Save the Adventure (7)

By: Joshua Glenn
October 11, 2013

I’ve previously identified the all-for-one, crackerjack, and Argonaut Folly themes in Argonautica-type adventures. In this post, I’ll list a few examples of another (final) Argonautica theme: beautiful losers. By which I mean: adventuring teams composed of (sympathetic, non-evil) outlaws and criminals, rag-tag survivors of a catastrophe, deeply flawed would-be heroes, aging heroes, and so forth.

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Thanks! To the nearly 400 adventure fans who kickstarted the SAVE THE ADVENTURE e-book club.

MORE LIT LISTS FROM THIS AUTHOR: 200 Greatest Adventure Novels of All Time | 100 Best Radium Age Sci-Fi Novels (1904–1933) | 75 Best Golden Age Sci-Fi Novels (1934–1963) | 75 Best New Wave Sci-Fi Novels (1964–1983) | 55 Best Scientific Romances (1864–1903) | Best 19th Century Adventure (1805–1903) | Best Nineteen-Oughts Adventure (1904–13) | Best Nineteen-Teens Adventure (1914–23) | Best Twenties Adventure (1924–33) | Best Thirties Adventure (1934–43) | Best Forties Adventure (1944–53) | Best Fifties Adventure (1954–63) | Best Sixties Adventure (1964–73) | Best Seventies Adventure (1974–83) | 101 Science Fiction Adventures | 70 Crime Adventures | 65 Fantasy Adventures | 61 Espionage Adventures | 40 Atavistic & Historical Adventures | 25 Frontier & Western Adventures | 20 Avenger & Artful Dodger Adventures | 20 Apophenic & Treasure Hunt Adventures | 20 War & Ruritanian Adventures | 18 Picaresque Adventures | 10 Robinsonade & Survival Adventures. ALSO: Best YYA Lit 1963 | Best YYA Lit 1964 | Best YYA Lit 1965 | Best YYA Lit 1966 | Best YYA Lit 1967 | THE OUGHTS (1904–13): 1905 | 1906 | 1907 | 1910 | 1911 | 1912. THE TEENS (1914–23): 1915 | 1916 | 1917 | 1920 | 1921 | 1922. THE TWENTIES (1924–33): 1925 | 1926 | 1927 | 1930 | 1931 | 1932. THE THIRTIES (1934–43): 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1940 | 1941 | 1942. THE FORTIES (1944–53): 1945 | 1946 | 1947 | 1950 | 1951 | 1952. THE FIFTIES (1954–63): 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1960 | 1961 | 1962. THE SIXTIES (1964–73): 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1970 | 1971 | 1972. THE SEVENTIES (1974–83): 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982. | Best Scottish Fabulists | Radium-Age Telepath Lit | Radium Age Superman Lit | Radium Age Robot Lit | Radium Age Apocalypse Lit | Radium Age Eco-Catastrophe Lit | Radium Age Cover Art (1) | SF’s Best Year Ever: 1912 | Cold War “X” Fic | Best YA Sci-Fi | Hooker Lit | No-Fault Eco-Catastrophe Lit | Scrabble Lit |

20 ADVENTURE THEMES AND MEMES: Index to All Adventure Lists | Introduction to Adventure Themes & Memes Series | Index to Entire Series | The Robinsonade (theme: DIY) | The Robinsonade (theme: Un-Alienated Work) | The Robinsonade (theme: Cozy Catastrophe) | The Argonautica (theme: All for One, One for All) | The Argonautica (theme: Crackerjacks) | The Argonautica (theme: Argonaut Folly) | The Argonautica (theme: Beautiful Losers) | The Treasure Hunt | The Frontier Epic | The Picaresque | The Avenger Drama (theme: Secret Identity) | The Avenger Drama (theme: Self-Liberation) | The Avenger Drama (theme: Reluctant Bad-Ass) | The Atavistic Epic | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Artful Dodger) | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Conspiracy Theory) | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Apophenia) | The Survival Epic | The Ruritanian Fantasy | The Escapade

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MEDIEVAL

* The legend of Robin Hood! With Robin Hood, Little John, Friar Tuck, Alan a Dale, and Maid Marian. Also an avenger-type adventure.

NINETEENTH CENTURY

* Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula features (to use terminology from the “Five-Man Band” trope): Jonathan Harker (the leader), Arthur Holmwood (the lancer), Quincey Morris (the big guy), John Seward (the smart guy), Mina Murray (the chick), and Abraham Van Helsing (the mentor).

TEENS (1914–23)

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* Rafael Sabatini’s 1922 adventure novel Captain Blood, in which the unfairly imprisoned Irish physician Dr. Blood escapes with fellow convict-slaves — former shipmaster Jeremy Pitt, one-eyed giant Edward Wolverstone, former gentleman Nathaniel Hagthorpe, former Royal Navy petty officer Nicholas Dyke, former Royal Navy master gunner Ned Ogle — and becomes a successful pirates/buccaneer in the Caribbean. Also an avenger-type adventure. Adapted as the 1935 Errol Flynn movie.

TWENTIES (1924–33)

* Leslie Charteris’s 1927 novel X Esquire (1927) — Charteris’s novels tend to feature a group of colorful adventurers-slash-criminals.

FIFTIES (1954–63)

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* Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 period adventure movie Seven Samurai.

* The Oldest Confession is a 1958 novel, the first of twenty-five by Richard Condon. A museum heist gone wrong. Sardonic inversion, or ironic homage?

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* The Doomsters is a 1958 mystery novel written by Ross Macdonald, the seventh book in the Lew Archer series. It marks the fixing of Lew Archer’s character as a man more interested in understanding the criminal — in this case, doomsters whose lot is fated — than in catching him.

* Not an adventure novel, exactly, but: Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids is a 1958 novel by Japanese author Kenzaburō Ōe (his first). A collection of outcasts — reform school kids, an army deserter, an abandoned girl — are barricaded in a village afflicted by the plague.

* The 1960 western Seven Samurai remake, The Magnificent Seven.

* Victor Canning’s 1960 novel The Burning Eye in which a shipwreck strands a group of seven Europeans on the Somali coast, where they accidentally learn about Sultan Ali Yacquibi’s secret supply of oil. Forced to flee the Sultan are: Wellard, ship’s doctor; a blackguard who achieves the promise of a blind eye for his past misdeeds; a minister whose guilt is appeased by a little girl of mixed blood whom they save; a painter who finds his match in the girl who wants Wellard — but doesn’t get him; and Juliet, whom Wellard wants.

* James and the Giant Peach is a popular children’s novel written in 1961 by Roald Dahl. James and the insects are beautiful losers.

* DC’s Doom Patrol superhero team — who first appeared in My Greatest Adventure (June 1963) — are an argonaut-type crew. Some comics exegetes claim that Marvel’s The X-Men is a ripoff of this group.

substitute

* The Legion of Substitute Heroes, a group of rejected applicants to the Legion of Super-Heroes who banded together, hoping to prove to the Legion that their powers were not as useless as the Legionnaires claimed, are closer to the argonaut-type team than are the LHS themselves. The Legion of Substitute Heroes — Polar Boy, Night Girl, Stone Boy, Fire Lad, and Chlorophyll Kid — first appeared in Adventure Comics in March 1963.

SIXTIES (1964–73)

This theme takes off in the Sixties.

* Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s The Inhumans, who first appeared in Marvel’s The Fantastic Four in 1965.

* Noel Behn’s 1966 espionage novel The Kremlin Letter, and the 1970 movie adaptation directed by John Huston.

* The Inferior Five, a parody superhero team that premiered in the DC title Showcase (1966), is a sardonic subversion of the bland, tension-free, middlebrow version of the argonaut-type adventure… which means that, despite the satirical schtick, they’re true argonauts! The team — Merryman, Awkwardman, The Blimp, White Feather, Dumb Bunny — was created by E. Nelson Bridwell (writer) and Joe Orlando and Mike Esposito (artists).

dirty dozen

* The 1967 WWII movie The Dirty Dozen (dir. Robert Aldrich). The team includes: Slow-witted Vernon Pinkley (Donald Sutherland); Robert Jefferson (Jim Brown), an African American soldier convicted of killing a man in a racial brawl; Samson Posey (Clint Walker), a gentle giant who becomes enraged when pushed; Joseph Wladislaw (Charles Bronson), convicted of shooting his squad’s medic; A.J. Maggott (Telly Savalas), a misogynist and religious fanatic; and Victor Franko (John Cassavetes), a gangster who has extreme problems with authority. Movie adapted from E. M. Nathanson’s 1965 novel of the same title.

* Not an adventure story, but: S.E. Hinton’s 1967 YA novel The Outsiders — featuring Darry, Dallas and Soda, Two-Bit, Steve, Johnny, and Ponyboy. Adapted into a 1983 movie by Francis Ford Coppola.

The-Wild-Bunch

* Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 western The Wild Bunch, about an aging outlaw gang.

devils 8

* The 1969 exploitation movie The Devil’s 8.

* The Losers was a war comics team whose adventures were set during World War II. The team — Captain Johnny Cloud, a Navajo pilot who always destroyed his planes after a mission; Gunner and Sarge; Captain Storm, a PT Boat Commander — was created by Robert Kanigher (in G.I. Comics, in 1969) and became a regular feature in DC’s long-running war comic book series Our Fighting Forces in 1970.

* Jack Starrett’s 1970 biker/military movie The Losers. Inspired by The Wild Bunch.

watership

* Richard Adams’s 1972 rabbit adventure novel Watership Down. Featuring Hazel, Bigwig, Blackberry, Pipkin, and Fiver.

SEVENTIES (1974–83)

* Not an adventure story, but: The 1974 football/prison movie The Longest Yard.

* Not an adventure story, but: The 1976 Little-League comedy The Bad News Bears, and sequels. Sardonic inversion of the theme?

* The 1978 TV show Battlestar Galactica.

* Not an adventure story, but: The 1978 movie Animal House. Sardonic inversion of the theme?

wild geese

* The 1978 movie The Wild Geese, in which mercenary commandos are hired to free a deposed African ruler. The only trouble is, they’re not as young as they used to be.

* The cult 1979 movie The Warriors.

* Not exactly an adventure, but: The 1979 Bill Murray vehicle Meatballs.

* The seven unlikely heroes in the 1980 Roger Corman-produced science fiction movie Battle Beyond the Stars.

* The 1981 made-for-TV movie Return of the Rebels, in which an aging motorcycle gang assemble to help out former member Mary Beth (Barbara Eden), the widowed operator of a popular campground threatened by young hoodlums.

* The 1981 Bill Murray vehicle Stripes.

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* The A-Team, in the 1983–87 TV show The A-Team.

* The ragtag band of Vietnam vets in the 1983 movie Uncommon Valor, who fly into Laos in search of MIA soldiers.

EIGHTIES (1984–93)

* The 1984 Bill Murray vehicle Ghostbusters. Sardonic inversion of the theme?

the-goonies

* The 1985 movie The Goonies.

* Not an adventure story, but: The 1989 baseball comedy Major League. Sardonic inversion of the theme?

NINETIES (1994–2003)

* Tim Burton’s 1994 movie Ed Wood.

* The animated Pixar movies Toy Story (1995), Toy Story 2 (1999), and Toy Story 3 (2010). Sardonic inversion of the theme?

* The 1996 Brian De Palma adaptation of the Mission Impossible TV show. But maybe not the next ones.

bottle rocket

* Wes Anderson’s 1996 movie Bottle Rocket is a sardonic inversion of the argonaut-type movie. It’s a prison break movie (in the beginning), and later a caper movie.

* The 1998 animated Pixar movie A Bug’s Life (1998). More a remake of Battle Beyond the Stars than of Seven Samurai or Magnificent Seven. Sardonic inversion of the theme?

* The 1999 George Clooney vehicle Three Kings.

* The 2000 George Clooney vehicle O Brother, Where Art Thou?.

* The 2000 George Clooney vehicle The Perfect Storm.

* The misfit crew in the 2001 animated Pixar movie Shrek. Sardonic inversion of the theme?

firefly

* The crew of Serenity in Joss Whedon’s 2002–2003 TV series Firefly. Ironic homage to the theme.

* Dumbledore’s Army in J.K. Rowling’s 2003 book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — maybe?

OUGHTS (2004–13)

* The 2004 Seven Samurai anime TV series remake Samurai 7, directed by Toshifumi Takizawa.

* The 2004 Owen Wilson vehicle Starsky & Hutch.

* The 2004 TV show remake Battlestar Galactica.

zissou

* Wes Anderson’s 2004 movie The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (with Bill Murray and Owen Wilson) is a sardonic inversion of the argonaut-type movie.

* The 2006 Owen Wilson-voiced Cars.

* The 2008 George Clooney vehicle Leatherheads.

* The 2008 Owen Wilson vehicle Drillbit Taylor.

* The 2009 Quentin Tarantino WWII movie Inglourious Basterds. Ironic homage to the theme.

* Wes Anderson’s live-action 2009 movie The Fantastic Mr Fox is a sardonic inversion of the argonaut-type movie.

* The 2009 movie Old Dogs is a middlebrow version of this theme.

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20 ADVENTURE THEMES AND MEMES: Index to All Adventure Lists | Introduction to Adventure Themes & Memes Series | Index to Entire Series | The Robinsonade (theme: DIY) | The Robinsonade (theme: Un-Alienated Work) | The Robinsonade (theme: Cozy Catastrophe) | The Argonautica (theme: All for One, One for All) | The Argonautica (theme: Crackerjacks) | The Argonautica (theme: Argonaut Folly) | The Argonautica (theme: Beautiful Losers) | The Treasure Hunt | The Frontier Epic | The Picaresque | The Avenger Drama (theme: Secret Identity) | The Avenger Drama (theme: Self-Liberation) | The Avenger Drama (theme: Reluctant Bad-Ass) | The Atavistic Epic | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Artful Dodger) | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Conspiracy Theory) | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Apophenia) | The Survival Epic | The Ruritanian Fantasy | The Escapade

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MORE FURSHLUGGINER THEORIES BY JOSH GLENN: We Are Iron Man! | And We Lived Beneath the Waves | Is It A Chamber Pot? | I’d Like to Force the World to Sing | The Argonaut Folly | The Perfect Flâneur | The Twentieth Day of January | The Dark Side of Scrabble | The YHWH Virus | Boston (Stalker) Rock | The Sweetest Hangover | The Vibe of Dr. Strange | Tyger! Tyger! | Star Wars Semiotics | The Original Stooge | Fake Authenticity | Camp, Kitsch & Cheese | Stallone vs. Eros | The UNCLE Hypothesis | Icon Game | Meet the Semionauts | The Abductive Method | Semionauts at Work | Origin of the Pogo | The Black Iron Prison | Blue Krishma! | Big Mal Lives! | Schmoozitsu | You Down with VCP? | Calvin Peeing Meme | Daniel Clowes: Against Groovy | The Zine Revolution (series) | Best Adventure Novels (series) | Debating in a Vacuum (notes on the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triad) | Pluperfect PDA (series) | Double Exposure (series) | Fitting Shoes (series) | Cthulhuwatch (series) | Shocking Blocking (series) | Quatschwatch (series) | Save the Adventure (series)

READ MORE essays by Joshua Glenn, originally published in: THE BAFFLER | BOSTON GLOBE IDEAS | BRAINIAC | CABINET | FEED | HERMENAUT | HILOBROW | HILOBROW: GENERATIONS | HILOBROW: RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION | HILOBROW: SHOCKING BLOCKING | THE IDLER | IO9 | N+1 | NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW | SEMIONAUT | SLATE

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