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Archive for August, 2012

Jack Kirby is well known to comic book fans as the co-creator of Thor and X-men as well as the man who wrote and drew the Fourth World series for DC Comics. What you may not know is that he also designed costumes for a production of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar put on by University of California at Santa Cruz in 1960s.

Poster, Julius Caesar, 1969  designed by Jack Kirby

This awesome team up came about when the play’s director Sheldon Feldner wrote to Marvel Comics and asked if  one of their artists would want to design costumes for their college’s  play. He was answered by Stan Lee himself, who pointed Feldner in the direction of Kirby, and thus the great project began.

Julius Caesar: Military Dress

Octavius Caesar

Marcus Antonius

Julius Caesar: Civilian Dress

Flavius of Marullus, Tribune of People

I’m not sure why, but Flavius makes me think of Captain America. Maybe it’s because the colors are similar and he has the eagle on his chest.

Roman Garrison Soldier

Roman Field Soldier

Portia, Wife of Brutus

I love Portia’s costume. It reminds me of Aubrey Beardsley‘s work.

Poet

Calpurnia, wife of Caesar

This is another one of my favorites. Calpurnia looks a lot like another one of Kirby’s creations – Big Barda.

Sophist

I really love this one. Artemidorus the Sophist of Cnidos looks like he could be a C-grade superhero from some obscure 70s team up. The Green Question or Sir McMystery.

Roman citizens

If you think that these costumes look familiar, you are not wrong. Kirby used a very similar aethetic and style when he designed his New Gods for DC Comics in 1971.

Calpurnia and maid

Artemidorus – A Sophist

As these color photographs can testify, the costumes turned out amazing.  Made out of military surplus, plastic and vinyl, they give a hint of roman regalia, but also create a sense of a half-mythical, half-alien world. It’s an interesting choice for Julius Caesar, since the play has a very definite historical setting. The costumes do distance the play from its historical origins and give it a contemporary pop and comic book twist, which was probably more appealing to both the young actors and their young audience.

For more great art, check out Jack Kirby Museum.

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I finally managed to watch Henry IV, part I. And I have mixed feelings about the second installment of the BBC series The Hollow Crown. Maybe because Henry IV did not have the same visual poetry as Richard II or because the protagonist was not as appealing.

Tom Hiddleson as the charming prince Hal

Don’t get me wrong, I love Tom Hiddleson as much as the next Tumblr obsessed girl, but his Hal was too easy to like. Everything from his cute boyish smile to his leather jerkin clad body to his effortless charm just swept you away. He was just too likable to be a compelling character.  The morally ambigious Richard was more interesting to watch. Though it did feel that up until Hal got to the battlefield, he was not really enjoying himself. Whenever I saw him in the dingy little tavern or playing pranks on his bawdy friends, it all seemed rather forced. At times he almost looked bored. But the man on the battlefield was very different from the slightly detached young man in the taverns. This was a stern, brave Hal, ready to lead and command. There was also a shadow of sadness in him.  His victory over Hotspur was not all glory; we see Hal realize that war is an ugly, painful and bloody business.

Jeremy Irons is great as the perpetually disappointed King Henry IV

Jeremy Irons was, well, Jeremy Irons. Superb as usual. Though I found it difficult to believe that Rory Kinnear’s  Henry Bolingbroke grew up to be Jeremy Irons’ Henry IV, he gave a great performance of an aging king weighed down by his office and the knowledge of how he came to be there. This was a king whose body was giving out, but whose spirit was still strong.

They don’t call him ‘Hotspur’ for nothing

Henry Percy aka Hotspur, played by Joe Armstrong, I absolutely loved. He was great fun with his impetuous hotheaded speeches. I relished every scene he was in, especially those with Michelle Dockery as Kate, Lady Percy. The couple was constantly bickering and making out. Hotspur was flinging insults and Lady Percy was rolling her eyes (Ah, Michelle, no one rolls their eyes quite like you. And you have Downton Abbey to prove it). Fun fact: Hotspur’s father, Earl of Northumberland, is played by Armstrong’s real-life father, Alun Armstrong.

Falstaff (Simon Russell Beale) is a mix of hilarious, repulsive  and touching  

And finally, we get to Falstaff played by Simon Russell Beale. This particular character seems to be pretty polarizing. I saw a lot of comments that could be summed up as “Agh, he was horrible. That’s not how I imagine Falstaff.” Which is fair enough, but, never seeing this play before, I thought this was an interesting interpretation of the character. He was rowdy and uncouth and full of humor, but he was also tragic and pathetic. He clung to Hal with so much desperation that we could see how much he wanted his love. Beale’s Falstaff was dirty and unpleasant. He was not the merry mentor to an adolescent boy that looks up to him. It seems that what drew Hal to Falstaff was the opportunity to have a few laughs at his expense, but also Falstaff’s honest roguery. As King, Hal would have to deal with falsehood and deception all the time, and Falstaff’s lies are so over the top and transparent that for the future king they may seem cathartic.

Hal and Flastaff both foresee that their friendship and love will not last

Towards the middle of the film, Falstaff and Hal put on a mock play where Falstaff plays Hal and Hal plays his father. The scene goes from pageantry to raw emotion when the poor old man begs Hal, still in the role of Henry IV, not  to banish Falstaff. It is such an ardent plea for Hal’s love that you begin to understand why Hal keeps this company. It is very doubtful that he could ever find anyone so thoroughly and honestly attached to him. And he looks at Falstaff with mingled love and sadness, because he knows that this pure love could never last. One is a king and the other is a rogue. They have no future together.  Maybe in Falstaff’s pure love Hal finds that emotion that he could never get from his father.

Parent- child relationships is never been easy. Not even in medieval England

I did like how this installment played up the personal relationships rather than any metaphysical musings on the nature of kingship. It was very much a coming-of-age story that focused on a father and a son told in the bleak, medieval surroundings with blood, gore and dirt in abundance.  While I found Hal’s tavern life unconvincing, his relationship with his father, his desire to prove himself, his anger at his enemy and his pain at seeing his enemy vanquished, showed me a compelling Hal. A Hal I look forward to seeing in the next two episodes of the series. Can’t wait for Henry IV, Part II.

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