We lost an icon on Friday with the passing of Leonard Nimoy. It's strange--for someone who writes about sci-fi culture all the time, I've never been particularly attached to Star Trek. I know the lore, I know the characters, and I am very aware of Star Trek's cultural impact, but I've always been more of a Corellian stock freighter type of guy.
Nevertheless, I found Nimoy's passing unexpectedly moving. In part it's because I have an affection for his work, both with Star Trek and without. My first real job was working at the Boston Science Museum, often in its Omni Theater, where Mr. Nimoy so wonderfully voiced the introductory segment shown before films for decades. Many of the friends I worked with back then turned to reminiscing about this intro today. Nimoy was a Boston boy, born in the West End, he brought such incredible grace and dignity to a wonderfully silly short film seen by so many people who grew up here.
(For fun, I've posted a video of that introduction at the bottom of this post.)
It has been a trying week for me, personally--we lost two family members this week, one to a long-term illness, one in a blink of an eye to the things that afflict us all as we grow older, and it has been a long few days of whispered conversations, worried phone calls, frantic texts. I come from the sort of tight-knit Boston clan where cousins are as close as siblings, and for us to lose someone is a crushing blow. But until today I had been in business mode--how can I help, what needs to be done, when is it better to stay out of the way.
In short, I never had a moment to mourn.
And then I found Mr. Nimoy's final Tweet.
He was a fascinating man, who struggled with the inescapability associated with creating a culturally iconic character and who later not only made peace with that, but embraced it. And, as any great icon of the sci-fi community can, he embraced technology, interacting with the world at large through Twitter in a way that made him feel familiar and warm and real.
His final Tweet read: "A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP."
As part of embracing the power of Spock's influence on the world, Nimoy often signed off with LLAP--Live Long and Prosper. His final message seemed to be incredibly aware that his time was drawing to a close, and rather than go silently into the night, he, in his on inimitable way, crystalized so very much what it means to be alive.
For this, I want to say thank you to Leonard Nimoy. In part, yes, for his wonderful performances, for his willingness to share so much of himself with us, for being a part of my youth. But more than anything, I want to say thank you for so simply expressing what needed to be said--what I, personally, needed to hear right at this very moment--and for saying it so eloquently, even as his own light was fading.
Boldly go, Mr. Nimoy. Boldly go.
After the director of "Nightcrawler" took a jab at superhero films last week at the Spirit Awards, I got to thinking (since I'm a superhero writer who is also an independent filmmaker, though the Indestructibles clearly take up most of my time these days out of necessity) and I got a little mad about it. Then I saw James Gunn's wonderful response to it.
So I asked to write something up about superheroes, independent films, and whether we have a "tsunami" of superhero movies right now or not, which they've published right here earlier today. Turns out there's more crime thrillers, romantic comedies, and horror films than superheroes every year. So what's the problem?
I'm going to be silly and quote myself:
But in the end, aren't stories just stories? And while serious cinema should always exist... wasn't this an industry founded on popcorn and escapism? Perhaps instead of disdain or fear of the rise of the superhero film, we could appreciate what the genre is doing: it's keeping butts in the seats in an age when our consumption of stories, particularly film, is becoming a more and more solitary, lonely experience. If superheroes bring us together, because of our shared love for these characters and their stories, I see no shame in that.
Check out the article if you have a chance. I use numbers and stuff.
The finale to my silly mock story: After infuriating Nick Fury to the point he kicks Spider-Man off the helicarrier, Captain America steps in to mediate. And being Captain America, he knows how to say all the right things. Of course, being Spider-Man, Parker can't take a compliment without making a joke. Or ten.
Captain America: "We need to talk."
Spider-Man: "It's remarkable how similar this feels like being sent to the principal's office."
Cap: "Fury went apoplectic after Hill got you off the carrier."
Spider-Man: "This is me feigning surprise. You can't see because I'm wearing a mask."
Cap: "You know why he went berserk?"
Spider-Man: "Because I said 'what' one too many times?"
Cap: "You have the potential to be as smart as Stark or Banner."
Spider-Man: "Don't let Tony hear you say that."
Cap: "You understand the consequences of your actions better than Thor."
Spider-Man: "Now you're just buttering me up."
Cap: "You have powers people like Romanoff or Barton would kill for."
Spider-Man: "Who's Romanoff?"
Spider-Man: "She's Russian? I thought she was from the Upper East Side!"
Cap: "Now I know why everyone tells you to stop talking all the time."
Spider-Man: "It took you this long? You're way more tolerant than everyone else."
Cap: "Parker, you're faster, stronger, and have greater potential than I ever have or will. You know why Fury got mad at you? Because you could be the best of us. If you'd just shut your mouth and take yourself seriously for a change."
Spider-Man: "... you should know I'm neither capable of handling praise nor nor compliments. I'm really uncomfortable right now and I feel a little verkelmpt."
Cap: "So I'm asking you. Take yourself a little more seriously."
Spider-Man: "I'm legitimately blushing right now."
Cap: "And seriously. Do not make Natasha angry again."
Spider-Man: "Black Widow? You're seriously warning me about annoying Widow over the Hulk right now?"
Cap: "The Hulk tends to have a short memory. Romanoff keeps a ledger. Never anger someone who keeps a ledger."
Spider-Man: "Noted. In my ledger. And by ledger I mean in the notes on my iPhone."
After upsetting more than half the Avengers squad, Nick Fury has a little sit down with Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man. Things go about as well as can be imagined.
Nick Fury: "I hear you resolved the Hulk situation."
Spider-Man: "Apparently Hulk loves salted caramel ice cream. Who knew?"
Fury: "I also understand you sparked the Hulk situation."
Spider-Man: "I have no recollection of this event."
Fury: "You have, in your first day as an Avenger, annoyed Iron Man--"
Spider-Man: "How was I supposed to know he was sensitive about his age?"
Fury: "STOP. TALKING."
Fury: "You insulted Thor..."
Spider-Man: "Again, someone could've told me Loki was his brother. Should I assume all Asgardians are related going forward?"
Fury: "You are TALKING again!"
Fury: "Say what one more time."
Spider-Man: "What one more time."
Fury: "... I can't do this. Fury to Hill? I want this [expletive] spider off my [expletive] helicarrier."
Spider-Man: "It's my first day!"
Fury: "We're done talking."
Spider-Man: "Am I fired? Because I was really hoping to use the SHIELD insurance policy. Frequently."
An enraged Hulk and a panicked Spider-Man. How can our hero resolve this situation? He has an idea:
Hulk: "Hulk smash puny spider!"
Spider-Man: "I said I'm sorry!"
Hulk: "Hulk not accept puny spider's apology!"
Spider-Man: "Puny spider doesn't find that an acceptable outcome to his apology!"
Hulk: "Puny man thinks he's so funny!"
Spider-Man: "Hey, I've been told I'm incredibly clever and amusing. Aunt May always laughs at my--Tony's going to be so mad when he sees what you did to the lab. Science bros only covers so much."
Hulk: "Hulk smash lab!"
Spider-Man: "Does property usually come out of my salary? Do I have a salary? Is there an Avengers stipend? I bet they don't take smashed items out of Banner's stipend."
Hulk: "Hulk not Banner!"
Spider-Man: "Thank you, Captain Obvious!"
Hulk: "Hulk not Captain! Hulk smash bossy captain!"
Spider-Man: "Speaking of, Cap is going to be so mad at me. Hey Hulk! Want to get an ice cream?"
Hulk: "Hulk smash... Ice cream?"
Spider-Man: "Yeah, we can head over to #EddiesSweetShop in Queens, get a banana split?"
Hulk: "Hulk like banana splits!"
Spider-Man: "Phew. Okay. Now where does Stark keep the petty cash. I don't have any pockets in this costume."
Hulk: "Hulk carry cash. Hulk sometimes need cab fare."
Spider-Man: "That... makes way too much sense, big guy."
(Image by Sterling Arts & Cosplay)
A sarcastic Spider-Man conversing with Bruce Banner without somehow bringing out the Hulk? This'll end well, right Marvel Cinematic Universe? (Editorial note: If anyone knows who created the art I've posted here, let me know--I want to credit them!)
Spider-Man: "Doctor Banner?"
Banner: "Please, call me Bruce."
Spider-Man: "Okay, Doc. Br. Bruuuce. So I was thinking--we have a lot in common."
Banner: "This I've gotta hear."
Spider-Man: "Seriously. We're both scientific geniuses who are better known and pretty maligned for our more colorful, less scientific public personas."
Banner: "I'm maligned. You have a PR proble--wait, you're a scientific genius?"
Spider-Man: "I am indeedy."
Banner: "What have you invented?"
Spider-Man: "I made these web-shooters."
Banner: "Not exactly a gamma bomb."
Spider-Man: "I wouldn't use that as a barometer for success. No offense."
Banner: "You know making me angry is a bad idea, right? You've been informed about the anger thing?"
Spider-Man: "Yeah, Tony was kind of clear about that. But seriously, you don't think these web-shooters are a work of genius? I mean seriously, look at them--"
Spider-Man: "Oops. Um. Sorry about your face?"
Banner: "I said... don't make... me angry..."
Spider-Man: "Why are all the veins sticking out in your head?"
Spider-Man: "I HAVE MADE A MISTAKE!"
(To be continued, clearly)
What about Marvel Cinematic Universe Spidey meeting up with the Black Widow? We know Widow's no nonsense, and Spidey is, well, ALL nonsense. How might that play out?
Spider-Man: "So you're Black Widow."
Black Widow: "Yes."
Spider-Man: "Like the spider?"
Black Widow: "Yes. And before you say anything, I was Black Widow when your aunt was still making your dinner for you."
Spider-Man: "My aunt still makes my dinner for me. But that's, y'know, beside the point. Do you have spider powers?"
Black Widow: "What?"
Spider-Man: "Spider powers. Stick to walls? Shoot webs?"
Black Widow: "No. Stop talking."
Spider-Man: "Spider sense alerting you to danger?"
Black Widow: "You realize actual spiders don't have 'spider-sense,' right? Also stop talking."
Spider-Man: "So why call yourself Black Widow? Why not Secret Agent Something Something?"
Black Widow: "Because female black widows have deadly poison and kill male spiders."
Spider-Man: "Kill male spiders?"
Black Widow: "And sometimes eat them."
Spider-Man: "You said something about stop talking?"
Black Widow: "I did."
Spider-Man. "I'm going to do that now."
Continuing on my mock excursion into Spidey's first day as an Avenger in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, let's picture how his first conversation with Thor might go:
Spider-Man: "So what did Loki want, anyway?"
Thor: "To rule Midgard, small man of the spider."
Spider-Man: "Wasn't he already a god?"
Thor: "Indeed, son of Parker."
Spider-Man: "Y'know, my uncle Ben always said with great power comes great responsibility. Sounds like Loki could've used an uncle Ben in his life. What was his dad like?"
Thor: "... Do not pry, Parkerson."
Spider-Man: "Not exactly a mensch, huh?"
Thor: "HAVE AT THEE!"
So I went a little overboard with the news that Spider-Man would be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe and started writing up fake conversations about how his first day on the job with the Avengers would go. I've been having a stupid amount of fun with these. First up, Spider-Man and Iron Man:
Tony Stark: "Where were you during the battle of New York? We could have used you, kid."
Spider-Man: "I was in math class. SAT prep. Couldn't get away."
Tony Stark: "Never speak to me again."
Spider-Man: "Why? Did I say something wro--"
Tony Stark: "Tsss! You're still talking. I specifically said to stop talking."
Next up: THOR!
Matthew Phillion is the writer of "The Indestructibles," part-time actor, occasional filmmaker. Currently on the lam in Salem with his trusty dog, Watson.