One element that has so far been missing from every major film derived from a comic book is the sense that the titular hero shares his world with a whole bunch of other superheroes. For example, Spider-Man-the-film gave no hint that Spider-Man-the-character was only one of a vast pantheon of characters who all live in the same world. Superhero movies to date have all been entirely self-contained and, so far as the novice viewer can tell, each tells of the only super-powered person on the planet.
That’s not how it is in the comics medium, where the world is lousy with super-powered people and creatures, and any character who is owned by a particular publisher is likely to show up in any other character’s book at some point. This is especially true in the case of the so-called Marvel Universe, the shared setting of all the titles published by Marvel Comics, so it is somewhat surprising that all the films based on Marvel titles — and that would be most of the superhero flicks of the last ten years or so, including X-Men, Daredevil, The Hulk, Ghost Rider, and The Fantastic Four — have not so far included any crossovers between them. (Actually, I guess it’s not that surprising, since crossovers would be meaningless — if not actually confusing — for the average viewer who sees only one of these films a year and doesn’t know anything about comics.)
But now, in a summer that’s going to see two major movie releases based on Marvel titles, it looks like the powers that be are going to throw in the sort of thing that comics fans have enjoyed for years: according to this blog, Robert Downey, Jr., who is playing the title role in the much-anticipated Iron Man, will have a cameo appearance in The Incredible Hulk. There is also some rumbling that another big name who is supposed to star in another upcoming Marvel-licensed flick — the rumor mill says that it will be Samuel L. Jackson playing the character Nick Fury — will appear briefly in Iron Man.
I think this brilliant, a nice gesture to comics fans and a good marketing ploy to promote the other movies based on the same universe that will be released around the same time. Now, if they could just somehow get all the movies to meet the same standard of quality…
I have a real affection for unsolved mysteries, the kinds of stories that forever fascinate people so long as we never definitively learn what actually happened. Did Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan run out of fuel, crash in open water, and drown, or did they manage to set down on some uncharted rock somewhere and live as castaways, at least for a time? Were Butch and Sundance killed in a shootout with government troops in Bolivia or did one or both of them manage to slip away and return to the U.S., where they assumed new identities and lived to be old men? Was Brushy Bill Roberts really Billy the Kid, as he claimed, or was he just crazy? The possibilities are invariably more exciting than mundane (and frequently very grim) fact, which is why I always find myself rejoicing a bit when some new piece of evidence in these cases raises more questions than it solves.
Consider, for example, this story about the discovery of an old parachute in southwestern Washington. In a nutshell, some kids found a ‘chute partly buried in the woods near where the notorious hijacker D.B. Cooper is believed to have jumped from a 727 way back in 1971 with $200,000 in cash, and there’s some speculation that the ‘chute may have been his.
That’s pretty cool on its own, but here’s the interesting thing about today’s news: Some of Cooper’s money was found on a beach near Vancouver in 1980; the official theory has long been that Cooper did not survive his jump and the recovered cash had washed down the Washougal River to arrive on the beach. But if Cooper came down in the area where this parachute has been found, there’s no way that recovered cash could have naturally ended up in the Washougal. In other words, Cooper may have survived his landing and somehow lost some of his dough miles away, or else somebody else found the money and later dropped some of it in the Washougal. Either way, it’s a far more interesting thought than the image of a dead hijacker hanging in a tree somewhere with a broken neck and his ill-gotten booty falling into a river. (For the record, I like to believe that Cooper survived, eluded capture, and lived it up somewhere. I also like to think that Butch Cassidy returned to the States and visited his sister in 1925, just as she claimed. What can I say? I’m a romantic with a thing for lovable rogues.)
The FBI is currently examining the parachute to determine if it’s the right type and age to have been Cooper’s. I hope it is, for the sake of a good story…