I’ve always thought that kissing under the mistletoe was a mysterious (but worthwhile) tradition, and I’ve done some research to try to better understand this plant and why it demands we make out. As it turns out, mistletoe didn’t always insist we hang it and hook up underneath it.
So where did this mistletoe thing come from? Those who have glanced through the Bible may be familiar with Matthew 16:19 (which includes some of Jesus’ parting words before going to heaven after the Resurrection) which goes a lil somethin’ like dis: “I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.” The next sentence wasn’t, “Oh, and thou should hang mistletoe above thy door and get sloppy under it.” Didn’t happen. So why do Christians do it? I’m sorry to say that I don’t have the answer, but here is a bit of mistletoe’s journey through history.
1. Mistletoe was once regarded as a symbol of fertility
Way back when, mistletoe was seen as a symbol of fertility and whatnot, so one can easily understand why people started tacking it up on door jams and getting hickies under it.
2. Mistletoe is poisonous
Huh. Referencing Batman Returns a lot lately…
Mistletoe is not the sort of thing I’d keep around the house, but then, I could always use a kiss from the Dr. Girlfriend. It’s not like you can eat mistletoe, so the only reason to keep it around is to get your freak on. I’m pretty sure it will make you sick and if you eat too much, it could even kill you. Ironically, the ancient Celts considered mistletoe to be an antidote to poison. I guess when it didn’t work, they’d just shook their head and remarked, “If only we’d given him the mistletoe tea sooner!” They should have contacted Batman – Batman knows mistletoe is poisonous!
3. Mistletoe pops up all over the place in Greek Mythology
Here’s just one instance: In the Greek epic The Golden Bough, the hero must journey to the underworld to see his father, but first, he must get the golden bough (which folks believe is actually mistletoe) to give as a gift to the queen of the underworld, because she presumably wants to make out with her husband, Pluto.
4. Mistletoe pops up in Norse Mythology, too
If you’ve seen the movies Thorand The Avengers, then you’re familiar with Loki, the Norse God of mischief. Not to be outdone by the Greeks, Loki somehow arranges the death of another god via mistletoe, but whether he’s killed by a mistletoe arrow or a mistletoe sword is unclear to me. So did they just scratch the dude and let the poison do the work, or did they straight up kill him and use poisonous wood just to make sure they got the job done? Loki knows…
5. Mistletoe is only a tradition with English-speaking Christians
The earliest documented case of kissing under the mistletoe dates back to the 16th century in England. The tradition has spread throughout the English-speaking world, but non-English speaking cultures rarely practice the kissing under the mistletoe tradition. I guess non-English speaking Christians don’t like having poisonous plants around the house.
6. There are at least two types of Mistletoe
Depending on where you live, you’ll be able to buy one species of mistletoe or another – but there are at least two: Viscum album is found in Europe and Phoradendron serotinum is found in North America. So at least two ways to die via Christmas on two continents – AWESOME!
Wow, Cap is pissed. I wouldn’t want to go trick our treating with this guy, and Cap is my favorite comic book character.
For those of you with lives, please be advised that Marvel Comics are divided into two universes: regular and ULTIMATE! (Kinda wish ‘ultimate’ was ‘extreme’ so they could introduce new characters: two teenage twins, one called ‘ Mountain’ and the other called ‘Dew.’) The Ultimate universe is… well, for lack of a better word, dumb. To be fair, it started off fun: a re-imagining of the Avengers in a modern setting. Then, slowly but surely, it got stupider and stupider, like me as I drink my brain cells to death and keep giving myself concussions from face palming over stuff like this, the most recent chapter in in a novel of blunders. [spoiler after the jump]
It’s been 8 issues now. They’ve tried different artists. Yet still, the interior art of the Avengers Vs X-Men series can suck a golfball through a gardenhose. The image above is by Olivier Coipel, and… sheesh. Look at it! Look at Cap’s face! What… what the fuck?!? He looks terribile! And the crappy expression on his face doesn’t match the tone of what he’s saying at all.
This is embarassing. Avengers Vs X-Men is Marvel Comics’ 2012 flag ship event, featuring all of their most famous characters all in one place. Sure, the story isn’t great, but heaping bad art on top of it is just turing this thing from mediocre to crappy. This is exactly the sort of thing that inspires Event Fatigue – it’s like the link between smoking and cancer. How much can one take before they find themself on life support?
I finally got around to seeing The Avengers this weekend, and a good time was had by all. At least half of the audience clapped at the end, which doesn’t usually happen in a movie theater, but it was that kind of flick – people wanted to stand up and cheer. After living with these characters for five movies, maybe this is what the audience always wanted; but if you didn’t see Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America, I don’t blame you if you were thoroughly confused. Read the rest of this entry
If you haven’t seen the new Avengers trailer, check it out:
Crazy, right? Even the characters in the movie are surprised when that big thing chasing Iron Man comes around the corner.
I guess we’ll find out what the big fucking thing is and how they beat it this summer!
SPOILER: It probably doesn’t kill all of the Avengers.
Oh, and I guess the movie is called “Avengers Assemble” in the UK because when you say ‘The Avengers” in the UK, they think of the spy-fi TV show and not of Marvel’s swash buckling comic book heroes.
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Of late, I feel I have spent no small portion of time explaining to non-comic book folk that being a comic book good guy is all about the subtle art of punching bad guys in the face. I’ve always believed in this idea, but I never expected to see it published in an actual comic.
Behold! I present to thee Avengers #22:
There it is, in black and white (as well as other colors): confirmation. And I think I speak for many when I say I’m looking forward to Cap punching bad guys in the face this summer, so everybody wins!
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I’ve been reading comic books since… well, since I learned to read. The thing that’s great about comics is they’re the perfect marriage of a book and a movie, and if that doesn’t sound good to you, then I’ll never win you over to comics. For me, it started with Captain America and spread to the occasional issue of Daredevil or The Avengers – fairly swashbuckling, but Daredevil was always grittier. When I got into my teens, Captain America got silly and I took an extended break. (This is where I called it quits. Even as a lifelong comic fan, I just couldn’t believe this was real.) When I got older and had the money to read whatever I wanted, my comic spending got out of hand. I was reading a ton of books: Superman, Batman, Justice League, Green Arrow and a bunch of other crap. Finally, Captain America Volume 4 got so terrible that I just gave up on comic books all together for a second time. (I recently exercised those demons over at ACB.) In the last few years, I’ve come back to the fold, but I’m starting to wonder if another separation is on the horizon.
If you’re not a comic book fan, here’s a handy analogy I can lob at you as to why you might suddenly get turned off from your favorite comics. Imagine you have a favorite spot you like to go to for lunch; let’s say it’s Chinese because I dig Chinese food. Anyway, you go there for lunch all the time, it’s great and you rave to your friends and even when you’re having a shitty morning, you know that come lunch time, it’s on. Then you show up one day, pumped for some vegetable lo mien and KA-BLAMO! “Under New Management!” The food isn’t as good as it used to be. Something’s missing; these people don’t know your name, they don’t know your order and they sure as shit don’t know how to make a quality lo mien with only broccoli. You keep trying, but it’s just not the same and finally, you move on. This sort of thing happens in comics all the time (I guess a better analogy would have been Family Guy from Season 4 to date, but too late now), particularly when the creative team or writer changes. A bad creative team can ruin a comic, and if it’s not an iconic character, possibly forever.
So it goes with comics. Here’s a list of titles I have dropped, might drop soon or think are so great I don’t know if I’ll ever stop reading them.
Here’s a fun game – count the Batman affiliated titles! (Note: Detective Comics is also a Batman book.)
- Detective Comics
- Batman and Robin
- Batman: Streets of Gotham
- Red Robin - The only thing worse than the title was the uniform. This book wasn’t bad, but like most Batman books, I got tired of the storyline crossing into other Batman books.
- Batgirl – this book was one of my favorites until DC rebooted their universe (huh?) and replace the current Batgirl (Stephanie Brown) with the original Batgirl (Babara Gordon… who apparently isn’t in a wheel chair anymore? Yeah, not trying to figure that one out. You’ll need a Bat Specialist for that.)
- Batman Incorporated – worst title ever. The idea is to have a Batman in different cities all over the world… why not call it “Order of the Bat?” I think that’s way cooler. “Batman Incorporated” sounds like they sell Batman themed lunch boxes.
- Batman: The Dark Knight
- Batman Confidential – this was cancelled; I didn’t voluntarily stop reading this book. They made lots of interesting choices here (especially with art) – I miss this book.
- Superman/Batman – a book with two of the most famous comic book heroes of all time should be awesome, and I tried for a long time, but I just couldn’t get into it.
- Green Arrow – kudos to the creative team for driving this book into the ground before DC’s reboot. I’d never seen a comic book commit suicide – it was inspiring in it’s own way. Then Iron Man 2.0 followed it off the ledge.
- Iron Man 2.0 – this was cancelled before I could stop reading it. Marvel beat me by a month, so well done there. The last issue looks like it was finished by whichever interns weren’t busy collating that day.
- Wolverine: Weapon X – I liked this book a lot; it got crappy toward the endbut it had some great moments
- Wolverine: The Best There Is – this was literally the grossest comic book I’ve ever read. I guess the gore was part of the story, but it got out of hand.
- Air – this was cancelled, which sucks because it was totally original.
- House of Mystery – this was cancelled. I miss this book a lot; it’s one of my all time favorites. Matthew Sturges is a great writer, but he just couldn’t write it anymore. He went out on top.
- Avengers Academy – Comic books are silly and dramatic, but this was a little too Days of Our Lives for me.
- Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive – this was cancelled, which sucks because it was great.
- Ultimate Captain America – this was cancelled, and deservedly so
- The Ultimates
- Ultimate Avengers
- Mighty Avengers – this was cancelled, and not a moment too soon
On the chopping block
I’m currently reading these books, but I don’t think I can hold out much longer. I could stop buying them after the very next issue if it’s too crappy.
- Secret Avengers – the only reason this book is selling enough to not get cancelled is because it was ‘Avengers’ in the title. Period. Still, there’s potential there. They’ve just done a major shakeup as Captain America has left the book and is being replaced by Hawkeye, so I’m giving it another chance.
- Justice League – I just don’t get how they’re managing to screw up a book that has Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in it. Isn’t that the DC Holy Trinity? After this story arc ends, I’m out.
On the fence
The Avengers books are getting stale; they certainly don’t need two separate books about two teams that work a few blocks away from each other in Manhattan that spend most of their time fighting the same bad guys. Something needs to change quickly or they’re going to get demoted to the chopping block
- The Avengers
- The New Avengers
These are the books I can’t let go of
- Captain America – one of these Captain America books probably needs to go; I’m thinking it’s going to be this one.
- Captain America and Bucky – Yeah, just don’t need two Cap books. Still, Ed Brubaker is making it work – for now, at least.
- X-Factor – Peter David is the man! X-Factor is probably the best mystery series ever.
- Iron Man – Matt Fraction really knows how to handle this book and these characters.
- Daken: Dark Wolverine – Rob Williams is doing great things with this book. I never know quite where it’s going, but I’m always glad when it gets there.
- Winter Soldier – still too early to truly decide, but so far, Winter Soldier is everything I expect from Ed Brubaker.
- Shield – this isn’t a monthly book – it’s more like a whenever-the-hell-they-feel-like-it sort of book, but it’s great.
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I love comic books and I think they can be adapted for children, but there is a line.
I grew up on all sorts of violent media: He-Man, Thundercats, Transformers, GI Joe… if I was watching it, someone was getting punched in the face. Of course, I also loved comic books (and still do), but adapting this sort of thing to a story book is tricky. The biggest stumbling block is that story books are generally the sort of thing that, for this particular age group, are a shared experience between parents and children, and it doesn’t need to be an uncomfortable experience.
GETTING IT WRONG:
Captain America, The First Avenger: The Great Escape
This novelization of the movie of the same name only encapsulates one scene – when Cap finds out that his best friend from home, Bucky, has been captured by the Nazis. (I know the ‘N’ word doesn’t get tossed around a lot in the movie, but that’s what they are… and, if you think about it, they’re sorta Super Nazis!) Just look at this page:
When I show this to people, they don’t even read the entire page before they look up and say, “This is ridiculous,” or “Is this real? Did you photoshop this?” Do you want to explain to your kid what a casualty list is? I think not. I love Captain America and he’s a great role model for kids (although fictional characters shouldn’t really be role models for kids), but this is going too far.
Star Wars: The Story of Darth Vader
Because the kids have got to learn about Darth Vader somehow, right? Better that it comes from you and they don’t pick it up on the streets. That way, when they have to confront Darth Vader in their daily lives, it’ll be in its proper context. Stuff like this:
Children’s literature needs more images like this. Remember kids, train yourself to let go of all that you fear to lose, or you’ll end up like THIS! THIS!!!
GETTING IT RIGHT:
DC Super Friends: Heroes United
Ah, here we go:
See, this is how it’s done – get together with Aqua Man and go tubing! Hooray!!
I’m not sensitive and I don’t have kids, but some of this stuff is too much. Often, I find that we insulate kids too much from experiences that would help them grow (modern playgrounds are a good example of this), but the fall of Anakin Skywalker probably doesn’t need to get added to the story book shelf.