Maybe it’s a sign of advancing age, but I start to notice simpler and simpler things these days, obvious beyond mention but hitting me like a revelation. Reading around in Mr. English’s fine blog here it dawned on me; that special combination of fantasy, sci-fi, and all other kinds of heroic activity was something my generation experienced like no other before or since.
I was that kid just old enough to be on the edge of my seat during the “Batman” show on TV. I could never figure out why my mom and dad were chuckling. And every odd-numbered episode, with the Caped Crusader in an impossible jam- I lost sleep, really. That show was not funny, not to me- getting the heroic ideal under my skin and into my DNA was serious business.
Ditto “Star Trek”, “Wild Wild West”, and the real, true golden age of comics- when they didn’t just exist, but there were lots of them in the store near where you lived, and you could afford them. Load me up, dude; Iron Man, Spider-Man, all the stuff YOU KIDS TODAY :: wags finger, practically drools :: have seen in the blockbuster movies. I knew the real guys, you know, the ones who didn’t exist except in my soul- I can judge whether the flicks did it right or not.
I was there.
Never you mind what year it started precisely. If you’re not already nodding your head and grinning like the kid who got an extra bubble-gum cigar for the nickel, here’s when it was. During that gilded window of time when the media had just descended on us and no one was carping yet about how TV rotted your soul. Your folks left you in the land of wonder for long periods, in between eating. Saturday morning cartoons were a solid seven-hour block of time; three networks all loaded with The Mighty Mightorr, The Impossibles, Jonny Quest, Space Ghost. Afternoons were filled with tree-branch swinging and barn-roof derring-do, launching model rockets and chiseling away at the rock face out back, trying to create a personal Fortress of Solitude (got about a quarter-inch along, lots of cool sparks though).
Even the ads were heroic. First product I ever bought purely because of the commercial was Hai Karate After-Shave. The ads featured a regular joe (Dan Resin, he was Dr. Beeper in “Caddyshack”), who slapped on the Hai Karate, and immediately had to use martial arts to beat back gorgeous women trying to tackle him. You bet I ran right out and bought me some of that. I was twelve. Didn’t shave until I was sixteen! But the bottle came with a little self-defence manual- a bargain at twice the price.
Fare like that set me up perfectly- my mind and spirit prepared by struggle and victory in any genre you could name. Then the closer, the deal-sealer and mind-stealer, a show that stamped itself forever in my memory and to this day stands as the acme of heroism. And I had to wait until evening to watch.
If I say much more I’ll need another blog. But Patrick McGoohan in that show swept me into a world of enthralled horror and excitement the likes of which I’ve never known. One man, completely isolated, surrounded by those he can’t trust using technology he can’t understand. The definition of hope-less, and he still thrusts his fist into the air and shouts the immortal words, “I am not a number, I am a free man!” I couldn’t tear myself away- I mean now, forty years later. The show’s not on, the remake was bad, the graphic novel a mess. But everything I write, I look for the heroes and what they’re thinking. Nothing else matters- the struggle, the decision, the unhesitating moment of self-sacrifice. And sure, the witty quips as they head into the fray.
I know what the non-nodders are asking. So what? Here’s what, you little whips. If you like these movies today- and you should love them- remember this. Nicholas Cage and Morton Downey and Gary Oldman (Comm. Gordon) and Andrew Molina (Dr. Octopus); these guys are all MY age. From my time. You read about how Downey wasn’t up for the role, and kicked in the door on the producers to insist, “no, you don’t get it- I AM Iron Man”, and then knocked their socks off in the first audition. How Cage sold his comic collection for $1.6 million, wanted to be Superman but happily took on Ghost Rider.
Will Hahn is the chronicler of the Lands of Hope, a world of fantasy adventure. The tales of Hope are available online at Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.com, and a free Compendium about the Lands can be found at his shared website, the Independent Bookworm.His most recent tale is “The Plane of Dreams”- see the trailer on YouTube