It was September of 1974, my first day at a new school. I was 15, but I looked 11. My last class of the day was Drama. I was late. I got to walk in after everyone else was in their seats, so I was completely the center of attention. I made my way awkwardly into the room, trying to look less nervous than I was. One of the girls loudly said “Oh, he’s so little! We can use him as an elf at Christmas!” A loud voice erupted from the back of the room. “I got dibs on Santa!” A big guy was sprawled on a sofa against the back wall. He had absurdly large muttonchop sideburns, and was, improbably enough, wearing a dark green choir robe over his shoulders like a cape. That was my introduction to Wally Oden.
We have a few Christmas traditions here at Casa MacQ; one of them is the annual reading of Berke Breathed’s ‘Red Ranger Came Calling,’ a simply marvelous holiday story that I stumbled upon in a Target store about ten years ago. The cover caught my interest, partly because it’s Berke Breathed, and partly because of the vintage toys all scattered around, so, while waiting for family to find whatever they were looking for, I picked it up and started skimming it.
Today would have been Harry Chapin’s 75th birthday, if his life hadn’t been tragically cut short in 1981. If you don’t know who Harry was or why you should care, well, I’m going to tell you. Of course he’s best known for the perennial favorite (of everyone except lousy dads), Cats in the Cradle, which has been covered by everyone from Judy Collins to Ugly Kid Joe, but that’s not how he left his mark on the world.
My first Roy Thomas comic was also my first Marvel comic. I was a wee lad in third grade, a big devotee of the Batman TV show, and had thus far successfully badgered my mother into buying precisely one comic from the spinner rack at Young’s Market. Some time later, I found myself parked on a naugahyde couch awaiting my turn in the barber’s chair, when my eyes fell upon the cover of Uncanny X-Men #29. This was my introduction to both the Marvel Universe and its best writer, Roy Thomas.
I was 23 when Lawn Chair Larry slipped the surly bonds of earth; I actually clipped out the newspaper article at the time, because I thought it was so perfect and inspiring, that ideal combination of vision, ingenuity, and the determination to do a spectacularly stupid thing and somehow pull it off. Larry’s great adventure has been the springboard for a movie, a Broadway musical, a couple of episodes of TV series, a hoax, and possibly even the movie ‘Up’. Because it’s just that inspiring.
The Tick, a reboot of the live-action TV series that was a reboot of the animated series that was adapted from the comic book that started out as a comic store mascot, has finally arrived on Amazon’s original programming channel, so I thought I’d take a moment to look at some of the other superhero comedy-parody-satire offerings that may have influenced, or been influenced by, what is obviously the most successful entry into the genre.
As a kid, my favorite superheroes were the Flash and Green Lantern. The Flash, because his real power wasn’t super-speed; his speed was a tool he used, but his real power was that he was smart – he outsmarted his opponents. Green Lantern worked on two levels. First, he had a ring that was functionally magic; if he could think of it, the ring could do it. Second, and more importantly, the ring ran on willpower. He had to bring resolve to the fight, to dig in and hold on and never give up, because if he didn’t, the ring would fail. He kept that willpower up through something completely unique to comics: his daily oath.