An essay based upon MARIO ACEVEDO'S KILLING THE COBRA: CHINATOWN TROLLOP #2 after the jump.
Anatomy of an impulse buy:
1) The cover features a dude straight-up getting his fuck on, which is certainly a persuasive sales campaign for a comic book. And next to the Buddha, even, which I don’t think a lot of guys could manage. You know: I already think God’s laughing at me when I take my clothes off, just generally, so having a giant Buddha statue in the room towering over me in that moment would generate the opposite of enlightenment. By enlightenment, I’m of course referring to boners.
2) The sub-title of the comic was “CHINATOWN TROLLOP.” Trollop is such a delicate and dainty euphemism—it’s got so much more panache than “entry-level sluts” or whatever degraded euphemism rings through your local junior high school today. Standards have deteriorated. Trollop is like when you watch MAD MEN—earlier generations may have been racist, sexist alcoholic liars, but they at least knew how to dress themselves.
3) Apparently there was a book called the NYMPHOS OF ROCKY FLATS, and that book was even a best-seller, among literate people, people who don’t need to see pictures when they read. So: this comic about a guy fucking a Chinatown trollop had a very strong probability of having solid literary influences.
Excerpt from my screenplay STANDING DANGEROUS. Log-line: "A rookie English teacher is going to turn the hood… upside-down, through the Power of Learning… and Hip-Hop-- SAY WHAT?"
Inner city gang members sit in rapt attention.
MR. CARTER (earnestly) Do you know who the original Chinatown Trollop was? (beat) Moll Flanders.
Entire class explodes in applause and high-fives. Lil Tray throws his crutches into the garbage—he can walk! Wall explodes open, showering the room with debris—Buddha rushes in through the hole.
BUDDHA Hey everybody—we’re all gonna get laid!
But, oh well, comics, so:
1) A more astute observer would have noticed the squiggle near the main character’s lips. That squiggle nears the lips is a fang. It’s a vampire comic.
2) It’s about a Hispanic vampire named Felix Gomez and his Chinese “lover” fighting Yellow Peril villains—Jiang Chow and the Han Cobras, Asian heroin-dealers who kill their underlings using cobras. Sample dialogue: “By this time next year, I’ll have every drug cartel—Colombians, Mexicans, Thais, Afghanis, Russians—lapping like dogs out of my rice bowl.” My fortune cookie says you die now, Mr. Bond-- you know, not my kind of thing. By now you can probably guess that I’m a little too much of a delicate flower for that kind of thing. Here's my impression of me: "My vagina's sore. Waah."
3) The only discernible literary influence was Hemmingway’s THE SUN ALSO RISES, in that KILLING THE COBRA is similarly about an expatriate war veteran whose obsession with his war-wound (i.e. a nasty case of vampirism that he caught in the Iraq War) leads him into an ultimately tragic relationship with a woman (i.e. the Chinatown Trollop) and aimless wanderings in the shadow of meaningless and decayed social institutions (i.e. the remote institution of the vampire “Araneum”). However, I think that CHINATOWN TROLLOP loses too much in ignoring THE SUN ALSO RISES’s themes of sexual insecurity—after all, the cover features the Chinatown Trollop having sexual congress near the Buddha, plainly expressing that in the Felix Gomez universe, sexual success is a route to spiritual fulfillment. This is a far cry and a far less believable theme than those raised by Lady Brett Ashley’s inability to consummate a sexual relationship with the narrator of THE SUN ALSO RISES, Jake Barnes, due to his hideous genital wound.
On the other hand, THE SUN ALSO RISES didn’t feature heroin-dealing Chinese gangsters, so who’s laughing now? Not Hemmingway—he killed himself.
So, that happened. A comic you may never have heard of…? Turns out there may be good reasons you’ve never heard of it. But that's not a reason to write about anything, right? "News flash! Comics: not very good sometimes." But when I think about why I didn't enjoy KILLING THE COBRA: CHINATOWN TROLLOP #2-- when I really consider it, the things I've suggested to you so far-- the lack of craft, the discomforting politics, the cliche qualities...? Well, those those don't sound very meaningful at all, do they? I mean, if I really cared all that much about lack of craft, retrograde politics, or cliches, would I really still be reading comics, at all?
No, I found the comic silly for reasons deeper than what can be attributed to any alleged lack of craft. And in thinking about it, what I think it is, and why I think the comic may be worth a thought, is this: the main character. Main character, vampire-of-action Felix Gomez-- he seemed silly to me.
But: why? He's almost identical to a hero of a 1970's Marvel comic, just with fewer thought balloons and more of a willingness to have sex with trollops of a Chinatown variety. He could be Son of Satan; he could be Ghost Rider; he could be Werewolf at Night.
And yet those characters seem tolerable in a way that Mr. Gomez does not. The very idea of him seemed silly to me, regardless of execution. Why? What changed from 1970-whatever to today? Mr. Gomez seemed silly, but he's just a generic R-rated action hero of the pulp variety. And I think that's the key fact here-- that in fact, Felix Gomez: Vampire seemed silly BECAUSE he's a R-rated male action hero of the pulp variety. Those sort of doesn't exist anymore other than in obscure IDW books, hidden away in dark corners of your local comic shop. Not in any way that's hip.
What happened to R-rated male action heroes? What happened to bad-asses? Hemmingway killed himself-- what's everyone else's excuse?
One of the big summer movies this year is the EXPENDABLES, which features or stars every single, important action hero I grew up with (with glaring exceptions like, Fred Ward from REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS, Taimak from THE LAST DRAGON, or Kurt Russel from a hell of a lot of awesome movies). Most of the stars are roughly 80 years old now. It's a funeral for creatine. What's striking about the movie is how they were never really replaced by a new batch of action heroes. Who are the big action stars of this summer?
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! All the time, it was... We finally really did it. You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!
THE A-TEAM underperformed at the box office-- THE LAST AIRBENDER exceeded expectations. Bad-ass action has been replaced by dull, computer-generated, bloodless fight scenes in children's superhero movies. "You have to see X-Men 2-- Broadway star Alan Cumming sparkles aroud the White House punching people, until he sparkles away without having hurt anyone. Weeeee!" Uhm: what?! What happened to guns, knives, bows, arrows, blood, gore, viscera? What happened to American audiences lining up to see roided-up freaks violently murdering South American drug-lords for our collective bemusement? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE US OF FUCKING A?
Who were the last round of legitimate contenders for action heroes? What happened to them?
Granted, Schwarzenegger made KINDERGARTEN COP; Stallone made STOP OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT. But they made those after they had made THE TERMINATOR, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, COMMANDO, RAW DEAL, PREDATOR, THE RUNNING MAN-- I repeat THE RUNNING MAN, TOTAL RECALL, ROCKY I-V, FIRST BLOOD, RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, RAMBO III, COBRA, OVER THE TOP, TANGO AND CASH, and THE PARTY AT KITTY AND STUD'S AKA THE ITALIAN STALLION.
That really only leaves Jason Statham...? Jason Statham has not made a movie for kids, yet. Well, I like to think children can learn a lot of lessons from the CRANK movies, but those aren't explicitly for children. So: one guy. And not to be xenephobic, but: one of them foreigners. You couldn't put James Brown's LIVING IN AMERICA in a Jason Statham movie, the way you could put it in ROCKY IV. And I feel that fact is crucial to any evaluation we undertake here. And by evaluation, I'm referring of course to boners.
What happened to men? What happened to American men? Consider the words of Guy Garcia, author of the DECLINE OF MEN: "We do know that men are losing traction in high schools. The same is true in colleges, where 59% of all students are female. Harvard professors tell me male students have lost their drive and ambition, women tell me they can't find a guy who's not a dummy, slacker, cheater or loser. Men of every stripe and part of the country are telling me they feel confused, besieged and worried that they have lost their place in society, that they have lost their bearings as men."
Science? Science blames chemicals:
"[A] host of common chemicals is feminising males of every class of vertebrate animals, from fish to mammals, including people. [...] It also follows hard on the heels of new American research which shows that baby boys born to women exposed to widespread chemicals in pregnancy are born with smaller penises and feminised genitals.
"This research shows that the basic male tool kit is under threat," says Gwynne Lyons, a former government adviser on the health effects of chemicals, who wrote the report.
[...] Half the male fish in British lowland rivers have been found to be developing eggs in their testes."
British fish have ovaries in their testes; the message is clear: even Jason Statham's days are fucking numbered. Look: I don't know about you, because I know you're probably down with some freaky shit, you're probably 9 kinds of DTF, but I really don't want to have to carry a baby in my testes. I need them for other things (amirightladies?) (ohI'mnot) (ohokaywellenjoyyourevening) (canijusthavesomeofyourhair).
Granted, it's still a pretty great gig, being a bro, all things considered. But what's going on? Consider, if you will, the tragic decline of our country's jocks. There was a decline in NBA ratings this year. There was a decline in NASCAR ratings. The decline in baseball is a topic of serious debate. NFL teams are declining in value.
American men are watching soccer. Soccer! For the geeks reading this, I'm pretty sure that's the American jock equivalent of the TARDIS bells sounding on DOCTOR WHO. And without jocks to act as counter-examples-- geeks, nerds, dweebs, dipwads: we are all just regular old assholes and jag-offs. Consider this excerpt from Tom Spurgeon's review of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies:
"Thirty years ago ramming your z-grade peanut butter into their capital l literary chocolate felt like an act of subversion. The boring stuff far outnumbered the junk. [...] These days shoving some aspect of all the junk that's out there into some poor piece of unsuspecting literature feels like something between an act of bullying and an expression of commerce on a sliding scale of self-regard."
Or consider Matt Zoller Seitz writing for Salon:
"If the Hollywood studio assembly line is high school in a John Hughes movie, superhero films are the jocks — benighted beneficiaries of grade inflation and reflexive fan boosterism."
Geek bullies. Four-eyed fucking menaces.
What became of the pulp action hero? For the 80's action hero, the fantasy seemed to have been one of physical over-competence. Is that somehow no longer a relevant fantasy for today's audience? I'm not sure why not. I don't know about you, but I've gained some weight these last couple of years-- a spare tire around my mid-section, some in the jowl-area. I've got a very upsetting situation going on in my jowl-area, people. I've joined a gym, but discipline is ... Discipline is an issue. It causes no small amount of anxiety, being out of shape, even though I don't think I'm quite a lost cause physically just yet. I believe the statistics suggest that I'm hardly alone in this particular anxiety-- we hear now regularly of rampant obesity, declines in physical activity, and a surge in related disorders. So: shouldn't the fantasy of physical over-competence still hold some appeal for those like me, wanting to correct some years now of physical neglect? Or is the decline in that sort of hero, the fact that I look at Mr. Felix Gomez as being a silly figure instead of an aspirational figure-- is that a kind of surrender, a kind of giving up? Am I part of a culture of defeat?
Heroic sexual excellence got replaced by a scene in AVATAR where a guy shoves his ponytail into a lady's hot, wet ponytail. Great, any question I ever had as to what goes through Ben & Jerry's head when they masturbate has now been answered through the wonder of movie magic. Plus, I don't know if you've heard, but apparently the one guy from LETHAL WEAPON is kind of a fucked up, in real life.
Does MARIO ACEVEDO'S KILLING THE COBRA: CHINATOWN TROLLOP offer any answers to our questions? Does it at least-- at the very least-- give us someone we can point at and blame? Does it offer us a convenient scapegoat, who we can arbitrarily pick out of the ether and cast aspersions on? Consider!
CLUE #1: What is the most prominent feature of vampire pulp hero Felix Gomez in KILLING THE COBRA? It is his sexual relationship with the racially-insensitive stereotype of a "sexually compliant Asian female", the aforementioned Chinatown Trollop.
CLUE #2: Felix Gomez says ridiculous things about himself that made my eyes roll into the back of my head. As one example: "I'm about ready to serve. True, I'm not much of a tennis player, but I am a champion at kicking ass." ... huh?
CLUE #3: As established in the first issue, Felix Gomez has heavy-duty emotional baggage. Consider the following dialogue excerpts from issue #1:
"The agent probably had a wife and kid's waiting ... He's the real hero. Compared to him, I'm a poser.
"They say shit like that stays with you a lifetime. I'm immortal. That means I'm stuck with these memories forever.
"Luckily, I have Qian Ning. My guide. My interpreter. My lover. [...] But I can't fang her. I won't. More of that baggage from Iraq.
"Every time I get the thirst, I hear the screams of that little girl."
Thus, Felix Gomez presents us with three clues: emotional baggage, a tendency to make ridiculous proclamations that he's a "champion at kicking ass", and a disturbing Asian fetish. What do these three things add up to?
Answer: Rivers Cuomo.
Lead singer of the band WEEZER, whose album PINKERTON is widely considered to have first introduced emo-rock to mainstream audiences. Fact: Weezer signed with Geffen Records, on June 25, 1993. The same day, Kim Campbell became the first female Prime Minister of Canada. Historical fact! Connect the dots!
Look, I'm not saying that Weezer's music is a proximate cause of the increase in British fish with eggs in their testes because, well, we probably lack the genetic data necessary to separate cause from correlation. But if we need someone to blame, then the page I'm on, and the page that I think MARIO ACEVEDO'S KILLING THE COBRA: CHINATOWN TROLLOP is on, and the page maybe you should consider being on, is that the GREEN ALBUM is more likely than not a harbinger of testicular disfgurements.
They called off development of a James Bond movie the other day. And even that-- they had hired the director of AMERICAN BEAUTY and AWAY WE GO, real festivals of machismo. The world can not even muster the financial resources to create pussified James Bond movies-- meanwhile, work proceeds to have TWILIGHT 5, 6, and 7 shot simultaneously.
What is MARIO ACEVEDO'S KILLING THE COBRA: CHINATOWN TROLLOP #2, but further evidence, on what is fast becoming a mountain of evidence, that we are the damned, and we have been condemned to hell?
But I have to believe there's still hope. Somewhere in America, there's a young boy doing steroids for the first time because he wants to beat up the weaker children in his class. Somewhere in America, a teenager is dropping out of high school, to spend his days at a gym, where he will smoke dope and lift weights and dream of Hollywood stardom. Somewhere, in schools across this great land, at least once schools are back in session, maybe not this second, nobody's perfect-- but somewhere, young men are imagining that they or their sons or their son's sons will travel into space, to distant lands, to conquer alien species, rob them of their mineral resources, and copulate with voluptuous three-breasted alien women.
Ultimately, I place my faith in the simple truth, that we are a people waging two wars we can't afford, that we are at heart a bloodthirsy and savage race of butchers, and that the arc of history is long, but it bends towards us someday again making rad movies and bitchin' comics glorifying our unquenchable lust for raining violence down onto the innocent people around us. God bless you, and God bless America.