hellish struggle to stay alive and sane during combat. The main character, Hans von Hammer, is an allegory to the Red Baron but with a pulpy goodness that only a DC war comic could provide. In some ways his personality is the opposite of another Bronze Age comic character I like, Conan the Barbarian but they both have the same evocative, brooding nature.

There’s just something about WWI air combat that lends itself to great storytelling: the newness of the technology, the sense of dying chivalry, and the aloneness of the expanding sky. The last frontier has been opened and it’s used for bringing death. There’s also the sense of the duel, which recalls both knights defending their honor and an old west shootout like the OK Corral. It was Europe’s chance to play Cowboys and Indians except everybody was a Cowboy.

I have always had a passing interest in WWI aviation history and Showcase Presents: Enemy Ace, has brought that back to me of late. I started looking around the net reading articles about WWI aircraft and people again. While skimming a wikipedia article on Manfred von Richthofen, I noticed that a Red Baron movie is coming out this year. It’s a European production that plays a little loose with the facts but it still looks to be a first-rate film nonetheless. One of the things that stood out is that Lena Headey of Terminator: the Sarah Conner Chronicles fame has a significant role in the film as Nurse Kate. It will be interesting to see her in a softer role after her turn as the hardcore, kick ass mom.

Red Baron Shots:

In a sick sense of simpatico, I had just finished reading an Enemy Ace story of a puppy falling to it’s death when the news story of a marine killing a puppy by throwing off a cliff showed up in the news… scary… and sad…



Dean Wormer said...

That looks really good. Points taken away for failing to reference Snoopy in that entry, however.

As for the Marine incident - Marines kill things. That's why we shouldn't really be using them as an occupation force. They aren't cops.

I'm not excusing that awful incident at all I just don't see why the Marines (or any of the rest of our troops) are there to begin with.

ladybug said...

These comics look cool-like there's a story! (tee hee)...

Anyway, maybe I should be bumbling around getting some more Sandman..

Don Snabulus said...

That trailer makes me want to see the Howard Hughes WWI movie.

Eaglewing said...

I've started reading a Garth Ennis Enemy Ace story where I think he comes back to fight in WWII. It's been good so far and these look like good stories to pick up too.

That trailer looks really good - lots of air action. Theres a show on the History channel (in Canada anyway) about dogfights from different eras and it's really fascinating. Using CGI and accounts from survivors and historians, they recreate remarkable moments from history. Worth a watch if you find it.

Arkonbey said...

Man, that movie looks pretty good. Just the right amount of CGI. Anachronistic though it may be, it looks more historical than Fly Boys. How long, if ever, before we can get a subtitled version in the states.

So, are those comics as good as Airboy?

Dean: you're right on both counts about the Marines. If it is true, they should publicly shame that Marine 19th century style. Stand him up in front of his unit in his Alphas and strip him of his decorations and rank and kick him out for shaming the corps.

Snab: That would be Hell's Angels. Good film. I also like Wings (the one from 1927, not the NBC sitcom)

Randal Graves said...

Man, I hope that movie turns out good. I'm with you Swinebread on your WWI comments. A very interesting time. If you're not actually in the trenches, heh.

Thomas Fummo said...

If my grandfather were still alive, he would probably have loved to see that movie.

it looks fantastic!

Swinebread said...

Dean – I thought the Marines were Devil Dogs not puppy killers but yes they should not be there anymore.

LB – I think you should pick up your own copies of sandman… and then you can review them here.

Snab – I’ve never seen that, but I have seen Wings, which Arkonbey mentions.

Eaglewing – I read a little about them on wikipedia and the reviews have been good so I think I will pick it up at some point.

I’ve watched a lot of the dogfight episodes, really great stuff. I’ve gotten a much better visual understanding for the tactics from this show. I agree with you.

Arkonbey – Actually, I think it’s in English, so it can have an international release and yes, it is more accurate than flyboys. I like CG best when it is used to make complicated but realistic things real, so the Red Baron is the perfect use for the technology IMO.

Yes, Enemy Ace is as good as Airboy but they are different comics. Enemy Ace is a War comic and Airboy is an adventure comic if that makes sense.

Randal – Oh god yes! Absolutely, not in the trenches. The history book of film for me.

Dr. S – It really does look good, I have high hopes for the film.

Was your grandfather interested in aviation?

Thomas Fummo said...

He was fanatic about it. He built radio-controlled model aeroplanes and gliders (sometimes he'd even teach me how planes work) and he loved all those old war films.
The only sad thing is that I never really understood how much I had in common with him until after he had died...

I'd love to see this film.
I still have The bridges at Toko-Ri on dvd (it was my grandfather's) to watch, now that i come to think of it...

Pandabonium said...

Swinebread said,
"There’s just something about WWI air combat that lends itself to great storytelling: the newness of the technology, the sense of dying chivalry, and the aloneness of the expanding sky. The last frontier has been opened and it’s used for bringing death. There’s also the sense of the duel.."

Very true. My first sketches were of WWI dogfights.

I will watch the film, but from the clip I worry that the use of CG might ruin it for me as it did the movie "The Aviator" which would otherwise have been great. Two "modern" WWI aerial combat movies I can recommend are "The Blue Max" (1966) starring George Peppard, and "The Great Waldo Pepper" (1975) with Robert Redford, which, strictly speaking, is a post WWI story, but focuses on the war.

Both films have great flying scenes and acting.

Go Snoopy!

Arkonbey said...

Panda: you reminded me of the Rhinebeck Aerodrome

They put on small airshows with actual vintage aircraft. Whee!

Swinebread said...

Dr. S – That’s amazing, it makes me happy to know that your Grandfather left you with so many good memories. Both of mine died before I was born or when I was too young to know them. And be too hard on yourself you were just a kid after all. ☺

Panda- I’ve seen both Blue Max and Waldo Pepper, good films! As for the CG It doesn’t bother me as long as things follow the laws of Physics. It’s just impossible to get that many vintage planes in the air doing such dangerous stunts. Plus it looks a lot better than models, which often jarringly take me out of the film.

Arkonbey – Now that is very cool! I would love to see it. I’ll have to work that in if I ever make to the east coast again.

Pandabonium said...

Arkonbey - oh yeah. Now that you mention Rhinebeck I remember reading about it from time to time in various aviation magazines. Fantastic. Thanks for the link.

Momo the Wonder Dog said...

My master has several friends who were in the Marine Corps who are good people, but we also read about some jerks raping girls in Okinawa, shooting civilians in Iraq, and now throwing puppies off a cliff? I wonder why they hate us?

Sick. Sick. Sick.

Swinebread said...

Well you know what they say... Those that hurt animals hurt people...