Less than a year ago, I was eulogizing my friend Marty Gear in this space. Marty lived a full life, and changed the lives of many, many people for the better. He died quietly in his sleep. Up to the last, he did the things he loved with the people he loved. I miss Marty, and the shock of his death was wrenching. But I can’t look back with any regret on his behalf. As far as I can see, Marty made of life everything he could. His life was well lived.
Sitting in a meeting Tuesday, I learned via email that Danny, Marty’s son and my former classmate at Atholton High, was now dead as well. Danny took his own life, ending his journey early. I wasn’t close enough to Danny to comment on what kind of life he led, whether he was happy (I conclude he was not), or how many lives he touched. I know tidbits about the trials he endured, relayed to me by a concerned father. I know he had children, and I know from their public posts on Facebook that they loved their Dad very much. After 1980, Danny was mostly the son of a friend of mine; someone I thought well of because his Dad loved him so much, and was proud of him.
But, in 1980 Danny was a bright spot in my life, and I’ll never forget how that felt. The reason I say that might seem kinda silly, but little things mean a lot, especially to a 14-year-old who hasn’t confronted a lot of big things. Continue reading
Tom Sawyer. Huck Finn. Oliver Twist. The Artful Dodger. Tarzan. Rhett Butler. Scarlett O’Hara. Peter Pan. Alice in Wonderland. To some of us, characters like these, and their many, many young siblings, are more real than the people we work with, go to school with or meet on the street. Their images are indelibly stamped on our hearts, so well did their creators fashion them. They are alive for us.
All of these characters have been revisited, again and again, by authors not their creators. That’s because they are so powerful. Because we want more adventures with them. Because they fire the imaginations of even the most imaginative people… and, yes, sometimes the imaginations of the dullest of people as well.
I daresay Captain America is such a character now, for millions of Americans. Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in the pages of Timely Comics (now Marvel Entertainment, thank you very much!) during the early days of World War II, Cap was re-engineered by Kirby and Stan Lee beginning in 1963. Starting as just another patriotic-themed Nazi-buster, in the 1960s, Steve Rogers became a stranger in a strange land, Rip Van Winkle, Buck Rogers, a man who goes to sleep and wakes up in a time not his own. Of course, in 1963 he’d been asleep for only 18 years. Now, since World War II can’t move in time, the movie version of Cap awakes over 65 years in the future, still young, still ready for battle.
Sometimes our friends drive us crazy. They can be real pains in the ass. They’re not always reliable. They are loud, opinionated, and needy. They have crazy ideas that come at you from far out in left field… Sometimes they just leave us rolling our eyes and shaking our heads and wondering why we bother to get out of bed on days when sleep seems to be just the most wonderful thing ever invented by… whoever invented it. Wasn’t it Neil Gaiman? Yeah, sometimes our friends drive us crazy.
Every now and then something sort of little gives you pause and makes you consider something… bigger. In this case, “something little” is one of the very earliest comic book adventures of Superman. Published in Action Comics #4 (making it the Man of Steel’s fourth appearance), the story is called, predictably enough, “Superman Plays Football.” (It’s also re-printed in Superman #1.)
Well, that’s its title in the index at the Grand Comic Book Database. On the story, there’s no title. That was typical of Golden Age comic stories, as is the length of this one, just over twelve pages. Also typical, but disturbing, are the attitudes toward life, fair play and personal interaction displayed by the characters. Those are the “something bigger” or “somethings bigger” that I’m talking about. They’re attitudes which may have been typical of the time, but certainly not attitudes I would want to push off on young readers without some kind of comment. (Of course, now, young readers are unlikely to see this story. I think mostly only middle-aged nostalgia buffs like me are bothering to read Superman adventures from the 1930s.)
Did you ever get lost in a story? I mean really lost, as in the places and the characters so dominate your waking mind that it’s hard to focus on other things? Where characters become so real to you that you think about them, worry about them, talk to them in your head and spend time formulating solutions to their problems that you would share with them if only you had the opportunity?
Naturally, I’m asking because that has happened to me. It can be a weird, even jarring experience, almost like a dissociative state, to be conducting the business of a busy, professional life and be more engaged by thoughts of people who don’t exist than you are by the work or the people in front of you.
I mean, I never met the woman. She’s been dead for 31 years. And what I’m mad at her about, she did when I was four. And it had nothing to do with me. Still, I’ve just never been so angry and disappointed with one of my heroes before.
Okay, “I am so mad,” is an exaggeration. I experienced a moment of shock and anger is more appropriate. Let me back up a bit and tell you what prompted this. I was reading a book called Judgment Day: My Years with Ayn Rand. Since its original publication in the late 80s, it’s been renamed just My Years with Ayn Rand. Don’t know why. Was the original title too religious in its connotations for the atheist followers of Rand, or was it, perhaps, too subtle for the average reader to understand why what’s essentially a tell-all book (albeit a high-brow tell-all) would be named “Judgment Day.” Hint: It’s because Ayn Rand was noted for saying, “Judge and prepare to be judged” in answer to the Christian admonishment to “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” She didn’t think anyone should go without having to answer for their actions, so every day with her was Judgment Day. I guess it was kinda uncomfortable for a lot of people.
I guess the only thing cooler than being interviewed in the pages of one of your favorite magazines is being interviewed in one of your favorite magazines and having the cover art turn out to be this amazing image of Dr. Strange and Clea by Arthur Adams. My friend and sometimes-editor Bob Greenberger did the article on the DC Comics Bonus Book program of the late 1980s, for which I wrote a Warlord story which turned out to be the first professional work of comic artist Rob Liefeld. The interview is fairly short, but includes some reflections of times long-past when I was just starting out. It ships this week! Buy a copy at your local comic shop, or order (paper or eBook) from TwoMorrows.
This week, some practical information, as opposed to my lofty, philosophical flights into the realms of high lit’rit’cher. (Which means I’m too tired to think, and am thus beginning to just dump the contents of my brain all over the place. I think it may be a sign of premature senility…)
Malware. If you own or use a Windows computer, you’re going to get it. Malware is any program which installed on your computer without your knowledge and is intended to either collect information about you or simply to interfere with the efficient running of your computer. I help a lot of friends, family members and co-workers figure out problems with their Windows PCs. 99% of them are caused by malware. As soon as I here these phrases:
I probably discovered Winter’s Tale in college. It was published my freshman year, and I spent at least an hour a day in the campus bookstore, which, back then, was a respectable establishment. Not only could customers browse the stacks of textbooks themselves, rather than waiting for the staff to fetch them (which meant you had your pick of the lowest-priced used copy), but it was also a well-stocked retail bookstore as well. About the size of my local BooksAMillion, and with about the same ratio of swag to books. No music, though. For music, you had to walk down the Student Union hallway to the Record Coop. (That’s two syllables, if you were wondering. And yes, we all pronounced it as though it held chickens instead of records.)
Family and friends are already sick of this story, but I’m told it was “legendary.” (All one word. Not Barney Stinson Legen-Wait-for-it-Dary.) And my brain is so drained that it’s pretty much all I got this week. By rights, I should be doing a Farpoint 2014 After-Action Report this week. For reasons of my own, I’m not going to do that. My reaction to Farpoint 2014 goes too deep inside my skull, and, as I’ve warned you, it’s dark and scary in there, and there are little mice…