Sunday, October 14, 2012

Big Red: The Parallel Lives of Rusty and Hell Boy

The comic book hero doomed to bring about the end of the Earth, Hellboy struggles to remain the hero while desperately trying to be more human.
Though not likely to bring about the apocalypse, Rusty is an amazing dog who is trying to understand his role in the family. New experiences include interacting with cats and walking around the furniture.
I love comic book movies.  I take that back, I love many comic book movies.  Some not so much.  The ones I really enjoy, are those that are about more than super powers set against fabulous computer generated backdrops.  The good ones are those that involve the viewer in the hero's life, that reveal the humanity of person, a look beyond the super power.

A great example of this is Edward Norton's portrayal of Bruce Banner in 2008's The Incredible Hulk. Norton's superb performance moves the green giant past "Hulk smash!!" to the tragedy of Bruce Banner.  As a man struggling to be free of his curse, Norton convincingly highlights Banner as a complex man with a complex past, full of love, hope, and desire.  He's helped out by a passable cast, though Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/Abomination is pretty darn fun.

Probably my most favorite comic book movie, however, is Guillermo Del Toro's 2004 Hellboy. The story of the demon child summoned to earth by Hitler's psychic warfare department is convincingly told, mostly on the backs of superb performances by Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Selma Ward and Rupert Evans.  The demon child is grown to manhood and struggles mightily to be the featured weapon at the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense.  He is empowered with incredible energy and strength, and usually beats the crap out of paranormal bad guys.  He is the biggest, baddest kid on the block.  Yet, and this is what the film does so well, he desperately wants to fit in. He drinks Bud Light, loves junk food, and smokes cigars.  Most of all, he loves pyrokinetic Liz Sherman, and struggles when Liz doesn't freely return his feelings. And perhaps at the heart of it all is his love for his "father," Trevor "Broom" Bruttenfield, who rescues him as a young boy, er demon" during WWII and heads the Bureau.  Hellboy, struggles to be "human," to fit in while doing his job.  And then there is the matter of his red pigment and those, erm, horns.

Though Rusty may not menace the creatures of darkness everywhere, he is having many of the same struggles as Hellboy.  First, he is the biggest, most energetic red dog on the block.  He's about 40 pounds of lean, quivering furball ready to explode at any given moment.
When not using his super powers, Rusty is often quietly looking out the window (watching for evil doers), or napping.  He's a good boy.
 Like Hellboy, he mostly uses his super powers for good, but occasionally has lapses.  Yesterday, he destroyed a feather duster he managed to get hold of.  Poor duster, we hardly knew ye, but it was likely hatching some dastardly plot, like dusting one of Rusty's two crates.  Amos and Lucy are drawn to this energy, because, gosh, who wouldn't be. I know I am.

Like Hellboy, however, Rusty sometimes struggles to fit in.  He too was raised in a home much different than our own.  Well taken care of by two wonderful mommies, Rusty was mostly an outside dog.  Though he had play time with friends, he spent a lot of time in a covered kennel, but he longed secretly for his own family.  Now that he has one, he's basically trying to figure out what to do with them.  Usually he does the right thing.  He loves attention and affection.  He fits in well with the other dogs.  Rusty has almost taken on the role of big brother for Amos, who suddenly seems quite small and young next to him. The two of them guard the house from all bad guys-the UPS and FedEx drivers-as well as those seemingly non-existent.  But those moments when the two of them are together outside playing are instants of sheer magic.  If you've never watched Australian shepherds run, especially two playing together in their great arcs, you've missed out.  It is David Gilmour's solo on "Comfortably Numb" or Vermeer's "Girl With a Pearl Earring." I observed in silent awe.
Amos often plays Agent Myers to Rusty's Hellboy.  He mostly tags along, though he doesn't seem to have Myers' conscience.  My little boy has enjoyed having a big brother. Groomed yesterday, not much for the neckerchief myself.

Lucy is more like Jeff Tambor's disapproving Agent Manning.  Disapproving, but clearly wanting to be in on the action.
 Occasionally, Big Red struggles with his baser instincts.  One night as Lorri was watching television from the couch, she called to him and he leaped across the coffee table, clearing everything in his path.  My favorite moment is when he jumped up into my lap while I was watching the VP debate and began frantically washing my face.  First, I love a great face washing as much as the next guy.  I was rooting for Biden, and loved the smirks, smiles and laughter and was feeling a bit dirty anyway, so I probably needed a good face washing.  That Rusty is no Yorkie or Papillon, and weighs in at a very lean 38 pounds seemed to matter little to him.  Honestly, it didn't matter much to me; I was laughing too hard.

Rusty has added a lot to our family.  There will be peaks and valleys as he tries to figure things out.  He has to learn what it means to be an inside dog.  He has to figure out what it means to live with a 16-year old cat that is grumpy and solitary.  Daphne has already given him a lesson or two and it ain't pretty. This week he'll spend more time alone in crate.  We managed to give him a lot of time at home this week, but our lives will move on. He's added a great deal to our family.  He brings the best out of Amos who seems less reticent, more out of his shell.   We laugh a lot at his antics, but find it endearing he tends to put himself to bed at 9:00.  Only Lucy is non-plussed, but she seems to like Rusty too.

It's daylight now, so it's best to wrap up and try to keep track of my big red friend.  He's trying to keep the block safe for the family.  I'm just his sidekick.

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