There’s an old Hollywood plot cliché where a parent and child are at odds with one another, constantly bickering, thinking each has it easier than the other. For arguments sake, the Father thinks the Son has it easy, remembering fondly his own school days, while the Son thinks the Father has it easy because all he has to do is go to work and make money. Frustrations get to a boiling point, and, while holding a McGuffin (an object in a book or film that serves as the impetus for the plot – a term coined by Sir Alfred Hitchcock in 1935) they suddenly switch bodies, so that the Father’s mind is in the Son’s, and the Son’s mind is in the Father’s.
Until they figure out what happened, they’re forced to live this way, and the Father goes to school for the son and realizes it isn’t like when he went to school. Bullies are tougher, teachers are meaner and classes are more difficult. Meanwhile, the Son has to go to work for his Father and realizes working for a living isn’t any easier than school. You have a boss screaming at you, stress, deadlines to meet, and more pressure than even a pressure cooker can produce.
The Father and Son begin to understand where each other is coming from, and working together, begin to remember how they switched places in the first place and switch back using the McGuffin. The same concept has been used for films where it is a Mother/Daughter having these issues with the same results in the end.
The best examples of this cliché can be traced back to 1976 when Walt Disney Pictures made “Freaky Friday” with Barbara Harris and a young Jodie Foster. In 1987 “Like Father Like Son” starring Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron had it happen to them when they both drank an elixir (McGuffin). My personal favorite is the 1988 movie “Vice Versa” starring Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage who switch places when they both hold an Oriental skull (McGuffin) his father had brought back from a trip for his company and say how they wish they could switch places. Walt Disney Television remade “Freaky Friday” as a TV movie in 1995 with Shelley Long and Gaby Hoffmann. Walt Disney Pictures, remade “Freaky Friday” once more in 2003 starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan who switch places after bickering in a Chinese restaurant and the owner’s mother gives them a special fortune cookie (McGuffin) that switches them.
But, believe it or not, this story concept goes back further than 1976 when the first “Freaky Friday” was made. In fact, it goes all the way back 131 years ago, to a book first published by F. Anstey in 1882 titled “Vice Versa: A Lesson to Fathers”. F. Anstey was a pen name he used, his real name was Thomas Anstey Guthrie, a lawyer, who decided to quite the practice and write humor novels. He lived from 1856-1934. Just like in the movie with the same name, a father named Paul Bultitude and his son Dick Bultitude, switch bodies due to a stone talisman (McGuffin).
The very first adaptations of this novel, complete with the books title and character names, were made in the UK in 1916, 1937 and 1948. In 1961 the BBC made a half hour TV movie of Vice Versa, and in 1981 the BBC again made another Vice Versa, this one a series that ran for seven episodes, continuing the tradition of using the characters names (something which the 1988 film did not do).
Now you may be asking yourself, “What does this book have to do with collecting?”, well, I was just getting to that. Back when I was collecting comics years ago, one of my favorite comics to read was Ultimate Spider-man. I loved the modernized origin of Peter Parker and his friends, family and villians. I enjoyed the dialogue that Brian Michael Bendis brought to each issue, making it both funny, sad or scary. I enjoyed how the Peter/Mary Jane relationship worked, and even more, I enjoyed the exquisite way that Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley (who illustrated the book) worked together to make each issue better than the last.
If I had to pick a favorite story line, it would have to be issues 33-39 where we meet Eddie Brock and the Ultimate Universe’s version of Venom. But, my all time favorite issues is a two-parter, issue 66 titled “Even We Don’t Believe This” and issue 67 titled “Jump the Shark”, where Peter Parker wakes up one morning with his mind in the body of Wolverine and Wolverine wakes up with his mind in the teenage body of Peter Parker.
(Covers to issues 66 – “Even We Don’t Believe This” and 67 – “Jump the Shark”)
Out of all the adaptations of “Vice Versa”, this is my very favorite. To see how Wolverine/Peter not only reacts to the situation, but freaks out, begging Peter/Wolverine to be nice to Aunt May, to go to class for him, and try and not make those claws go Snikt every two seconds hurting himself. Not only that, but on the flip side, to see how Peter/Wolverine handles the situation, won’t wear Peter’s Spider-man costume, even though Wolverine/Peter begs him to, except the mask, and try to use his web-slingers, well, this entire storyline goes from silly to just hilarious just by turning to the next page.
I read and re-read these issues whenever I’m in the mood for a good laugh, and the books never fail. If you want a great take on a now classic cliche thanks to all the movies made from the book, then Ultimate Spider-man issues 66 and 67 is just what you’re looking for. As for the McGuffin that made this happen to them, well, why don’t I just let you read the books and find out for yourself. From page one to the end you’ll be laughing and wishing you knew about these issues sooner.
Until next time,