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by Michele Dutcher
As the summer gets hotter, my friends and I tend to spend more time at the local tavern, chugging down cold ones. The talk thrown over the bar this summer has been Summer Blockbusters – movies that are mostly action films. And that got me thinking – where do these films actually have their roots?
For instance: where did World War Z actually begin? Can we point a finger and say ‘this is where our love affair with zombies began’? Before there were movies there was the written word, whether the media was clay (as in the 7th BC Epic of Gilgamesh) or lamb’s skin, or paper. Western culture seems to have been first exposed to zombies in literature via W.B. Seabrook’s book of 1929 The Magic Island. This is the traditional Caribbean zombie that is slow and soulless and has been brought back to serve the living – specifically, to work for Joseph in the cane field. It packs a moral: if you do bad things during your life, you will end up like the soulless creatures that tend the fields. These zombies are not contagious. They simply want to get back to their graves, and at the end, they try to dig their way back into their graves.
Even earlier was H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West – Reanimator. This was a series of articles published in serial format for a literary magazine in 1921, about Herbert West, a scientist, who robs graves to reanimate the dead – who turn out evil and ravenous. This story echoes Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. However, the creature in Frankenstein was in many ways more intelligent than its creator – and the slow moving zombies from Dawn of the Dead, or the swarming ones from World War Z are not driven by reason, but rather by basic instinct.
My point is that somewhere along the line an author said to himself, “Hey, that’s a pretty good idea – I could write a story about it.” First comes the inspiration, then the idea takes a definite form, then the story is put on paper, and finally the multi-million dollar summer blockbuster is put on the screen.
Another Summer Blockbuster that has been hotly debated at the local pub is the movie Man of Steel. Whether you like the mix of Science Fiction and comic book action character, or prefer Superman to be just an action hero, one thing is certain: he got his start, his roots, when creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster put ink on paper. They wrote the initial comic for Action Comics (64 pages of action!) in 1938.
The Lone Ranger was originally a radio character, but Fran Striker wrote down the script that later led to the TV series and the movies. Post script: the current Lone Ranger is a much better adaptation of the idea than people give it credit for. Native American mysticism, the tension between the Europeans and the aboriginal Americans, and the dark back-story of Tonto all help to make the 2013 version an excellent, thoughtful, action-packed summer movie. If you don’t agree, just meet me at the tavern and I’ll be happy to explain to you why you’re wrong.
Beyond that, we’d like to invite you to sit back and read some stories especially selected for your entertainment and then ascertain whether said work is the fruition of earlier ideas, or perhaps exciting enough to be the seed, the root, of a brand new idea. Perhaps one of our offerings might even be an idea new and thrilling enough to one day become the next big summer blockbuster movie.
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