Before You Go: Guardians Of The Galaxy

Welcome to “Before You Go,” the sometimes column where I unveil the secret origins behind whatever big-budget nerd movie is opening tomorrow.

When you first heard the next Marvel Studios movie was going to be “Guardians of the Galaxy,” your reaction was probably: “Who of the What?”

You are not alone. I’ve been reading Marvel Comics for around 40 years and like most comic fans I’ve had little interest in the Guardians of the Galaxy before the movie announcement. I first encountered them in the ’70s in an issue of “The Defenders.” These Guardians, created in 1969 by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, bear no resemblance to the characters coming tomorrow to a theater near you.

Moonage Daydream

The original Guardians were from the 31st Century caught up in an interstellar war with lizard-like aliens called The Badoon. The team initially consisted of Vance Astro of Earth, Martinex of Pluto, Charlie 27 of Jupiter and Yondu of Centauri-IV.

DefendersGuardians26CoverYondu is the only original Guardian to appear in the film and the only thing the movie version has in common with the comic version is blue skin and a preference for the arrow as a weapon. It’s comforting to know that even in the 31st Century people are still fighting evil with bow and arrow.

The Guardians made several visits to the past –our present — to have adventures with the modern Marvel superheroes. They play a key role in one of the great Avengers stories of the ’70s. The Guardians were given their own series in the ’90s which ran for 62 issues.

Cherry Bomb

In the 2000s, Marvel published a number of comics set in the “cosmic” sector of the Marvel Universe — in other words, way outside New York City.

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Comic-Book-CoverOne of those comics was a complete revamping of Guardians of the Galaxy. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning put together this new team from some of Marvel’s more oddball space characters — Star-Lord,  Adam Warlock, Quasar, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Drax the Destroyer and Groot. Warlock and Quasar did not make the cut when Hollywood came calling.

Now I know what you’re thinking: This is like X-Men, yes? The original book wasn’t that popular and was eventually canceled, then they rebooted it with an “all new, all different” team and it went on to become Marvel’s most popular comic. That’s what happened with Guardians, right?

No. Not at all.

Guardians 2.0 lasted a whopping 25 issues before being canceled. The moral of the story, however, is that you don’t need thousands of fans to get a movie deal, you only need one. Provided that one is Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios.

Feige saw something in GotG that few others did, and put the team in Marvel’s movie lineup, which brings us to where we are now. Was it a good call? We’ll know shortly.

Meanwhile, in the time leading up to getting the film off the ground, Marvel has gone all out to promote the new Guardians — putting them in the “Ultimate Spider-Man” and “Avengers Assemble” cartoons, video games and toys. A third volume of the Guardians comic book was released last year and seems to be doing pretty good — for now.

And that’s all you need to know — before you go.

A RROY REPORT Special Report: LawyerCon 2014 V

Part Five: Take The Long Way Home

 (Note: I forgot to take any pictures on the last couple days, so I’ll be inserting photos from the trip that have nothing to do with what your reading about.)

We left Richmond around 10 a.m. Friday morning. The plan was to drive to Lexington, Kentucky, and spend the night at a Comfort Inn and spend Saturday visiting with relatives and generally hanging out in Lexington. That was the plan until Cousin Debi found out and nixed our hotel arrangements and had us spend the night at her place. Regardless of where we slept, we were bound for Lexington.

100_2259We had still not finished the Hiatt mix but decided it was time for something new so we switched to The Beatles, as that would make Andrew happy and he was starting out the day slightly stressed. The plan was to stop in Lexington, Virginia, and refuel the Captiva and ourselves.

Some hours later with the gas gauge running nervously low, we saw signs for Lexington, VA. The first sign showed two or three gas stations. There was no sign showing eating establishments. Odd. We pulled over anyway, turned right and in short order found a gas station. No fast food or other food joints in sight. Odd. Lar went inside to inquire about lunch while I ran the pump.

The nice lady behind the counter informed Lar that if we turned left out of the gas station we’d find many eateries. We turned left. We drove. We saw no eateries. We continued to drive further and further away from the Interstate.

“I’m not seeing any restaurants. Was that woman crazy? We should turn around.”

“Well then do it. You don’t need to talk about it.”

Remember how I hate the Family Road Trip because at some point we both snap at each other and things get uncomfortable for the next several miles? It took much longer than expected, but we had finally reached that point. I guess part of me was relieved.

We turned around and got back to the interstate. The next exit offered a few food options but the person next to me was being quiet so I said nothing. Eventually we found a McDonald’s/Burger King sign and I took the initiative and pulled off the highway.

“McDonald’s or Burger King?”

“No Burger King.”

The Burger King, of course, was to our right. The McDonald’s was nowhere to be seen. It looked like we were about to drive into the heart of town.

“Just get back on the interstate and find a rest stop. I need to use the bathroom.”

We eventually found a rest stop and I turned over driving duties to Lar. If we don’t eat, we don’t eat but it’s her decision from now on. By 4 p.m. we found a Cracker Barrel. Things were much better after that. At some point the iPod stopped working for no good reason so, thankfully, I had the CD case.

100_2217

We made our way to Lexington, KY, a few hours later. Found cousin Debi’s place without problem. Debi was making brownies, which upset me because she had promised me pie, but she claimed we would be having pie for breakfast, so I settled down.

Had a nice visit then went to bed. Decided not to spend the night in Don’s attic, which is decorated with so much wildlife and wildlife-related objects as to make Bass Pro and Cabela’s both green with jealousy. I was afraid something might wake up in the night and eat me.

The next morning I drank many cups of coffee with Don, Debi and Lar and we enjoyed a delicious breakfast pie and coffee cake. Aunt Peggy and Russ came over around 11 and we did more olde tyme visiting without twitter or text messaging. Andrew finally got out of bed around 11? noon? I forget, but he had some breakfast pie and then about 10 minutes later take-out Chinese.

That afternoon we went to some candy store so Lar could buy multiple boxes of bourbon cherries. They both enjoyed the free samples. About 4 p.m. we loaded up the SUV and began the final leg of our journey. Figured out how to get the iPod to work and let Billy Joel take us the last hundred-plus miles. It was an easy drive through the flat, relatively straight roads of Indiana and Illinois. We arrived home around 8 p.m. Saturday.

“Wasn’t that fun? What a nice Family Road Trip.”

Who am I to argue?

100_2200

 

 

 

A RROY REPORT Special Report: LawyerCon 2014 IV

Part Four: The Final Stretch

Day Five

Wednesday. New Comic Book Day. One of my favorite traditions of LawyerCon is   checking out comic book shops across the country. I tend to judge a city by how many and how good its comic book shops are. Crime statistics and economic development do not interest me.

100_2239According to the internet’s Comic Shop Locator, there was one store within walking distance of the hotel. It would be a long walk, but hey, we had nothing better to do. Most of the walk was uphill, which was good, because it meant most of the walk back would be downhill.

Velocity Comics is a decent shop — small and filled to the brim with comics and books. Not a lot of miscellaneous, which is what I like to look at. I spent far more time walking to the store than I did walking through it. I picked up my books for the week and we headed back to the hotel. Along the way I confirmed something I’d been noticing in all my walks around downtown Richmond. Everything downtown is either restaurants or office space. There is very little retail. Not a lot of goofy shops to browse in.

Stopped at a pizza place then back to the hotel. Took leftover pizza to the pool and sat and ate and read comics while Andrew enjoyed a swim.

100_2235

That night was the final big event of the convention — a trip to The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar. At this point I should mention that the bus drivers in Richmond do not appear to have it in for lawyers the way they do in other cities. The busses were always there early waiting for us in front of the hotel and left in a timely manner.

The Tredegar Ironworks was an important manufacturing operation for The South during the Civil War. It looks like a bombed-out relic now except for the part they turned into a museum. I learned a lot about cannons that I have since forgotten. Had a nice barbecue dinner with open bar and pie bar. Mmmm, pie bar.

Day Six

100_2249

For our last day in Richmond we took a walk to the Jefferson Hotel, which was even more ornate than the John Marshall. Back in the good old days they had alligators living there and they would parade them through the lobby. Sadly, all they have now are metal replicas.

100_2248We couldn’t afford lunch at the Jefferson so we walked back to the capitol and looked about then found a nice deli and had sandwiches. That night Lar attended the annual Farewell Banquet and Andrew and I found a nice Mexican cantina for our supper. They had a decent burrito there but of course it could not compete with the Mexican Villa burrito. After dinner we made one final stop at the pool. The next morning we packed our bags, loaded up the SUV, and prepared for our journey back to St. Charles.

But that’s another story.

Coming Up: The thrilling conclusion

A RROY REPORT Special Report: LawyerCon 2014 III

Part Three: We Finally Arrive

Day Two

After a restful night’s sleep and a shower in the world’s largest shower, we had a delicious breakfast, bid farewell to our hosts, and then made our way down the mountain for the last leg of our journey.

Driving down narrow, curvy mountain roads is even more harrowing than going up, but at least I was fresh and we slowly, carefully made our way off Wintergreen Mountain. The remaining 2-hour drive was pretty, flat and more to my liking. We were still listening to Hiatt when we pulled into the Omni Hotel where we will be spending the next five days.

For the first time in forever we were given the Perfect Hotel Room. It was on the third floor so we didn’t have to go far; it was close to the elevator; it was next door to the ice machine; and the pool was at the end of the hall. We had HBO but rarely was there anything good on it (I can’t believe you suckers who pay for HBO. ‘Game of Thrones’ can’t be that good). I spent more time watching the AXS channel, which I had never heard of before but wish I had here.

IMG_6037Lar had to rush off to a meeting so Andrew and I took a short walk. Short because it was hot and short because downtown Richmond, VA, is all steep hills. What is the deal with that? Seattle was bad enough. Why can’t we have a conference in a town that is flat? Are there any lawyers in Kansas?

That night was the annual slide show featuring highlights from last year, charity auction and — the important part — free appetizer dinner with open bar. The food was pretty good and fairly substantial but they ran out of the chicken things too early. This was the first of the week’s schmoozing events which, as we all know, I excel at.

Day Three

100_2177The Wife had a full day of class so the son and I slept in (so easy to do in dark hotel rooms.) We eventually got up and went for a walk along the canal. It was nice but at times creepy — I wouldn’t want to walk there after dark. Had lunch at an Irish pub and when we were done discovered that Lar had been eating in the same place. That afternoon we hung out at the indoor pool until it was time for the evening’s festivities.

The evening’s festivities consisted of a formal dinner and dancing at the Hotel John Marshall (look him up, I’ve got too much to cover to give history lessons). It was an elegant place with a large ballroom where we ate, drank and danced. There was an 8-piece band that specialized in r&b classics. They were very good.

IMG_6271The food started out on the fru-fru side but got better. The first dish was something that had a few springs of salad, a large slice of tomato, a slice of cream cheese, and something on top in a hard, crusty shell. I ate everything but the tomato. Andrew would have nothing to do with it. The main course was much better – there was some chicken thing that was tasty and the potatoes were good and the bread and Andrew filled up on pasta so it all worked out. Dessert was a piece of carrot cake which was good but would’ve been infinitely better if I’d had coffee to go with it.

It was an all-around good time except for our waiter, who was more concerned about taking away our glasses (even when we weren’t finished with them), than bringing us our food. I find it very frustrating when I can’t have my coffee with my dessert. I also find it frustrating when the guy didn’t bring Andrew his dessert. It’s extremely frustrating when you see everyone at every other table being served coffee and you’re not. I don’t handle frustration well. But by God, if you put your drink down, he was there to take it away.

Day Four

100_2204Lar only had a half-day of class on Tuesday so the boys slept in and met her for lunch at a nice Italian place and then we went on a tour of the state capitol. We learned many fascinating things about our nation’s history which I have since forgotten. There was an “American Idol” bus parked outside the capitol which annoyed Lar.

It began to lightly rain when we finished the tour so we didn’t get to do much exploring. For the evening’s entertainment we walked to the Penny Lane Pub because Lar has a thing for pubs. We walked a good distance in light rain but had a nice dinner.

Coming Up: Comic Books, Civil War and Hotel Alligators

A RROY REPORT Special Report: LawyerCon 2014 II

Part Two: On the Road Again and Again and Again

We packed up the SUV and left St. Charles around 6:30 p.m. Friday night. We drove about four hours to the Comfort Inn in Corydon, Indiana. Thanks to the time zones we got in even later. I hate Eastern Time.

The first night went without incident, the roads were flat and straight and the vehicle drove nicely. I had no trouble figuring out the iPod and my six-hour RROY mix got us there with music to spare. The hotel wasn’t much to speak of and they didn’t have free HBO but the bed worked and that was all that mattered.

Day One 

Got up and took advantage of the complementary breakfast, figuring we could skip lunch if need be. Since I did the driving the night before, Lar started off that morning. It wasn’t long before we were in the mountains, where we would spend the rest of this long day.

Experts will tell you St. Louis lacks two things to make it a great city: an ocean and mountains. I agree that an ocean view is much more impressive than a river. But I’m not sold on mountains. Oh, they’re majestic and all, and beautiful and whatnot — but God they’re horrible to drive through. The roads are too steep and  curvy, you can’t drive fast, trucks are wanting to run over you, there’s no curb for you to pull over onto if the stress gets too much. Fortunately, I wasn’t driving at this point, but it isn’t any less stressful in the passenger seat. In fact, if I had known there was this much mountain driving on this trek, I would’ve reconsidered flying.

“Aren’t the mountains lovely? It’s so pretty out here.”

Yes, it’s -- slow down! that’s a 30-foot drop if our brakes give out! What the hell is a Runaway Truck Lane? Why would you need such a thing? Are we gonna make it up this hill? What if the engine gives out? Get out of our lane! There’s no margin for error!

Several hours later we had made our way through Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia. The RROY mix finished up around noon, which we followed by the Traveling Wilbury’s mix, which wasn’t very long. We then switched to the John Hiatt mix — 127 songs, 8.5 hours. Some people will tell you that’s too much Hiatt. Some people are idiots.

It was time to get gas and switch drivers for the last leg of the day — up the mountain to the Wintergreen Resort. Rob’s parents own a lovely cabin in Wintergreen, and Rob decided that would be a nice place to meet instead of in their lovely home in flat, boring Charlottesville. I’m guessing he thought we would enjoy the view. And we probably would’ve enjoyed the view — if it had been at the start of our long driving day instead of the end.

It was decided that I would drive this  final stretch because Lar is better at reading maps and navigating directions and I’m better at blinding following orders.

We get off the main road and drive the curvy road that leads to Wintergreen Mountain (note: probably not really the name of the mountain). “At this point the roads will get more narrow and curvier” Rob writes. At this point? It can get worse?  

Turns out yes, yes it can. Up and up we go, curve after narrow, winding curve. We eventually hook up with the Blue Ridge Parkway — a roadway famous for its scenic beauty. Let me assure you, there is no scenic beauty after you’ve been on the road for 8 hours. After 8 hours it doesn’t matter if the road is lined with swimsuit models and dinosaurs, all you wanna do is GET OUT OF THAT CAR.

100_2167

We eventually make it to the cabin in the woods and are greeted by Rob, Crystal, daughter Anna and doggie Bella. Doggies make everything better. Rob cooked a delicious dinner and afterwards we went for a walk. We did a good deal of talking — the old-fashioned way, without constantly checking our smartphones or Facebook or iPads. Turns out there’s lousy Internet reception in the mountains.

Score one for the mountains.

Coming Up: Part Three!

A RROY REPORT SPECIAL REPORT: LawyerCon 2014 I

Part One: Life is a Highway

The 41st Annual National Conference of Appellate Court Clerks, aka LawyerCon, aka Our-One-Vacation-of-the-Year, ran from July 14-18 in Richmond, Virginia. It is precisely 843 miles from St. Charles, MO, to Richmond, VA, according to Google Maps. That’s the equivalent of 12 hours, 16 minutes in a car driving down Interstate 64 — assuming there’s no road work, bad weather, accidents or stops for food, gas or restroom breaks.

“Guess What! This year we’re going to drive to the conference! Family Road Trip!!!”

“Is this because you said a bad word in front of the security agents when they were frisking your frail, octogenarian mother at the airport last year?”

“No, it’s because we love the family bonding that comes from family road trips. And we love looking at the beautiful scenery as we serenely drive down the highway. And we hate all the inconveniences of modern air travel. And it’s much cheaper to drive. And yes, maybe I’m afraid I’m on a no-fly list.”

“I dunno…”

“You hate to fly! It causes you excruciating pain! That’s all I hear about when we fly. And you hate the waiting.”

“Yes, but I can tolerate 15 minutes of excruciating pain and a few hours waiting in airports if I’m going to get there in a day. Driving will take two or three days stuck in a car and then there’s always the point where something goes wrong and you snap at me and I snap at you and we don’t talk to each other for a couple hours and it’s all very uncomfortable and then Andrew gets all stressed out…”

“Well, nothing bad will happen this year.”

“Whatever you say.”

100_2171

And so it was that Lar ordered the maps from Triple A and signed up for the rental car and we packed our bags for the big trip. The plan was to leave St. Charles Friday night after work and drive 4 hours to a Comfort Inn in Indiana. The next day we would drive 8 hours and spend the night with our friends Rob and Crystal at a mountain resort in Virginia. Sunday we would drive the remaining 2 hours to Richmond, just in time for the conference to begin at noon.

Thursday night we go to pick up the rental car.

“Good news! We’ve upgraded you to an SUV at no extra charge!”

Uh. I don’t want an SUV. If I wanted an SUV I’d have asked for one. I drive cars. I don’t want some big, bulky mini-van that I can’t park.

“An SUV! At no extra charge?! That’s great! Isn’t that great, dear?”

Why did I marry this woman? We have absolutely nothing in common.

It turns out the Chevy Captiva was not a big, bulky thing but rather a modestly sized SUV that I didn’t have much trouble driving. Since we were driving and not flying — and since we now had an SUV — we took five times more stuff than normal. Because, you know, why have all that room and not use it?

The most important aspect of our new ride was the USB port that allowed us to play music through an iPod. While I generally hate new technology, especially as it applies to music (first it was LPs, then it was 8-tracks, then it was cassettes, then it was CDs, then it was MP3s — MAKE IT STOP) , I have come around to liking the idea of having several hours of music downloaded into a series of playlists that you can listen to without having to change discs every hour.

I brought along the CD case just in case. After all, we had room.

Coming Up: On The Road Again and Again and Again

 

 

 

On Stage: Seussical

On a hot summer night in the town of St. Lou
Some talent converged to stage ‘Horton Hears a Who’
What happened was delightful and silly and looney
In a park in the forest at a place called The Muny

The show was a fanciful, comical, musical
Inspired by Geisel, they called it “Seussical”
Taken from the writings of one Dr. Seuss
It gave all the actors the chance to cut loose

Seussical-2014-736px

There was Horton and Mayzie and plenty of others
Like Cat in the Hat and The Wickersham Brothers

With whimsical costumes and dancing and song
This first-rate production just couldn’t go wrong
They threw in most everything but the kitchen sink
To prove just how great are the thinks you can think

So if you’ve got time and you’re not feeling puny
Then order some tickets and head for The Muny

Seussical runs through July 28. http://muny.org/