Jun. 15th, 2011

heron61: (Gryphon - emphasis and strong feelings)
I saw X-Men: First Class over the weekend with[livejournal.com profile] teaotter, [livejournal.com profile] hereville, and [livejournal.com profile] xtricks, and it was both wonderful and frustrating. It by far was one of the superhero films that I've seen, at least equal to Spiderman II (my top favorite), and possible better. It had excellent acting by the two leads (playing Charles and Erik), a very tight and well done script, and the entire feel of the X-Men felt better and more real taken back to the early 1960s (which is when the comic first came out). While The Hellfire Club was originally introduced to the X-Men in 1980, their look and feel fit the 60s perfectly – Emma Frost's costume was always very 60s, and fit perfectly here. I also liked the degree to which the film was a (barely) unspoken love story between Charles and Erik.

However, it had a number of problems, the most obvious being that a film that was essentially about civil rights and the struggle between assimilationism and open rebellion for the mutants, and yet there was no mention of the real world events of the day, involving the efforts of Dr. King or Malcolm X along these exact same lines. This was also only one of the films racial problems. As my good friend [livejournal.com profile] hereville mentioned, it was so much better than other supers films, but that also made clear how much further it had to go to be a really good film. A few changes and it could have been. However, while decidedly imperfect, it was both fun and good, and is worth seeing.

Nevertheless, seeing it also brought to mind my problems with the entire superhero genre, especially with regards to the X-Men. I'm more than happy to see spandex battles with characters like The Avengers, Batman, Superman, or the Justice League, that's what they exist for. However, I dearly wish that supers comics could be about more than fighting muggers, terrorists, or megalomaniacs. I'd love to see a version of the Fantastic Four which looked like an updated and more gonzo version of E.E. Smith's Skylark novels (with the addition of some of the feel of original series Star) where the characters explore the multiverse and have various pulp SF adventure plots. Give the characters the background and feel of the Warren Ellis' Ultimate Fantastic Four, and I'd be very happy indeed.

Similarly, I'd love to see stories about X-Men and the mutants that were not about fighting Magneto, or Satan, or whatever, and were instead about a world where an increasing (but still small) percentage of the population were born different and with unique and sometimes (and sometimes not) very powerful abilities. Grant Morrison did much of this during his run of New X-Men, which dealt with both low powered and ugly mutants, and also with growing mutant ghettos and neighborhoods (as did the generally good District X comic). You could have plots with mutants with useful powers who were enslaved by criminal gangs ( or perhaps just their abusive family) being freed, soap opera & more serious drama interactions at Professor X's academy, slice of (mutant) life and cop stories in District X, and many similar issues. Grant Morrison and many others have done this with the X-Men, but even Morrison's version of the X-Men eventually returned to over-the-top supervillians, alien menaces, and suchlike.

Personally, I'd also prefer to see the entire X-Men universe cut off from the rest of the Marvel Universe (thus removing the gods, invading aliens, and suchlike), but still leaving a whole lot of awesomeness, including a world that by the modern day has tens of millions of mutants and everything that would imply about the world. In all of these non-traditional comics, I would want good world-building, especially including dealing with the impact of mutants (or in the case of the Fantastic Four powered people and wondrous inventions) on the society. In any case, I'd love to see comics, movies, and most of all novels like this, but at most we see bits of this in between spandex battles. Perhaps in a decade or two someone will reinvent supers comics to be something more than it is today.
heron61: (Gryphon - emphasis and strong feelings)
Here's an interesting article about an athlete who has used experimental stem cell therapy to make a full and rapid recovery from an injury. So far, such medicine is only available in at least mildly shady clinics in the third world (this athlete had the procedure done in the Dominican Republic), but it looks like stem cell therapy is finally starting to pay off, and I'm expecting to see a lot more of it in the next decade. Definitely nifty and wonderful stuff.

Of course, this has set off a bit of a controversy about this athlete, and that got me reading about so-called "gene doping" (using gene therapy to enhance athletes). I saw quite a number of articles about how wrong, unfair, "unnatural" and generally bad it is. I vividly disagree. I think that drugs and treatments (and for that matter training methods) that harm athletes health should obviously be illegal, and while I think the answer is non-obvious, I can also see only permitting athletic performance that is not enhanced by temporary measures like various performance enhancing drugs. However, gene therapy of this sort makes permanent changes in people, and so I think it should definitely be allowed, although not just yet, since it's very far from clear that it's currently remotely safe. However, it's clear from reading about it that most objections have nothing to do with whether it's safe or not.

For me, the issue is both that modern training methods already shape, hone, and improve "natural" performance in way impossible 50 years ago, and also that if I want to see athletic performance (which admittedly, most of the time I don't), I want to see the best of what we can do, and if that means gene therapy, cyberlimbs, or other enhancements, such as this one. I want to see what humans can do or become, not what is "natural" (a word that I consider to be both meaningless and vastly overused), which also isn't what we see in any remotely competitive sport anymore anyway.
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