Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett recalls the glories of an age when astronauts were heroes, and Mattel's Major Matt Mason walked the moon.The New York Times about a raid triggered by two men kissing in a comic book. Last Thursday, the Mayor of Rio De Janeiro Marcelo Crivella sent law enforcement agents to Bienal do Livro, the city's International Book Fair, to seize copies of Vingadores: A Cruzada Das Crianças or Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, because it featured the characters Hulkling and Wiccan kissing. In a video posted on Twitter, Crivella said books like this needed to be "packaged in black plastic and sealed" because it contained “sexual content for minors." However, after searching for two hours the agents discovered the book had already sold out!
Jim Cheung reacted on Instagram with “I don’t know what prompted the mayor to seek out a work that is almost a decade old, and that had already been on sale for many years.” I don’t know why Crivella targeted a book from 2010 either, but if I had to hazard to guess, I’d say it probably had something to do with the fact it had Avengers, the name of Marvel’s biggest franchise, in its title. This helped generate attention-grabbing international headlines like ‘Avengers’ Comic Featuring Gay Kiss Banned by Rio de Janeiro Authorities, Brazilian mayor orders Avengers comic removed from book festival over gay kiss, and Brazilian mayor tries to ban Avengers comic over gay kiss - but copies sell out.
Then, there was the story that Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky publicly called adult comic book readers “morons” at the 32nd Moscow International Book Fair, echoing comments made by Bill Maher earlier this year (see “Confessions of a Comic Book Guy -- What’s Your Excuse?”). Medinsky is quoted as saying that “comics are for those who can read poorly” and “should be for a child who is only learning to read, up to seven or eight years old." There’s nothing really newsworthy here, but at least now we can legitimately say anyone saying anything similar is echoing propaganda straight out of Moscow.
But what I really wanted to write about this week was in a Variety article about how Tom Hanks and Akiva Goldman were set to do a live action adaptation of Major Matt Mason for Paramount. I’ve recently, and repeatedly, written about He-Man, and while I’ve honestly attempted to treat both the franchise and its fans seriously, I have to confess, it hasn’t always been easy (see “Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--Non-Toxic”). When the first episode premiered in 1983 I was way too old to see it as anything other than goofy. Well, now He-Man fans can have the last laugh on me because my He-Man was Major Matt Mason, Mattel’s "Man In Space."
For the toy collectors out there, Mattel’s Major Matt Mason line, consisting of Mason, Sgt. Storm, Doug Davis, and African-American Lt. Jeff Long, weren’t action figures as we now know them. Rather they were “bendies,” 6-inch figures made from a rubbery material molded over a wireframe that tended to break pretty quickly. Initially, the designs were "based directly on concepts promoted and demonstrated by NASA and the various contractors” involved in America’s space program. For kids like me who religiously read everything they could about the Apollo missions, this was a definite plus. Later aliens like Callisto, Scorpio, and the 12-inch tall Captain Lazer, “the giant with superhuman lazer powers,” were added, and they were plenty cool too.
And naturally, there’s a comic book connection. In the 60s, DC licensed comics based on Captain Action and Hot Wheels, but there was almost a Major Matt Mason comic book as well. It has never been officially established why it never came out, but at least two issues of it were completed featuring art by Murphy Anderson. Because the stories eventually appeared in DC’s science fiction anthology series From Beyond The Unknown #7-8 with some of the names changed; Mason became Merritt and Captain Lazer was now Captain Quasar. And of course, there were the comic book ads for the toys which men of a certain age will remember vividly.
Now ordinarily, I’m as adamantly opposed to toys and games being turned into movies as anyone else, but in this case, I will allow it even though even I, as a big fan, have absolutely no idea what a Major Matt Mason movie would be about other than astronauts on the moon. Unlike Masters of the Universe, the property didn’t come with an intricate backstory. There was just the Major and his friends, performing missions alongside their alien counterparts. Scorpio was supposedly intended to be the villain, but he was released late, and instead of weapons, he was armed with a “vest protector” which launched “search globes” for “exploration.”
This is partially out of pure unmitigated nostalgia, sure, but also because the people involved with this project seem to really, really want to make a Major Matt Mason movie. Along with having a script by Akiva Goldsman (who worked with Hanks on both The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons), it will be based on a short story by Michael Chabon, author of The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Presumably, that's a short story about the character; if this has previously been published, I haven’t been able to find anything online.read that Tom Hanks will play Major Matt Mason in this live action movie. In it, I learned that in 2009 Hanks co-wrote with Graham Yost a script for a 3D animated Major Matt Mason movie with the intention of voicing the main character. Clearly, Hanks wants this movie made.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.