WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT MOTION SICKNESS:
For those of you who say I dislike superheroes, take note: I admit I haven’t read too many of their comic books lately, but they sure do make some fine amusement park rides. I’m talking, of course, about Marvel Superhero Island, one of the many attractions at Universal Studio’s “Islands of Adventure” theme park.
My girlfriend, Kristen, and I were in Orlando for the big MEGA CON and after three days of standing around trying desperately to get people to buy my book Box Office Poison we were ready for a change of scenery. Inevitably, the superheroes beckoned, and here’s a quick rundown of the rides they offered:
Our first stop, because there was no line, was THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN’S WILD RIDE OR SOME SUCH. This was one of those new generation of amusement park rides, part coaster, part flight simulator-and you even get to wear 3D glasses! The set up for the ride was that we were in a car or something and accidentally wind up in the middle of Spidey and some of his famous supevillain enemies. We’re thrown around and menaced as he tries to save us and stop Doc Ock, Electro and others.
This was the most fun I’d had with superheroes in years.
I may sound like some dorky fanboy, but it was as close as you can get to being in a superhero comic, especially since it’s all in 3D. You literally feel the heat as Ock’s arms shoot fire at you (a trick I didn’t know he had). The car vibrates after Electro gives it a jolt. Blood rushes to your head as you’re suspended over the cityscape. If anything, it made me really want to see the movie. And they even use the cool theme song from the old cartoon!
SPIDER-MAN’S WILD RIDE:*****
DR DOOM’S TOWER OF TERROR (or something like that): After Spidey’s tour of New York, I was ready for something a little easier. What the hell’s happened to me? I’m only thirty-two years old! Roller coasters shouldn’t be screwing me up this much! Okay, okay, I’m not exactly in prime physical condition but this is depressing.
In any case, the DOOM ride is one of those things where they lift you up in the air and drop you from a great height. One big drop. How bad could it be? It turned out it would be very bad, though not in the way I expected.
Like the Spider-Man ride, this attraction also had a story. Why do they all need plots nowadays? Did people start wanting rides with more content? “Sure, that roller coaster was fun but what was the point? What was my motivation?” With DOOM, the gimmick was that Dr. Doom was going to strap you into this chair, scare the bejeezus out of you, and use that fear energy to power some weapon. Or something. Anyway, they strap us in, and, after some ominous hissing and steam, we go flying up in the air at a positively unhealthy speed. We shoot up around five stories or so…and then gently descend back to earth.
What the--?! That’s it? One big lurch up to the sky and then what’s essentially an elevator down? I hope Doctor Doom wasn’t powering his weapon with our disappointment and annoyance otherwise he’ll be unstoppable!
DOCTOR DOOM’S TOWER OF TEDIUM: **
Last but not least was THE HULK’S WILD ROLLER COASTER EXPLOSION. From the outside, this was certainly the most daunting of the three super-hero rides. It was basically a traditional roller coaster, with a long, winding track coming out of a building, but don’t take “traditional” to mean boring. There were plenty of loops, turns and other coaster fun to keep you entertained. Again, they felt the need to have some kind of story, but it was hard to follow: either Bruce Banner had built this machine to make him stop being The Hulk or this machine is what made him The Hulk. It didn’t really matter, though, since I was too busy trying to keep my glasses from falling off and my stomach from jumping ship to worry about details like that. A splendid time.
HULK’S ROLLER COASTER JAM: Action:**** Plot: *
After a quick stop in the gift shop and some quick photos, we bid farewell to Superhero Island and headed over to Dr. Seuss Island where Kristen had a Green Eggs and Hamwich. Excelsior!
WHY ISN’T THIS GUY FAMOUS?
Derek Kirk, whose work I’ve liked for years, sent me his recent mini-comic Same Difference and Other Stories and I was knocked out. It’s a collection of his online strips, mostly slice-of-life, character driven stuff and I recommend it highly. It’s really a shame that such a talented guy isn’t even published, let alone rich and famous. What an industry! Don’t take my word for it, check out his stuff at www.smallstoriesonline.com.
“THERE IS NO TRY. EITHER DO OR, IN THIS CASE, DO NOT.”
I picked up Dark Horse’s Star Wars: Infinities collection last week. I was looking forward to it, since it sounded like a cool idea (basically, what if Luke hadn’t blown up the Death Star in the first-fourth?-movie). The book is intriguing from the start, with Luke joining Han and Chewbacca on the run from the Empire, who once again have Leia in their clutches. I also liked the fact that they took elements from the “real” story and (sometimes subtly) turned them on their heads (for example, the Millennium Falcon eludes the Empire by ducking into an asteroid field-made from the wreckage of the Yavin Moon destroyed by the Death Star).
But after the basic plot is set up, the writer seemed to run out of steam. With the exception of Leia being tempted by the dark side and the ludicrous destruction of the Death Star nothing very original or interesting happens. It’s a shame that with such a tempting premise the creators (or their corporate bosses) kept so close to the source material instead of really cutting loose and playing on the audience’s expectations.
Alex Robinson's graphic novel Box Office Poison was recently nominated for a Harvey Award. He is hard at work on his second book, which should come out sometime in 2016.
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