We’re standing at the edge of another change; Katrina’s electrician classes end this week, and she will go back into the union work pool. Which means she could be sent off to a completely different part of the state, or get a job in Anchorage, or just have to wait. We won’t know until it happens. I hate uncertainty.
Taking risks has never been something I’m good at for this reason, and I tend to stick to what’s familiar. It has been Katrina who has pushed me to expand my tastes, both for food and entertainment. She is almost solely responsible for my current interest in comic book superheroes (so, in a way, she has no one to blame but herself for that Lego set I brought home last week), among other things.
It started before we were even dating, really. I had a Netflix account that I was using at the time to watch the AFI’s list of the 100 Greatest American Movies, which consisted mainly of stuff that was both long and serious, things that someone not pursuing a film degree probably wouldn’t willingly subject themselves to these days. Katrina thought I should switch things up a bit and add a disk from Batman: the Animated Series to the mix, to have something short and fun to watch when I didn’t have the time or the mood for things like Dr. Zhivago or Citizen Kane. This was preposterous, I thought. I didn’t even like Batman, or superheroes in general.
I didn’t read comic books as a kid, and was actively encouraged to find other sources for reading material. With hindsight, the reasoning is fairly sound; my parents weren’t against them as a whole, in fact my mom later revealed the fact that she read her share of comics back in the day, but the comic book landscape in the nineties was a very different place. Publishers were trying to appeal to the now-grown children of the seventies, who had created a profitable new market of “comic collectors”, and that meant an influx of “mature themes”: ratings code for “gratuitous boobs and violence”. Not the kind of thing a sensible parent willingly exposes their child to. Basically, what’s happening to video games right now.
Anyway, I’d never bought into the whole “superhero” thing: I had, like everyone else, seen the Spider-Man movies, but that was about the extent of my interest at the time. Working past my initial skepticism, Katrina gave me a crash course in Batman lore as we watched the much-heralded animated series: backstory, the infamous Rogue’s Gallery, previous iterations of the character, from the early noir comics days to campy Adam West, to dark and gritty Frank Miller “graphic novels”. I loved it. We eventually saw the entire series, and have since turned our attention to other animated Batman entertainment, such as the madcap and criminally under-appreciated Batman: the Brave and the Bold: a show with a knowing wink-and-nod to the audience to revel in the audacity of it all. We are currently going through the Justice League animated series, recently added to Netflix’s streaming roster, and produced shortly after the acclaimed Batman series, bringing in other DC comics A-listers, such as Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern.
Not long after we had finished Animated Series, Katrina suggested I rent Iron Man. It pains me to admit it now, but at the time, I felt a bit of scorn for the movie. I had never seen it, was unfamiliar with the character, assumed most comic book movies were pretty lousy (Spider-Man and Christopher Nolan’s Batman exempted), and was irrationally predisposed against it: It had been spoken of so fondly, while my favorite movie that summer, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, had been utterly lambasted. Hey, I can be petty. With the power of hindsight, Iron Man is clearly a superior film, though I refuse to dismiss Crystal Skull as terrible.
Watching Iron Man, I realized I loved this character. As cool as Batman is, no one wants to be Batman. He’s grim and broody and was orphaned and is basically a wreck. I wanted to be Tony Stark. As he puts it, he’s a “genius, billionaire playboy philanthropist”. He has all the coolest toys, and is a self-obsessed, exceptionally witty guy, something I’ve either been, or always wanted to be, depending on who you ask. Like for most of us, Iron Man was the moment when I realized comic book movies could be really cool, and it naturally led me to Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers.
Having successfully turned me on to comic book superheroes, Katrina had an even bolder suggestion. She thought we should watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon’s hit paranormal show before the likes of Supernatural, True Blood, or Being Human. Katrina has always been a fan of kickass girl characters who break the “helpless victim” mold, and that is Buffy Summers to a T. Once again, I was extremely skeptical. This was at a time when the Twilight films were getting full exposure, and I did not want to associate with what I viewed as a proto-Twilight. It took a while for me to get into this one, as the first few episodes were about what I expected: girl fights creatures of the night, longs to fit in and be popular at school, etc. Standard 90’s teen TV show stuff. But when the show finds its footing it’s really, really good. I remember the episode where it all clicked. Buffy and co were on the trail of something that was mysteriously killing people at a talent show, and all signs were pointing to a demonically possessed ventriloquist dummy (which as only been done since forever), and I was thinking, “Man, wouldn’t it be cool if the ventriloquist dummy was possessed or whatever, but totally innocent in the crimes? Maybe even trying to solve them itself?” And that was exactly what happened. A few more instances like that, along with the snappy dialogue he is famous for, made me realize jut how much I liked Joss Whedon as a filmmaker. In a way, The Avengers was this amazing confluence of the two greatest things Katrina has introduced to me: Marvel superheroes and Joss Whedon.
One more example, even though this time it was completely accidental. During one of our long-distance-relationship periods, Katrina and I were instant messaging and one of us brought up the current nerd-culture fixation: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I remarked how I was morbidly curious how a show ostensibly targeted at a prepubescent girl market was becoming such a huge hit with the 20-something Internet denizen demographic. Katrina, having apparently seen some of the show, warned me away from it. “It’ll hook you in,” she cautioned. “And then you’ll be one of those guys who watches My Little Pony.” Again, I was skeptical. There was no way a show designed to sell toys to little girls was going to be any fun to watch, and all these “Bronies” on the Internet were being hipster snobs, pretending to like something ridiculous just to be weird and different. I decided then and there that I would find the first episode and prove her wrong.
I wish I had the transcript of the conversation to post here, but I can do a passible job replicating it. Follow along, if you dare:
Katrina: “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Evan: “Oh, God. They’re trying to have some kind of stupid mythology for this thing.”
Katrina: “Yeah, they do some world-building in the first episode, but after that you can pretty much ignore it.”
Evan: “Christ, the theme song is terrible. I can’t believe I’m watching this.”
Katrina: “It is a show for little girls.”
Evan: “Huh. I like how the bookish one is kind of an Only Sane Man character, who thinks everyone else is kind of nuts.”
Katrina: “Evan, you still there?”
Evan: “I think Fluttershy is my favorite.”
Katrina: “…Dammit, I told you this would happen!”
Evan: “I KNOW!”
What I hadn’t counted on was that the show is actually fairly well-written, pleasing to look at, and clearly self-aware. I’m a sucker for meta humor. So, basically Katrina knows me better than I do. Her batting average for these kinds of things is nearly a thousand. Or, put another way, it’s her fault I now watch Marvel movies, DC animation, and occasionally Hasbro children’s cartoons.