Tag Archives: Essential Marvel

Send a Bracer Down the Plank: An Adventure with The Canadian X-Man

Growing up, the Marvel vs. DC debate seemed as basic as choosing between Coke and Pepsi. Today, most of my favorite comics are DC owned titles, but my first collection was hand-me-downs from an uncle, and most of those were Marvel. I loved those comics into fingerprinted, dog-eared pieces, and what remains of them live in a Comics Defense cardboard box at my parents’. Someday I’ll retrieve it. Either way, that earliest collection left me with a permanent soft-spot for Spider-Man and the X-Men. Wolverine, in particular, held on as a favorite character long after I defected to Batman, Detective Comics, and Nightwing.

I recently acquired a small collection of Marvel Essential trade paperbacks from an old friend: Doctor Strange vol. 2, Marvel Team-Up, Human Torch vol. 1, and Wolverine volumes 2 and 3. Between that and the movie release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, it seemed like a good time to dig up some nostalgia and reacquaint myself with the Marvel Multiverse, starting with my old favorite. I realize now Wolverine comics have a campy charm all their own. Larry Hama’s colorful dialogue brings ridiculous characters to life in a fun and believable way. The action sequences are over the top, and Logan’s tough-guy with a heart-of-gold persona is always good for a chuckle. Something the bluntness and colorful idioms feel like home.

It would be easy to dismiss the comics collected in Essential Wolverine 2 & 3 as juvenile and overly macho. They are over-the-top campy, often convoluted, and frighteningly full of Women in Refrigerators and problematic cultural stereotypes. They’re also witty, humorous, and heartbreaking. Despite the problems, many issues and story-arcs shine through. Great writers like Larry Hama and D.G. Chichester are able to bring Wolverine alive in ways that highlight his struggle as a survivor and his self-destructive commitment to justice. During Chichester’s three issue arc “Wonkeywrenching”, Logan rescues the daughter of a wealthy logging company owner from militant environmental justice terrorists. I was pleasantly surprised by an ending in which Logan refused to let the logging baron off-the-hook for deforestation profiteering.

So what did I get out of Wolverine? I’m really not sure, just like I’m not sure what I can get out of the Canadian Club whiskey I bought to go with him. There’s not much use to cocktails when you have a mutant healing factor: Logan’s body processes alcohol almost as fast as he can drink it. In Wolverine #31 he downs single-malt scotch. In #65, he pounds a boilermaker and chases it with a fistfight he wins by snapping his jaw and eyeball back in place after giving his opponent a free punch. Canadian Club doesn’t hold-up in cocktails—its bland flavor can’t standup to a quality bourbon or rye. But sometimes when I want to forget work with a stiff drink and a thrilling story, beer is really what I crave. Cocktails are novel, exciting, and challenging, but sometimes a shot and a beer is still the perfect drink. These classic Wolverine comics feel the same way: a tried and true way to escape. Seeing Wolverine tear through horde after horde of ninjas/military grunts/dumb thugs is supremely satisfying, especially given his tortured history. Wolverine is fun because he gets to unleash all of his character’s worst qualities in the fight to reclaim the bits of humanity that have been stolen from him. Sometimes, we all need to stop being so (self)conscious and live in the moment. Some of the best moments in my life have been savored with the strategic help of a shot and a beer, just like some of my fondest childhood comic memories come from poring over Wolverine’s outrageous and hyper-macho pages. For the first time in decades, I’m finding myself wondering what kind of adventures Wolverine is currently embroiled in. Today was my one day off before I get back to the hourly grind, and I still have Canadian whiskey to finish in honor of my old pal Logan. I’m going to down a boilermaker and find out what other joys I can dig up from panel-to-panel.

Research tells me that Wolverine’s very first solo adventure was a four-part run written by Chris Claremont and pencilled by Frank Miller in 1982. I dunno about you, but I think I have the newest addition to my “Must Read Comix” list.

I enjoyed my boilermaker(s) for this re-introduction to Wolverine with ShinerPremium and Canadian Club Whiskey. I suppose if you’re really crazy about the Ol’ Canuckle Head you might want a cheap Canadian brew like LaBatt Blue.



Perfectly Strange: Mixology History & Variation

It’s been far too long, dear readers.  Working at history museums during the spring field trip season sapped my desire to write over the past few weeks.  Fortunately, it’s also helped me realize I love studying history, be it academically, occupationally, or in this case, alcoholically.  Since joining this adventure I’ve researched, mixed, and sipped five types of drinks: the Manhattan, Old-Fashioned, gin & tonic, gin martini, and Sazerac.  All five drinks have competing origin stories stretching back to the 19th century, and all have the numerous variations you’d expect from recipes with a century-plus of history.  Reading these origins and spin-offs online has been almost as much fun as enjoying the drinks.  Almost.

In the comic book department, I’ve been slowly progressing through Marvel’s Essential Doctor Strange, Vol. 2.  The more I read, the more I knew Dr. Strange needed a cocktail to go with him: something intriguing, exotic, and full of history and lore.  That drink hit me taking in the menu during happy hour at The Sample Room a few days back: the Sazerac.  Rye whiskey (or if you want the chronological progenitor, cognac) sugar, Peychaud Bitters, and a lemon twist (squeezed into the glass then discarded, according to purists) strained into a chilled glass washed with absinthe and ice.

Problem is, Peychaud Bitters are hard to find.  They’re definitely not stocked at my three main liquor stores.  Neither is absinthe.  I finally found the closest thing on my 3rd try: Absente Absinthe Refined.  Made with real Artemisia Absinthium Wormwood, Absente is the right proof (over 90) for real absinthe, but boasts additional sugar and coloring, presumably in lieu of more complex traditional distillation methods.  Besides that, I’m not sure the Sazerac is the right drink to capture/pair with Doctor Strange.  While absinthe has the legendary history you’d expect from a figure like Strange, I’m not sure he’d be a big absinthe drinker.  He’s a modern American doctor, not some 19th century bohemian artist.  What’s more, he’s a New Yorker: Manhattan has been his home both before and after becoming Master of Mystic Arts.  But that’s too simple for an illustrious Master of Black Magic.  Surely Stephen Strange’s tastes must be more refined, more exotic, than the basic Manhattan.

Enter David Wondrich, cocktail historian and author of Esquire Magazine’s the Wondrich Take.  Classic cocktails, much like comics, have long histories complete with reboots and spin-offs.  And according to Wondrich, the Manhattan has plenty of spin-offs, including the Sherman.  The Sherman is a Manhattan, much like Dr. Strange, but modified with only one dash of Angostura bitters, a dash of Orange bitters, and three dashes of absinthe.  Just enough of the mystical powers of the over-proof green fairy to unlock its flavors. The Sherman feels right with Dr. Strange, but it’s still a Sherman.  Lucky for us, we haven’t varied from the traditional Manhattan vermouth formula.  To turn our Sherman into a Dr. Strange, cut your amount of sweet Vermouth in half and replace the other half with Dry Vermouth.  Now you have a Perfect Sherman, or better yet a Perfect Strange.  Garnish with a lemon twist if you can, but if you love Maraschino cherries knock yourself out.  Half of the fun of comics are the twists, and cocktails were made for improvising.  And yes, this drink does use every bottle currently in my cabinet.  So what?  What makes Dr. Strange Vol. 2 so interesting is its combination of superhero comic cliché, surreal art, and florid cosmic horror prose.  It’s the perfect amount of Strange: both the comic and cocktail are mutations on familiar traditions.  Enjoy responsibly, for as Lovecraft (Or perhaps Roy Thomas? Stan Lee?) warns on the opening page of Dr. Strange #183, “We live on a placid island of ignorance, in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far…”

Why yes, that is a lime you see garnishing this Perfect Strange. I used all my lemons in prototypes of this drink before I got to taking a photo. I was getting Strange and improvising, so sue me.