Thursday, May 19, 2011

Snake Eyes vs Margo Lane

I recently re-watched the classic Twilight Zone episode "The Invaders," written by the great Richard Matheson. You probably know the one. Agnes Moorehead (who had been the original Margo Lane in the radio series The Shadow a couple of decades earlier) is an old woman in an isolated farmhouse that's invaded by tiny space men.

It's a truly great story. There's no dialogue until the end (where it helps set up the twist ending), Moorehead's silent performance is wonderful--she almost palpably exudes terror as she fights off a home invasion she can't possibly understand. Grunts of fear and cries of pain are all we hear from her as she builds up complete empathy for her character.

The lighting (simulating a rundown building lit only by candles and a fireplace) is handled beautifully and looks outstanding in black-and-white. I even like the little puppets used for the tiny invaders. They may not measure up to modern CGI images in some ways, but I think their unreality actually adds to their creepiness.

But how, you ask, does this involve Snake Eyes, the popular ninja-like member of the G.I. Joe team?

Well, I'm glad you asked. "The Invaders" was told almost entirely without dialogue. The Marvel comic G.I. Joe #21 (March 1984) told a story done entirely without dialogue.

I really enjoyed the work writer Larry Hama did on G.I. Joe during the 1980s. He took characters created for a toy line, gave them individual personalities and dropped them into stories with strong story arcs and great action sequences.

This particular issue involves Snake Eyes, probably the most popular character from the book--a highly trained soldier who combines ninja skills with modern weapon skills to take out lots and lots of bad guys.

Snake Eyes is mute and always wears a mask because he was hideously scarred (in a helicopter crash, I think). But that doesn't slow him down, especially when he has to sneak into a stronghold controlled by the terrorist organization Cobra to rescue the girl he loves.

The action is so well-presented that we need no captions or dialogue to follow along. It's a remarkable piece of comic art.

Snake Eyes takes out some Cobra soldiers and a couple of ninjas while also having his first encounter with Stormshadow, a bad guy ninja whose convoluted back-story will soon intertwine with Snake Eyes.

One of the things I love about Snake Eyes is the fact that he's definitely a soldier who is out to win his fights. If he's confronted with a ninja, he could almost certainly take the guy in a sword fight or martial arts fight. But if it's easiest to just lob a hand grenade at his opponent, then by golly he'll do that.

Anyway, I really have no good reason for linking these two completely different tales other than the fact that both use imagery exclusively (or almost exclusively---"The Invaders" uses sound effects and Moorehead's animal-like grunts to carry things along) to tell potent and energetic stories. This is enough to bring them together in my mind.

And to make me wonder who would win a fight between Margo Lane and Snake Eyes. Well, actually, that'd be Snake Eyes, wouldn't it?

But Snake Eyes vs. Endora from Bewitched? (also played by Moorehead) That'd be a different story.

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