What Happened to my Marvelous Heroes?

Latimer: My love of comic book characters comes from the past; the not so, and yet so, distant past. Back in the mid 90s, Saturday mornings were filled with marvel cartoons. Ah yes, despite it being a non-school day I would be up at the crack of dawn to see them, my favourite being X-men (and come on, I can still hum that epic opening tune!).

Sometimes I had to watch Spiderman, or The Incredible Hulk, to get to X-men; now Spiderman I didn’t mind, but God, the Incredible Hulk left me feeling so depressed (even as a child). Nothing ever, ever, went right for Bruce Banner.

I traveled with him, though he didn’t notice, and every episode the promise of a hulk-cure made me feel elated along with Bruce and we’d go together to the place of promised salvation, only to find it wasn’t what we thought and then we’d leave – him with ripped clothes and inevitable fleeing from the army, and me, with a broken heart and dejected for about an hour afterward.

In my reality of Saturday morning cartoons, ‘Earth 90s’, Bruce never found a cure. Also, his cousin became the She-Hulk… Which, by the way, what the hell was the deal there?

How come she became this buxom babe with full control of her powers (remained a practicing lawyer) and Bruce… Bruce was essentially this instinct-driven beast. Well, in the cartoons a least this was never explained (only that she was really, really happy to be the She-Hulk, well in fairness, she looked amazing, of course she didn’t mind!).

Then there was Spiderman, where I left him… let’s see, vaguely I remember he was searching for Mary-Jane (she had gone missing, then he had found her again, for a while, only it turned out she wasn’t really Mary-Jane she was a water clone! Yeeaah…).

A water clone who evaporates and is no more! It was horrific to me at the time, honestly it still kind of is…

He never found the real Mary-Jane in my Earth 90s. Either I stopped watching (that’s unlikely!) or they stopped showing it (more likely!).

The X-men was the same; I remember lots of stories. I remember I really didn’t like boring, boring, Jean Grey (she was always collapsing – always – even though subsequently I found out that she is one of the strongest mutants in Marvel – what the…?!).

Oh my God, and I remember Jubilee… argh, she was so pointless (sparks… seriously? You are lucky Wolverine was your friend, that’s all I’m saying!).

Rogue and Gambit – now this is me all over; perfect couple, I shipped them all the way! I also remember Cyclops and Jean Grey got married (okay I didn’t like her but I shipped them – I still ship them, ships are hard to leave).

fantastic fanart by New Moon Night Mike Choi

Now in Earth 90s, Gambit and Rogue never kissed and couldn’t touch, because of Rogue’s powers, but in comics… love must’a found a way! I’m fan-girl squee-ing even after all these years…

They brought the X-men cartoon back; years and years later and I watched it, but it just wasn’t the same anymore. Spiderman’s not the same, and God, I’m not watching the Hulk. There’s a time for everything and my days of watching them had passed – unless it’s my other thought, that 90s cartoons were just better.

This brings me full circle; recently I’ve being sticking a toe (here and there) back into the Marvel world, via comics. There is some absolutely beautiful, gorgeous artwork in comics too…

Stunning image of Magneto (who survived a concentration camp) by Marko Djurdjevic… Stunning

I’m now skirting around the great cosmic comic-world windows, peaking in and going; ‘ohh, err, can I come in? I think I’m ready!’. This I should warn you, is how obsessions start for me!

In preparation for my skipping into comic books (baring in mind, I know very little and these are just random nuggets I uncovered!) – I have found out some strange things about the heroes I actually never knew at all…

Firstly (and shockingly) Peter Parker… is dead… seriously… You killed Peter Parker…. What…?

There are only like 200 mutants left in the Marvel universe following a big ‘event’ (an epic arc of a story that crosses across lots of titles etc)… WHAT?! NOOO, they are the coolest thing in Marvel!

Jean Grey is dead… Do I care…? Argh, yes, with age I now care, because she married Cyclops and damn it, a ship must not sink while part of me is still on it, or I turn into a pumpkin! Save me Marvel!

Cyclops was unfaithful when married to Jean Grey – okay, hold on a damn minute, I’m not happy about this! He is now, subsequently, having a relationship with the mutant he was having an affair with – a mutant called Emma Frost (who was played by January Jones in X-men: First Class). Main thought here; ‘Oh NO you didn’t…!’ Of course on the other side I wouldn’t be surprised if Jean Grey had a fling with Wolverine… I can tell relationships in comics will hurt me

Jean Grey is not happy when she finds out! In this instance, I am with you Jean, even though I don’t like you really…

Weirder still, Cyclops has turned into like a revolutionary leader for mutants (where Magneto is almost his second in command!) and he’s  – my thought? ‘When did Cyclops get so interesting?’

What the hell… Cyclops has gone mad! MAD!

AND Cyclopes killed Prof X… buh?

Don’t just stand there! This isn’t going to end well Prof!
Hard to know how permanent that is, he’s died ALOT apparently! As has Cyclops!

Cyclops is in jail… look at this. God, what happened to him, what made him turn into this character? I really want to know! What a spiral from the pure boy scout I remember!

Psychologically what the hell happened to you?

Wolverine is on the opposing side to Cyclops. He also runs a school for mutants…

Okay this is weird, but I’m intrigued by this school (there seems to be some interesting characters there)…

There are so many stories that happened before and after my time; the world of the Marvel characters is far bigger than I realised. Earth 90s was an introduction and I thought it was the story. It’s funny really, but I’m starting to wonder again about all those crazy characters. I love a good story and I really did love those characters.

Okay, it may be time to open the door to that comic book world, step in and have a look around 🙂

Where Giant’s Roam

Latimer: Last weekend, I journeyed north – to the rugged and jagged cliffs of the county Antrim coast (Game of Throne’s country! :)).

Winter is Coming… Right?!
The Dark Hedges Antrim

I’m just after realising… I thought ALOT of the places I saw as we drove around the coast looked like the Iron Islands from Game of Thrones… and we ended up, having missed a turn, at a tiny, tiny harbour – and!- AND I just looked it up (it’s called Ballintoy) and it was a location for the Iron Islands on Game of Thrones!

Ballintoy Harbour
Iron Islands, Pyke… but actually Ballintoy… I’m in awe
Yo, Theon Greyjoy spin around, Latimer is waving at ya!

It was the back of beyonds. Wow, I’m actually just going ‘damn, I should have gotten out and ran around or something!’ (over his shoulder on the left-hand side facing us! up there near the cove… yep :)!). I even took note of the place, thinking, I must remember this place!

Anyway, going to Antrim was a first for me. It’s not that far from home, nowhere in Ireland is in fairness, but sometimes it takes a few years before we end up going to the places that we’ve always meant to go.

I’ve always meant to go to the Giant’s causeway; it’s one of those ‘on the list, but never seem to go’ sort of places (like Sceilig Mhichíl, the tiny rock monastery out in the Atlantic ocean; but that’s another story!).

Sceilig Mhichíl… another ‘on the list’ place

As we journeyed to the tip of Northern Ireland, I started thinking back on the story of the causeway, or what I remembered of it. In school I remember that we learned lots of the old Irish stories; children of Lir, Deirdre of the sorrows, Fionn and the Fianna (band of warriors) – I even remember learning about all the tests a young warrior had to do before he could join the Fianna; we had to draw a picture for each task and I think there were 12? I remember one of them was run through the forest while picking a torn out of your foot (and another task was to run through the forest without breaking a single twig!).

We learned a lot of Irish stories; we even did plays ‘as Gaeilge’ (in Irish). Children of Lir was a popular one (I played Fiachra? I think! In the act where the children are turned into swans… I play a child being turned into a swan very well, as it turns out! HA!).

The story of the causeway was a little fuzzy for me. The giant’s name was all I really remembered: Fionn Mac Cumhaill.

When we got to the causeway visitors centre, the story started to come back to me as I watched the CGI Fionn (known as ‘Finn Mac Cool’ in Northern Ireland, but ‘Fionn Mac Cumhaill’ in Irish) on the explanatory video they played.

This story, and the one that I remembered, was where Fionn was mocked by a Scottish giant who he could see beyond the sea in Scotland (jumping up and down and making gestures – the Scottish giant wanted a fight).

Fionn was enraged and threw stones into the sea to build a bridge to get to Scotland (one of the sods of earth became the Isle of Man – that’s a side-story!). He built the causeway, and traveled all the way to Scotland to confront this would-be foe.

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Fionn crept along the final steps of the causeway. He started to haul himself up the Scottish cliffs then paused. The Scottish giant, Cuhullin, was far bigger than Fionn. So, like any sensible person (and giant!), Fionn fecked off back home and shut the door. As his wife stared at him, with a ‘what have you gone and done?’ look on her face, the ground beneath them started to tremble! BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! Cuhullin was racing across the causeway to fight Fionn!

causeway

Fionn’s wife, proving the clever one, told Fionn to get into their baby’s cot. She dressed him up as their baby and pulled the curtains to hide him from view.

Cuhullin banged on the door and she let him in. Fionn’s wife told Cuhullin that her husband was out. The giant pulled back the curtains and saw Fionn ‘the baby’ in his cot. What a massive baby, he thought, shaking in his boots – how big would his father be?! Fearing for his safety, Cuhullin raced back to Scotland.

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I remembered the name Fionn Mac Cumhaill as also being ‘Fionn and the Fianna’, the story of an Irish warrior and the fearsome Fianna warriors. As it turns out this Fionn and the giant share the name, but the two have very different stories.

If you have ever heard the story of Tir na nÓg (the land of the young) and the young Oisín who journeyed there on a white horse with a girl called Niamh; well, Fionn Mac Cumhaill (of Fionn and the Fianna fame) was Oisín’s father.

The causeway was beautiful, despite the typical Irish bad weather (winds that would whistle right through your bones and icy cold rain!). The rocks were a little dangerous, because of the wet and the wind, but never one to care I scrambled across them and out as far as I could go – by law! The rocks of the causeway are made of basalt, which is solidified lava. It was caused, in reality, by a volcanic eruption.

Apparently at one point in its life (around 1901), it was rumoured that the causeway was going to be moved to a Philadelphia park (stone by stone and rebuilt there). Thankfully it wasn’t, but lots of the stones were taken away and can be found all over the world.

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This box shows some of the places where you can find some of the Giants causeway! It’s very unlucky to remove stones and you are definitely not allowed anymore (my Mam kept saying; ‘wouldn’t you love some of those stones for your garden?’).

Back at the visitors centre we saw a collection of postcards from years ago, from people who visited the causeway (some would have been from the early 1900s). Very interesting to read voices from the past 🙂

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We also saw some lovely jewellery made from buttons by a woman called Jane Walsh (Button Studio) in Athlone Ireland. I couldn’t leave without one!

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The things you can do with buttons!
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Button rings!
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My button necklace

Also lots of Irish fudge and chocolate, yummers!

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Chocolate and fudge! Yummy! (That bench read; ‘can you fit in a giant teaspoon?’ and had a teaspoon drawn on it 🙂 )

We had another site to see while on the Antrim coast, the Carrack-a-Rede rope bridge. It’s a short rope bridge that leads over to an island where fishermen used to cast salmon nets (back in the old days they would cross the, then, one-rope bridge to collect their catch and haul it back over the nauseating cliff gap).

Not my picture, but this is clearer I think

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A view from a parallel cliff of the bridge. That island/rock is what you are crossing the bridge to get to.

I really, really wanted to cross the bridge (even though I was afraid). But the winds were far too dangerous and the bridge was closed for the day. The sharp, icy winds would have swept you right off the bridge, so no good, we weren’t getting across. It was annoying, but being that close to the cliff, I felt pretty scared anyway. I kept saying I would have done it anyway, and I would have, but it looked really scary.

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Uh-oh… the long way down! Eek
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Be brave Latimer… you will return to cross one day!!

There were steel steps leading downward to the bridge itself at a very steep angle. If I have a fear of something, it is the sea. I really don’t like it. But heights aren’t great either, and it was high up over the waves crashing violently against the cliffs, so… I’ll put it back on the list for a later date!

We saw a lot of stunning views of the rugged coastline and also stopped by a small ‘village’ (I’m not sure it was a village exactly, maybe a small collection of private houses right on the coast more like?).

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(I notice these pictures look like the place was warm… hmm, it was freezing and the wind would cut right through you!)

This was home to what is called (apparently) the smallest church in the world! It was basically in someone’s garden.

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Smallest church in the world

They had a gorgeous view of the sea and the loveliest little place to sit and watch the wave’s crash along the pebble-dash shore. It was very beautiful.

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This was a great trip – the causeway, the bridge and the Antrim coast should definitely be on the list of places you have to visit if you ever come to Ireland 🙂

The trip really made me think of all the old stories I learned in the past and I had this nice re-connect with my Irish-ness – all in perfect time for Lá Fhéile Pádraig (Paddy’s Day) this week 🙂

(also if you are interested in winning that kindle fire – the competition is still going on!)