Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hawaiian Eyes: Magnum Meets the New Mutants!

Picture, if you will, America in the early 1980’s. Ronald Reagan is in the White House after defeating former president Jimmy Carter in a vicious knife fight, Michael Jackson is in his early twenties and yet to enter puberty, Steven Spielberg is about to unleash his most adorable creation since Bruce the Shark, a wrinkled creature from another world soon known far and wide as Dr. Ruth Westheimer. And in Hawaii, a lanky, dimpled, mustachioed hunk of a man by the name of Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV fights crime while wearing a Detroit Tigers baseball cap, a colorful Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts.

Even without shoes, Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV cut a dashing figure in the early 1980s.

Across the United States, billions of TV viewers have fallen in love with Tom Selleck’s affable gumshoe character, and the students at Professor Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters are no exception. Boys and girls alike nurse crushes on handsome star of Magnum, P.I., pop corn and gather ‘round the school’s lone television set on Thursdays at 8PM for their weekly ritual of ogling prime beefcake and his adventures in a tropical paradise.

Stop comforting each other! It's TV time! A typical Thursday night at the X-Mansion.

"Hey, you guys, Magnum's on. You watching it with us or not?" Because we wouldn't want you interacting socially or bonding emotionally. Not while Magnum, Rick and T.C. have a case to solve! Notice how Sam also changed from a plain white tee to his scarlet "Magnum-watchin' shirt." This was as close as the impoverished boy from the hardscrabble coal-mining regions of Kentucky could come to a Hawaiian shirt of his own:

Xi'an is faking interest in the show. A Vietnamese national unfamiliar at the time
with American pop culture,she would not become a fan of a TV program until the
2004 debut of The L Word on Showtime.

I’m not sure what Sam Guthrie means here by exhorting the others to “look at that man move.” Move? It’s not as if Magnum were the second coming of Bruce Lee. Mostly, Magnum walked around annoying Higgins and his two evil-faced Doberman pinschers (Zeus and Apollo), or drove Robin Master’s Ferrari 308 GTS. Sometimes, during his Vietnam flashbacks, he wore face paint and tiger-stripe camo fatigues while creeping though the jungle, but Sam must be the only viewer to define any of these activities as “moves,” watchable or otherwise.

While Selleck was athletic enough in real life to eventually portray a convincing big league first baseman in the mildly amusing fish-out-of-water comedy Mr. Baseball, his fighting style as Magnum consisted mostly of punching people. Or shooting them. These also aren't really the stuff of “moves.” Perhaps Guthrie is referring to one of the many scenes where Magnum seduced a female guest star by offering her one of his patented “swimming lessons,” or jogged shirtlessly on the beach, or emerged dripping wet from a swimming pool to shake a spray of diamond-like droplets from his tousled mane and mustache, then toweled off his broad shoulders and hair-covered chest.

Sam’s frequent fan letters to Selleck garnered him-- in those more innocent times-- an invite to the TV show’s Hawaiian set, but Professor Xavier forbade him to go due to a conflict with the school’s SAT preparatory course schedule. A heartbroken Sam received something of a consolation prize a few years later when he worked as a production assistant on Three Men and a Little Lady, but by then the bloom was off the hibiscus, so to speak.

Even Illyana Rasputin proved susceptible to Magnum’s virile charms. No sooner had she emerged from her interdimensional magical limbo than she began plastering her room with Selleck posters:

This is a panel from the cult online comic "New Mutants Plus Garfield," in which, in a whimsical act of post-modern deconstruction, some brilliant person has painstakingly added lasagna-loving feline Garfield to every single panel of a New Mutants issue.

“Sam gave it to me,” Illyana told her instantaneous best friend Danielle Moonstar when asked where the poster came from. It’s heartening when a girl born on a collective farm in the Soviet Union-- who’s spent her pubertal years hanging out with a maniacal demon and a giant beast ripped off from a Dave Sim comic in an unearthly realm existing in a timeless void somewhere beyond reality-- can so quickly assimilate the media fancies of suburban America, almost as if her netherworld prison featured cable TV jacked right into the CBS network.

For a time it seemed as if everyone in the Marvel universe was somehow caught up in what editor-in-chief Jim Shooter called "Magnum-mania." Several young slumber party guests at the X-mansion summoned forth the Mustachioed One (as Stan Lee dubbed Magnum during this heady era) as part of a quartet of teen-girl sexual fantasy figures:

At one point during Magnum P.I.'s run, the Impossible Man stopped by the X-Mansion to catch an episode with the gang. Unfortunately, their intense worship of all things Magnum caused them to crowd around the TV set so much Impossible Man was unable to see the screen. He was able, however, to get a really great view of Dani's and Sam's asses in tight jeans:

While Warlock's rapt attention demonstrates how Magnum's charms were a universal constant, affecting even techno-organic lifeforms from other worlds, notice how Rahne has lost interest in both Magnum, P.I. and her friend's denim-clad asses. This prefigures her leaving the team for a stints in X-Factor and Excalibur.

Hmm... Magnum-mania seems to be contagious! And the only antidote is... another look at Thomas Magnum in all his masculine glory:

Way t'go, Magnum, indeed!

1 comment:

Pablo said...

I've always hated the slumber party issue from the New Mutants because Chris Claremont had derailed Illyana's character. It's just ridiculous.