Greetings from the Odinson,
Avengers Assemble! Titans Go! ThunderCats, Hoooooooooooo! In ancient times Jason and the Argonauts assembled to find the fabled Golden Fleece. In the Middle-Ages, in the aftermath of the Crusades, Robin Hood and His Merry Men fought injustice and saved the throne from being usurped by a vile dictator. In 17th Century France, the great swordsman d’Artagnan joined forces with the mighty Three Musketeers to battle a madman and then reunited years later to expose the conspiracy behind The Man in the Iron Mask. In the Old West, Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and the Magnificent Seven headed into Mexico to save a small village of farmers from a dastardly gang of bandits. At the dawn of the 20th Century, the great literary heroes of the time united to form the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to match wits with the most diabolical criminal mastermind in history and an invading alien force from Mars. And, in the harrowing days of World War II, Lee Marvin assembled the Dirty Dozen to take on the Nazis.
The idea of our greatest heroes uniting to smite evil is a concept as old as history itself. The Odinson presents the great team-ups of Modern Day pop culture.
The 1960s – Batman Meets the Green Hornet – At the height of its popularity, the 1960s Batman television show was a pop culture phenomenon. It was a tongue-in-cheek take on the Dark Knight. Though the show’s “BIFF! POW! BAM!” hijinks did not cast our beloved medium of comics in the best of lights, there can be no denying the charm of the show. The show featured a capable leading man that has become pop culture royalty, villains of the week played by a who’s who of Hollywood giants, and it was famous for its over-the-top cliffhanger endings. “Tune in next week! Same Bat-Channel! Same Bat-Time!” And, it featured the first onscreen super hero team-up. When Batman and Robin met the Green Hornet and Kato in a 2-part adventure, the heads of fanboys everywhere exploded! This team-up had such an effect on SModCast Hollywood Babble-On buddies, writer/director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Dogma) and comedian/actor Ralph Garman, that these two pop culture figures have teamed up with artist Ty Templeton (Superboy, Howard the Duck) and cover artist Alex Ross (Marvels, Kingdom Come) to tell the never-before-seen sequel to this seminal meeting of TV hero legends.
The 1970s – The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman – In a decade that featured such team ups as Bigfoot and Wildboy, Captain Marvel and Isis, and ElectraWoman and DynaGirl, the meeting of these two iconic cyborg super heroes stands out. Based on the novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin, The Six Million Dollar Man was a show about Colonel Steve Austin, an astronaut who, after a horrible accident ravaged his body, was rebuilt as the world’s first cyborg. Working for the government sponsored OSI, Austin saves the free world from madmen, spies, and even the monstrous Bigfoot! Jaime Sommers was a professional athlete who after a skydiving mishap was also rebuilt into a bionic super hero. Through crossover episodes and numerous reunion television movies, Austin and Sommers had many adventures and even developed a timeless romance. As the world’s first Bionic Man and Bionic Woman, Austin and Sommers are faster, stronger, better, and also possess many other amazing abilities given to them through the miracle of super science, and audiences everywhere rejoiced.
The 1980s – John Carpenter and Kurt Russell – NOTE: This is normally where I would talk about The Defenders of the Earth. But since I’ve spoken at length on several occasions about this legendary group of heroes (see The Odinson Celebrates the Triumphant Return of the Defenders of the Earth), I’ve decided to go in a different direction.
Not only has this team-up contributed greatly to the annals of pop culture, but the Carpenter/Russell team has been infinitely influential on the Odinson himself. Going back to the 70s, John Carpenter was best known for his legendary slasher-flick Halloween and Kurt Russell was best known mostly for TV guest spots and Disney movies. Then the stars aligned and united this duo on the biopic Elvis. Soon after, writer/director/composer John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell produced a trilogy of pop culture classics – Escape from New York (1981), The Thing (1982), and Big Trouble in Little China (1986) – three films that stand the test of time.
Escape from New York introduced the world to Snake Plissken. With all due respect to the Punisher, Plissken is the greatest anti-hero in pop culture history. The Thing was a reworked adaptation of the 1951 The Thing from Another World. In this spellbinding sci-fi thriller, Russell’s MacReady, a pilot stationed at an isolated Antarctica-based research installation, and his companions are thrust into an Agatha Christie Ten Little Indians situation when a shape-shifting creature from beyond the stars arrives to usurp humanity’s control of Earth. Finally, Big Trouble is a martial arts fantasy set in Modern Day San Francisco China Town and introduces one the greatest movie heroes ever – Jack Burton, a seemingly average truck driver who suddenly finds himself in the middle of a war between wizards, demons, kung fu assassins, and demi-gods. John Carpenter is a master visual storyteller and all three films feature his musical accompaniment, and Kurt Russell’s infectious wit and charm can make an audience root for the anti-hero.
The 1990s – Pulp Fiction – By 1993, with Reservoir Dogs (1992) and True Romance (1993), Quentin Tarantino had already established himself as a capable writer and filmmaker with an ear for catchy, pop culture-filled dialogue. But nobody was prepared for the game-changer he unleashed with his second directorial offering. Tarantino teams up with an All-Star cast that includes such Hollywood and pop culture giants as John Travolta (Grease), Sam Jackson (Avengers), Uma Thurman (My Super Ex-Girlfriend), Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible), Christopher Walken (Prophecy), Harvey Keitel (From Dusk til Dawn), Tim Roth (The Incredible Hulk), and Bruce Willis (Die Hard) to tell a crisscrossing, out-of-sequence story of the underbelly of Los Angeles crime. The movie is a 90s classic and spawned a hundred imitators and influenced and inspired a generation of writers and movie makers.
The 2000s – JLA/Avengers – Master storytellers Kurt Busiek and George Perez united to assemble the greatest super hero team up in the history of comics. Earths Mightiest Heroes must unite with the World’s Greatest Super Heroes in order to stop a madman from unraveling the reality of both the Marvel and the DC Universes. This was a team up decades in the making. Who is stronger – the Son of Odin or the Last Son of Krypton? Who is more cunning – the Dark Knight Detective or the Sentinel of Liberty? What would Wonder Woman do when she finally comes face-to-face with Hercules, the man that betrayed her mother? Who is a better shot – Green Arrow or Hawkeye? All these questions would be addressed and many, many more when the two greatest super teams in comics history face off and ultimately team up. It’s a cast of hundreds and the creators out do themselves by including every single hero that has ever been a member of the Avengers or the JLA and even include every single one of their foes. Hands down, the Odinson’s favorite moment in the tale is when DC villain Prometheus confronts Captain America and boosts that the Star-Spangled Shield-Slinger should be no problem since Prometheus has just downloaded the Batman’s fighting skills into his brain. To this Cap simply replies, “Oh?” And then proceeds to wipe the floor with the brash villain.
The 2010s – The Expendables – In the 80s, names like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Lundgren, Van Damme, and Norris were action hero icons. The Box Office was dominated by beefcake shoot-em-ups and take-no-prisoner films like Rambo, Terminator, Die Hard, Masters of the Universe, Bloodsport, and Lone Wolf McQuade. Then in the 90s and early 2000s, the next generation of action stars that included names like Li, Statham, Snipes, and Banderas took the reins with next level action films like Fist of Legend, The Transporter, Blade, and Desperado. So, how does a filmmaker top over three decades of action movie greatness? Simple – put every single action hero icon in the same movie. And with his Expendables Trilogy, that is exactly what Sylvester Stallone has done. And the results have been nothing short of a popcorn chomping, explosive pop culture good time.
These are the legendary team ups that over the six decades have helped shaped pop culture and inspired generations of TV watchers, movie goers, comic readers, and the Odinson.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell