Science and History. Most of the topics are pretty mainstream, but a few are distinctly Fortean. Earlier this year, for example, I did an article for Synonym Classroom entitled “What Are the Flaws in the Ancient Astronaut Theory?” (As I said, the titles are supplied by the website – I wouldn’t have worded it so negatively).
More recently, a number of assignments have come in from eHow, rewriting articles which have been on that site for some time but need to be brought up to date. There’s a lot of competition for this sort of thing, resulting in a feeding frenzy every time a new batch of titles appears. Among the half-dozen I’ve managed to grab so far were three I was particularly pleased with – on Iron Man, the Illuminati and the Holy Grail (you see – it wasn’t just a contrived headline to grab your attention!).
I did What Is the Holy Grail? in July, and The History of the Illuminati in August. They’re both archetypally Fortean subjects, although the writing guidelines for eHow are pretty strict so I had to stick to facts rather than speculation in both articles.
Perhaps the most surprising title of all was one I did last week: How to Make Energy Like Iron Man. This was listed in the Science category, not Entertainment, and I’ve always wanted to have a go at one of these “science behind science fiction” articles. To make things even more interesting, the science in this case is Cold Fusion – a Fortean topic in its own right, since it’s a classic example of “damned science”. Nevertheless, all the evidence (from the movies, at any rate) suggests that the Arc Reactor in Tony Stark’s chest plate is some kind of Cold Fusion generator.
I really enjoyed researching the article, but there was one thing I kept coming across that drives me mad. That’s the widespread belief that the character of Iron Man, and/or Tony Stark, was created for the 2008 movie starring Robert Downey, Jr. As I pointed out in The Marvel Age of Comics last year, that’s simply not true. While RDJ’s interpretation of Tony Stark is definitely appealing, it’s nonsense to say things like “he created the role and no-one else could possibly play it” when the character has been around since 1963.
But perhaps I shouldn’t press the point so hard. I recently dug out the T-shirt pictured below, which used to fit me perfectly when it was new (the larger one fits me now). OK, then – if the character of Iron Man was created in 2008, this T-shirt must be newer than that, right? I reckon that makes me about 16 years old (which, by coincidence, is a pretty accurate estimate of my mental age).
Actually the T-shirt dates from 1968 (the iron-on transfer was a free gift in Terrific #1, dated 15 April 1967, but I bought it as a back issue the following year). In those days, of course, no-one had heard of Cold Fusion. The highest level of technology mentioned in the early Iron Man stories was “transistors”. I wrote an article on that subject earlier this year, too: What Is a Transistor and What Effect Did Its Invention Have on Computers?