Polter-Cow (spectralbovine) wrote,

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Four or Fantastic Four?

Saturday was closing night for Eat Our Shorts 4: Love and Other Disasters, and, while I'll admit I was a bit hesitant about this show initially, it turned out to be a great, fun experience. I was in two short plays. In "Flip the Switch," I was one half of a gay couple at the gym who grill their workout instructor about his love life, and in "A Match Made in Heaven and Hell," I was an extremely condescending waiter tending to Jesus and Lucifer on their first date. The first play was fun; I got to say things like "We hired a cocksucker!" and be a backup singer and deliver a Norma Rae-style tirade about bottoms. But even though the writer and director did love me in the part, I felt miscast. In the second play, however, I felt more comfortable saying terribly awful things to super nice people. Even though it was a much smaller part, the character had a much higher laugh/line ratio. It was fun to play two very different characters in the same night.

And apparently I was good at it. One of the writers told me I was "so fucking hilarious" every night. One of my castmates told me that he and the other actors were always saying I was "so funny, so fucking funny" in both my roles and that I made them so different, which was key. One of the directors said that everyone was fighting over me after auditions, but I couldn't be in every play. One woman told me after the show that I was "phenomenal." In fact, I got a lot of compliments and praise from strangers (mostly for my waiter character, I think), which was neat. Hell, I even got stopped in a nearby taqueria by someone who smiled at me and said, "I just saw you at Eat Our Shorts. You were hilarious."

Also, we sold out every night, which was a new experience for me.

I'd never ready any Fantastic Four before, but in honor of Mark Waid's taking over Daredevil, Angelo, my pusher, bought me half of his run on Fantastic Four, with art by Mike Wieringo (full Goodreads reviews: Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Book 4), and I enjoyed it so much I soon bought the other half. Luckily, the first issue was very introductory. Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) is a stretchy supergenius, Sue Richards (Invisible Woman) is a loving wife/mother and supportive sister with invisible force fields, Johnny Storm (Human Torch) is an immature hothead, and Ben Grimm (Thing) is a rough-and-tumble galoot. They fight aliens and interdimensional beings and science gone awry. It's kind of like Atomic Robo in how silly and science-y it all is, but what really holds the book together is the family aspect. This is a very tight group of family and friends, and they love each other and snipe at each other. It's very endearing. Plus, the Fantastic Four, unlike many other superheroes, are huge celebrities with no secret identities. They have their own corporation to market themselves, which could come off as sort of douche-y, but it doesn't, especially given Reed's wonderful monologue at the end of Waid's first issue.

Having established his characters (well, "his" characters), Waid moves on to the highlight of his run, a story of the Fantastic Four facing their archnemesis, Doctor Doom. The things Doom does in this story are genuinely scary, and I give Waid and Wieringo props for really pulling me into the awfulness without having years and years of familiarity with these characters. There's all sorts of pain and misery and dastardly manipulation, and it's all rooted in the characters. It's superhero storytelling at its best, treating these people with powers as people first, characters with rich histories and complex relationships. And if that weren't enough, Waid actually spends a couple issues dealing with the aftermath, and it's incredibly affecting. What impresses me about Mark Waid's run is that he's truly interested in consequences. In the post-Doom stories, we see how Reed's encounter with Doom has changed him, not just physically but mentally as well (Waid's run is very Reed-centric, and he seems intent on piling more and more angst onto the poor guy). Although Waid falls back on clichés a bit, it's a very compelling look at vengeance and loss and the clashing of two brilliant minds.

The final stretch isn't as strong, but it does allow Waid to use the other major FF villain I knew about, Galactus. It was unusual and funny. These issues focus on what individual team members mean to each other. But Waid doesn't simply delve into the relationships these people have with each other but also the relationships they have with their powers. What do their powers mean to them? How do they define them? How do they make them feel? It was interesting that the Fantastic Four, throughout Waid's run, feel like people first and superheroes second. Their powers are sort of incidental to who they are, but they're still part of who they are. I really grew to love the characters. Reed, who's always concerned with how his inventions could benefit humanity. Sue, who's very complex for a female character in comics; although she is in some ways defined by her relationships to three men (her husband, her brother, and her friend), she is also a mother of two, and she's also a businesswoman. Johnny, who has a lighthearted, warm soul but gains some new responsibilities during Waid's run. Ben, who has a sweetly antagonistic relationship with Johnny and is probably the one with the biggest heart of all.

Thank you, Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo, for making me love the Fantastic Four. Now, however, I am in the strange position of wanting to read more Fantastic Four but being afraid to read stories not written by Mark Waid. For all my ignorance about the team, I feel like he really got the characters and stayed true to them without making the book about pseudoscience and magic and cosmic battles and whatever. The first Waid book I read was Kingdom Come, which I thought was overrated, so I've really had to get over that bad first impression to appreciate that this Waid guy, he knows how to write superhero comics after all.
Tags: books, comics, i am so awesome, pimpings, real life friends, schmacting, theatre
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