Beast Mode Omar reads the caption over the portrait of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) pasted to the electrical box on a street just outside Washington, D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. There are more like it posted throughout Adams Morgan, as well as portraits of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) with a similar message: Beast Mode AOC.
When Donald Fagen and Walter Becker joined to begin new recordings in 1972, they decided to call their band “Steely Dan,” taking the name from a dildo—”Steely Dan III from Yokohama”—that makes a brief appearance in William S. Burroughs’s 1959 novel Naked Lunch.
And from that stray bit of information, one could begin to construct a genealogy, a tree of inspirations and references, that takes us to a very strange place. Start with the fact that English-language rock ‘n’ roll, from the 1960s through the 1980s, remains the best-selling, most-listened-to music in the history of the world. Add the fact that just about every influential rocker has mentioned Burroughs’s books, with half of them trekking across America at one point or another, on pilgrimage to meet the man. And we arrive at the conclusion that William S. Burroughs is the single most influential novelist who ever lived.
David Drake’s books always seem to carry a blurb from the Chicago Sun-Times—a line extracted from an old review that claims Drake has a “prose as cold and hard as the metal alloy of a tank.” He “rivals Crane and Remarque” as a writer of military fiction. And there you have it: The Red Badge of Courage (1895) and All Quiet on the Western Front (1928) are joined by Drake’s tale of intergalactic mercenaries, Hammer’s Slammers (1979).
Now that 21st Century Fox has become the property of Disney, one imagines that the nearly 20-year-old X-Men franchise will be rebooted* and integrated into the stunningly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe at some point in the next few years. It may be worth taking a moment, then, to pay tribute to the series of films that most closely approximated what it’s like to read comic books.