Essays Assemble!

Only Prairie Dog brings you six sensational screeds on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!

avengers

Greetings, ’Dog Believers! It’s your friendly neighbourhood Editor-Man! I’m here to introduce a swaggering sextet of scientific studies of the greatest topic that can be imagined — that assemblage of heroes known only as… The Avengers!

Verily, what else would our readers expect in this issue from the one and only “Doghouse Of Ideas”?

And so, here on the eve of the awesomely anticipated motion picture event that is Avengers: Age Of Ultron, are six erstwhile essays that answer the most perplexing questions of The Prairie Dog Age Of Marvel Mimicry, including:

What do the Avengers have in common with the Backstreet Boys?

Is there any hero strong enough to salvage Saskatchewan’s film industry?

What’s Scarlet Witch’s favourite board game?

Do our Distinguished Competition’s comics suck, or do the mega-suck?

Naturally, we’re delivering these monographs of might in the dynamic ‘Dog manner our discerning readers have become accustomed to — written as only we can here in the Doghouse Of Ideas!

So sit back, gaze upon these humble pages and enjoy this feature we like to call… Essays Assemble!

Excelsior!

sig

Regina Is Safe: But At What Cost?

Remember two years ago when aliens blasted Regina with an evolution bomb, turning us all into shrunken, yellow beings and effectively destroying our city as we know it?

No, wait. That didn’t really happen. That was a made-up event in Avengers issue 1, published in February 2013.

Don’t worry folks, Regina will never being destroyed like that, at least fictitiously. The Saskatchewan Party saved us from that fate when they nuked the Film Tax Credit that made Saskatchewan such a desirable location for shooting big budget features. If Marvel ever wants to explore the Regina storyline on the big screen, it will have to look for a stand-in city to destroy.

I’m sure the hundreds of people who had to leave the province for their film careers are happy their families will be safe from this hypothetical fate — as well as its immense economic . /Amy Couzens

The Avengers Are A Boy Band

It’s true: the Avengers are basically a boy band where each hero is shoehorned into stereotypical tropes. “The old-fashioned one?” Captain America. “The sexy athletic one?” Black Widow. “The rich kid”, “the fighter” and “the brute” are obviously Iron Man, Hawkeye and Hulk. And of course Thor is the gorgeous Adonis.

How can we hate boy bands and love the Avengers?

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with boy bands. Remember Menudo? Did anyone take Menudo seriously? Of course not. To take Menudo seriously was to acknowledge that your taste in music would always be relegated to the back of the record shop, where they keep the albums with no parental advisory lyrics. Know who loved Hanson? Moms. Moms loved Hanson because those boys were just so lovely and you could just tell they always minded their mothers, and why couldn’t you date someone more like those boys instead of Greg, who shaves part of his head and drives a 1968 cherry-red Chevy Impala with white leather interior because it’s very clear that boys like Greg only want one thing.

More girls get pregnant when they date guys like Greg. Stick with the Avengers. They’re safe. And they probably all use protection. /Jillian Bell

Underwear Or No, My Kids Will Never Watch Superman

It’s great being a parent during this golden age of comic book movies. My kids love superhero stories. I love superhero stories. We love watching superhero stories together. It’s hella fun.

There’s a new Avengers film out? Sign us up. We’ve enjoyed every explodey moment of the Marvel cinematic universe.

But a new Superman movie? Sorry, no thanks. His comics were my favourite growing up but I’ll let whatever loyalties I have for Big Blue slide because I love my kids more than I love those old tales of Truth, Justice and yadda yadda yadda.

I’d sooner give my children vodka and chainsaws than expose them to any of DC’s recent output.

Thing is, the world Marvel’s movie heroes inhabit is a bright and optimistic place. Once you get past the alien invasions and robot intelligences run amok, there are free energy machines and portals to other dimensions, talking raccoons and shawarma. You can tell that the people who live there want to be there. They’re fighting pretty hard to keep it intact.

The world DC’s Batman and Superman inhabit is something else entirely. The skies are always grey. The streets are ruled by gangs of psychopaths. Everyone looks constipated. Everyone lives in fear. Good guys fight bad guys because that is what the script demands.

Really, the place is so grim, so joyless, I don’t know why they bother.

But this is what the braniacs running DC Comics call “realism”.

I feel bad for those braniacs at DC Comics. They’ve stranded themselves in an unrelentingly bleak universe — a Phantom Zone of their own devising. They may be collecting handsome paycheques but they sure don’t seem to be having any fun.

They should come over to my place. Watch an Avengers film with me and my kids.

They’ll discover the world’s actually pretty awesome.

P.S. I discussed all this with my daughter. She couldn’t care less. Oh, she’ll happily watch Avengers 2 with her dopey dad. But in truth, she’s far more concerned with another superhero: Elsa from Frozen. My daughter and her friends chat excitedly about the announced sequel for that franchise. They buy Frozen merch. They dress up for Halloween in Frozen costumes. They eat Frozen breakfast cereal.

It’s this generation’s Star Wars.

Our conversation was a handy reminder that all these superhero movies are nothing but a nostalgia kick for sad old geezers like me. And we won’t matter much longer. After this idiot rivalry between Marvel and DC has faded; after CGI Hulk from Uncanny Valley and the many devastations of Super-Murder-Superman have been forgotten, the kids’ll still be singing “Let It Go.” /Paul Dechene

Four-Colour Politics

I’m hardly the first person to point out that DC Comics superheroes, with the exception of Green Arrow, are all conservatives. From its name on down, the Justice League is a callback to a distant time in American history, the stodgy 1950s, when men belonged to Masonic Lodges and other fraternal organizations named after muscular animals with very large horns. And much in the same way that a soured version of this distant American conservative past haunts us today — you can draw a straight line from the cozy ever-present paternalism of Nelson Rockefeller to the creepy, omni-observational NSA spying apparatus — the Justice League has gone bad, too.

Batman is a goon who flies drones around and keeps secret files about how to defeat his own teammates and friends. Wonder Woman represents a warmongering masculine take on feminism that imagines the only way women can succeed is by becoming more badass than men. Aquaman is the creepy old balding guy at the club who’s always desperately trying to convince the kids he’s DTF. And Superman, paralyzed by his own omnipotence, hasn’t done anything worthwhile in three decades.

In comics depicting their dystopian future, the Justice League tends to rule over a fearful humanity with absolute power.

Like all the Marvel superheroes — barring, of course, the hyper-conservative Punisher — the Avengers are liberals. Despite the best attempts of lecherous fascist Mark Millar (in his bestselling Avengers re-imagining, The Ultimates) to transform him into a jingoistic asshole, Captain America has always been an FDR-era New Deal Democrat. Hawkeye is a restless carny who probably votes for the socialist in every presidential election, just to rebel against the man. Thor is a trust-fund daddy’s boy who came to Earth to find himself and get in touch with the common man. The Hulk and Iron Man both roundly rejected the profiteering military-industrial complex. And Black Widow? She’s a communist.

In Marvel’s dystopian futures, the heroes are generally revolutionaries hunted by a malevolent establishment.

Think about the contrast between the climax of Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel, in which a murderous Superman destroyed a city and then (presumably) made out with Lois Lane in its ashes, and the final battle in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, in which everyone on the team tried their hardest to save the lives of bystanders. You almost got the sense that the modern Superman, who was created in the late 1930s as a pro-union social justice warrior, would rather lecture humanity for needing his help than actually save anyone.

He loathes us for not being as powerful as him, which is practically the definition of what it means to be a true conservative. /Paul Constant

The Lamest Avengers

They’ve called themselves Earth’s Mightiest Heroes since their debut in 1063, but a superhero team that’s had more than 130 members (and climbing) is bound to have had a couple of duds. Here are some of the weaker Avengers from a half-century of comics.

D-MAN A.k.a. Demolition Man, he’s a buddy of Captain America. A lame buddy. This former wrestler got super strong on an illegal drug that, the comics emphatically explained, was not a steroid (it was an evil drug like steroids). He wears a costume that “borrows” Daredevil’s original yellow duds, mixed with Wolverine’s.

Despite his drugs giving him a heart condition, he gamely joins Cap’s Avengers only to get blown-up and afflicted with amnesia. D-Man eventually ends up living in the sewers. Not quite Earth’s mightiest.

DEATHCRY She was an alien assassin from the Shi’ar Empire who joined the Avengers in the ’90s because her empress decreed it. She hung around the team for a while, not really doing anything other than looking like a stereotypical ’90s female superhero with a stereotypical ’90s name, and then just up and left after she felt her mission was complete (or the writer grew bored). Eventually she was killed off, the end.

STARFOX He’s the brother of the mad titan Thanos. Starfox can psionically stimulate the human brain’s pleasure centre. That’s right, Starfox’s power is to sexually arouse people and he’s quite the ladies man. I’m sure it was all consensual.

DRUID This balding, slightly overweight middle-aged man who is prone to being mind-controlled fights crime in a full-body red stocking suit with a cloak and super-hypnotism. Frankly, the good doctor even making the team was a miracle. Dr. Druid was basically the Marvel universe’s equivalent of Dr. Phil — he even had his own talk show, where he gave viewers advice. Eventually his lameness got the better of him.

THE FORGOTTEN ONE (a.k.a. Gilgamesh) is an Eternal (a group of immortal superheroes) who has been around for centuries and was basically every hero from legend. His brief tenure with the team was forgettable, which is probably why he’s the Forgotten One. /Shane Hnetka

Board Games For Super-Nerds

If there’s one thing nerds love it’s debating which heroes, villains or super powers are the most supreme. Here are three board game picks to help your game group play out your comic book fantasies.

MARVEL DICE MASTERS: AVENGERS VS. X-MEN You may know about collectable card games like Magic: The Gathering, but if you like pushing your luck check out the collectable dice game Marvel Dice Masters. Two players can pit Hulk, Spider-Man, Beast, Deadpool, Black Widow and dozens of others in a battle royal. This one always seems to be on backorder at Regina game shops and for good reason: it friggen rules. The starter box includes everything two players need to begin chucking dice and hurling simulated cars at your favourite comic book characters.

HEROES WANTED This one is an oddball tactical board game. Heroes Wanted has one to five players create strange and often amusing heroes and villains by combining random heads and bodies from card decks. Quirky body segments grant players different abilities. For instance, you could end up playing as Fancy Taco, a leotard-wearing humanoid with the head of a taco. (Side note: I reserve the name Fancy Taco for my Scarth Street food cart idea). Manage cards, fight henchmen, foil zany plots (like a DVD bootlegging operation) and become the most famous or infamous super person or thing in the imaginary Zeta City.

LEGENDARY: A MARVEL DECK BUILDING GAME Super heroes are a lot like city councillors: they work together for the greater good but they sometimes have their own special interests at heart. On a related note, rumour has it Mayor Michael Fougere has a Wolverine-like adamantium skeleton. One to five players recruit heroes from the Marvel universe and band together to defeat a mastermind villain in the cooperative deck-building game Legendary. Much like a city councillor making a power play for personal gain, Legendary players also try to outscore their companions on victory points, while rescuing bystanders and taking out cronies as comic book-inspired plots unfold through card draws.

Nerds assemble! To play board games. /Devin Pacholik

2015-04-30