When you see an English actor in an American TV show or film, nine times out of ten... Ahem, ten times out of ten, he's the freaking bad guy. Much the same could be said of real life, ain't that right?
Wrong. However, I recently found myself in this rather uncomfortable position after penning an article about the American Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) scene for the "liberal left leaning" New Statesman back home in rinky dink London Town, England. The response was thermonuclear. "Dude, you just shit on American MMA!" Immediately I was slandered, ostracized, excommunicated, the whole kit and caboodle. Sure, there was a little bit of consternation. Friendships are good and bad investments (all too often the latter) but then it struck me, like a bolt of lightning -- fuck being Mr. Nice, Charming and Considerate in the USA, let's be the bad guy for once... The English bad guy in the USA!
This very issue from 1940 was my childhood introduction to The Sub-Mariner.
OK, so who are my fictional role models for being an English baddie in the USA? Well, they needn't be English. Or even human. Take one of my favorite comic book characters, Prince Namor, The Sub-Mariner!
The Sub-Mariner causes mayhem in New York (1940)
The Sub-Mariner, along with the Human Torch and Captain America, is one of Marvel's first super-characters. Note character: he's not really a "super hero." First and foremost, he's Prince Namor, the half human heir to the throne of Atlantis, so that makes him hoity-toity royalty and a complete and utter class conscious snob. That aside, he's very cultured, good looking, right blooming hard and half American (like me). The great thing about the Sub-Mariner is that one minute he's an out-and-out human hating super-villain, the next, an honorable good guy. You see (like me again), Namor's a bit of a temperamental sod and quite a lot of "mere mortals" don't know how to handle this regal ego.
How to work the crowd in the USA
Fishy blue chicks with gills or surface dwellers in bikinis, just like yours truly, the Sub-Mariner has a roving eye for the ladies. His number one crush? Prince Namor has always had a big horn for the Invisible Girl from the Fantastic Four. In fact, when they first met, it was pretty much love at first sight...
Power mad. Intense. And a fast mover with the ladies.
Alas, this love is largely unrequited because the Invisible Girl is happily married to the egg headed figure of Mr. Fantastic -- who can probably stretch his willy up to her eyeballs and pleasure her in all sorts of strange and unimaginable ways.
She likes him!
However, be that as it may, or may not be, marriage to Mr. Fantastic does not stop the Invisible Girl from getting swept off her feet every so often by the charming, debonair and confidant figure of Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner.
The Scarlet Witch is enchanted by the Sub-Mariner
Being an intense, brooding Hamlet of the undersea realm, the Sub-Mariner has lots of female admirers. And rightly so. He's got culture, class, sophistication. There are so many crud adaptations of Marvel super heroes doing the Hollywood rounds at the moment, but I'm glad that the Sub-Mariner has escaped the big screen treatment. He's too ambiguous to be a good guy, too likable to be an outright villain. I rate the Sub-Mariner through and through!
It didn't work out
The Hulk. The Thing. Even Thor the Norse God of Thunder. The Sub-Mariner LOVES to ruck and doesn't mind having right tear ups with much bigger and scarier opponents. The posh boy Prince of Atlantis is a LOT tougher than he looks and always has some sneaky trick to deploy in combat to turn things round to his advantage or make a point (ahem, just-like-me).
I am going to talk to Americans like this from now on.
A bit of a bad boy, Prince Namor is forever making short-lived, half-baked deals with inferior super-villains for world domination. These never work out because the likes of Magneto and Doctor Doom (and all of those other kooks) have got their own agenda and the Sub-Mariner's wild regal posturings, and romantic ego, often get in the way of the big plan.
He's a sucker for the Invisible Girl.
And he's a bit of a soppy idiot, too. Super-villains are always able to manipulate the emotions of the hot-tempered Prince of Atlantis for their own personal gain. Namor's not too fazed by any of this. After all, he is a Prince of the Realm, and the plebs who try and pull fast ones will always be plebs.
Shooting the shit with Dr. Doom in his groovy undersea pad.
My favorite detail about the blue-blooded Sub-Mariner is his ability to lie low and do his own thing, but, when he comes out of the water, boy, does he cause trouble for the "surface dwellers" and mean it. Neither villain nor hero, he is one of the most complex and intriguing characters in the Marvel universe and probably the biggest influence for my new role as an English bad guy in the USA. Mere mortals beware!
I wanna be the Mr. Han of American MMA
Who else to fuel and stock the villainous super ego of the born again bad ass? After living in South East Asia for nine years, the place rubbed off in more ways than I had ever anticipated. Now I'm back in the West and no longer a spring chicken of 33. Yeah, I'm 46.11 and getting on a bit these days.... Who is to be my role model for these advancing years, perhaps Edward Woodward from The Equalizer?
I need a hall of mirrors asap
No chance. That's way too frigging obvious, old sport. However, it must be said, Edward Woodward was a proper class act talking down to those vulgar Yanks on that TV show every Thursday night in the late 1980s, but he is way too much of a goodie two shoes. I need to be mad, bad and dangerous to know... Like Mr. Han from the old Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon.
Shaolin Monk. Drug Dealer. Pimp. Mr. Han is quite a guy.
A fiendish Oriental stereotype of Hollywood vintage, Mr. Han runs an international martial arts tournament on his island that acts as a recruiting ground for talent to his vast criminal empire. Like me, Mr. Han is a chap with an exotic past. Before he broke bad and reinvented himself as an international heroin dealer and pimp (as you do), Mr. Han was a high-ranking Shaolin Monk who lost his left hand in a mysterious accident with firearms.
One sneaky Chinese motherfucker
He probably went into crime to pay the hospital bills. Armed with his steel, sucker punching, selection of bespoke gauntlets, and warm, inscrutable smile, Mr. Han is one sneaky Chinese motherfucker. Over the decades, I have gleaned much of the man from repeated viewings of Enter The Dragon. Simply put, should any of you "mere mortal" American MMA punks want to come and try it on, you will soon be lured into a hall of mirrors and cowardly attacked at random by my claw handed figure. Of course, in the film, Mr. Han the bad monk got taken out by Bruce Lee the good monk... but, in real life, you ain't Bruce Lee, and you will get taken out by me, the bad monk (but only if I choose to be Mr. Han on that particular day).
Ian McShane in Magnum.
Yadda, yadda, yadda, what about some good old fashioned English bad guys for the real life English bad guy living in the USA? I remember watching an old episode of Magnum as a kid on ITV. When Ian McShane turned up, I immediately knew that he was going to be the loopy, sick, twisted, luvvy doing anything to pay the mortgage on his over sized pile in the Hollywood hills. Sure enough, McShane lures Magnum to some secluded spot and hunts him down with a high-powered rifle, wisecracking as he does so (until taken out by Magnum, the good guy American).
Hemmings of Libya
But I am not going to be Ian McShane in the USA. Fuck Lovejoy and his antique mullet: I'm going be the biggest and sickest bad ass Brit to ever grace the small screen... I'm going to be David Hemmings' psycho scientist from Airwolf.
Some film history is needed here. Back in the day (1966), Hemmings was in a provocative and ground breaking film called Blow Up, where he played a pot-smoking fashion photographer who inadvertently photographs a murder in a London park (or did he?)
Pottery Lane and Walmer Road: Hemmings' character in Blow Up lives just down the road from me in Notting Hill.
I love Blow Up. The film is 50 years old this year and even though critics now dismiss it as dated, or downright silly, there is so much that is said about London, and the vacuous folk who live there, that still stands up today. Hemmings never really repeated the iconic success of that role in his subsequent career and decamped to Hollywood in the late 1970s to direct and do small parts in films and TV shows.
Amazing Fat Bastard: David Hemmings as a loco Brit villain in Airwolf.
It's incredible how much David Hemmings lost his looks (a common problem with Brit pretty boy actors from the 1960s). When we moved to the USA four years ago, I discovered Airwolf on our Netflix package. I hadn't seen the show, about a super duper helicopter, since the early 1980s. Surprise surprise, David Hemmings crops up in Episode 1 and 2 as the super treacherous, sick-as-fuck, amazing fat bastard inventor of the helicopter.
He reminds me of me in Bangkok...
In the plot of this ludicrous piece of Eighties tosh, Hemmings' character defects to Libya with the super chopper to act as muscle for hire for the mad dog, tinpot regime of the late Colonel Gaddafi.
"My dear, you look positively enchanting!"
Hemmings of Libya is a glorious sight on the small screen. He swans around in the robes of a sheikh playing Russian roulette in the daytime, at night, he goes out on the town with his Libyan liaison officer to pick up American female spies/exotic dancers -- whom he takes to the desert and sadistically tortures to death...
I can think of quite a few ex girlfriends whom I would like to do this to (that's enough!)
High maintenance or what? Not even I'm that bad. But, like the recent election of Donald Trump, why the fuck am I laughing my head off? Good question. Food for thought.
My knee elbow KO combo (note the cast on left foot)