Make Mine Marv...Er, Something Else!? Part 6
Make Mine Marv...Er, Something Else!? VI
I am a Marvel fanatic.
But I was also exposed to other non-marvel heroes and comics at a very early age. I grudgingly admit I have fond memories of them as well.
Way back in 1978 there was a Superman movie starring Christopher Reeves, being only one at the time I don't think it made much of an impression on me.
Superman II came out in 1980 but I did not see it until it was broadcast for television on ABC in 1984. I don't remember where and when I saw the rest of the Superman movies (I suspect through VHS rentals and in the theater for the later ones) but none of them held a candle to Superman II. Superman fights three super-powered beings that were murderers and criminals from Krypton that had escaped the Phantom Zone where they were being held and sought revenge on Superman. I give you General Zod, Ursa, and Nod three evil beings with the exact same powers as Superman (super strength, super speed, flight, freezing breath, and laser vision)! Kneel before Zod!
It was a great story with Superman losing his powers, and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor escaping and teaming up with Zod and his lackeys. I watched in awe as Superman gets pummeled by three super powered bad guys in the middle of Metropolis. He is forced to kneel to Zod but has a trick up his sleeve and manages to defeat them!
Christopher Reeves will always be the quintessential Superman to me.
I remember also watching Linda Carter playing Wonder Woman in reruns of the 1975 television series with my dad who definitely had a crush on her. She is a hottie but I was a little dismayed that her hair was a wig as Wonder Woman, although I didn't realize that until I was an adult.
I thought the Invisible Jet was pretty hokey but I liked the truth lasso and power bracelets.
In my eyes she was pretty much a girl Superman without the ability to fly but nearly invulnerable like Ka-El. Check out this hilarious comic drawn by Kerry Callen comparing their powers.
It turns out quite a few shows that I watched on television as a kid were reruns played endlessly in syndication. One such super mutt was Underdog from 1964. He was basically an anthropomorphic dog/Superman analog.
I still have the song memorized.
There's no need to fear! Underdog is here!
When criminals in this world appear
And break the laws that they should fear
And frighten all who see or hear
The cry goes up both far and near
For Underdog! Underdog! Underdog! Underdog!
Speed of lightning, roar of thunder
Fighting all who rob or plunder
When in this world the headlines read
Of those whose hearts are filled with greed
Who rob and steal from those who need
To right this wrong with blinding speed
Goes Underdog! Underdog! Underdog! Underdog!
Speed of lightning, roar of thunder
Fighting all who rob or plunder
loved that dog so much we created a maneuver for getting a higher push
on the swing set at recess and named it after him. Your buddies would
push you for an "Underdog" when the kid
pushing you holds onto the swing and runs forward actually running under
you and out the front before letting go sending you soaring towards the
Not plane, nor bird, nor even frog, It's just little old me Underdog.
a picky eater as a kid, one of the things I would eat was hotdogs. So
my mom would take me to Wienerschnitzel's to get one. They had a
distinct A-frame building that was all roof where you could get your
I remember getting a ring that had the Weinerdog mascot on it and thought that it was Underdog because Underdog has a ring with a secret compartment where he would keep his Underdog Super Energy Pill (yeah he was a secret crackhead). My ring had no secret compartment but I didn't care, my imagination filled that in for me. Because I couldn't even pronounce the name I called the restaurant Underdog as in, "Mom, can we get an Underdog...please?" To me, both the mascot and Underdog were one and the same.
Another hero I watched on T.V. was Greatest American Hero 1981
Having gained his powers from a suit given to him by aliens Ralph bumbles his way to saving the day as the most clumsy superhero ever! While flying he was always crashing into walls and things as he was figuring the suit out because he lost the instruction manual.
While digging through a old box of my stuff while at my mom's house I found these unopened puffy stickers I likely got from Pic 'N' Save as a kid. Not sure why they didn't end up in my sticker album like all the rest.
Because my favorite non-Marvel superhero has always been DC comics' caped crusader Batman, I had a Batman Pez of him from when I was in preschool.
They reused the Batman Pez mold from 1960s though about 1989.
Here my twin brother is wearing Batman pajamas in 1979.
We listened to Christmas adventures of our favorite DC heroes on a Peter Pan record as we fell asleep under the tree watching the twinkling lights.
That year my brother also got a Whitman Batman coloring book from Santa.
I watched a lot of television with my old man growing up and of course one of those shows was Batman still doing reruns from 1966. It was pretty campy but that was how I thought comic book heroes on television should be. Cesar Romero as the Joker frightened me a little and I always wondered why he didn't shave his mustache.
Being an avid Scooby-Doo fan I watched all of the various shows he was in from Scooby-Doo Where are you? to the Laugh Olympics. Some of my favorites were reruns of The New Scooby-Doo Movies from 1972. Each longer than normal episode had guest stars from the Globetrotters to the Addams Family. There are two episodes with Batman and Robin joining that famous mutt and pals with them fighting against the Joker and the Penguin inside a Haunted House, discovering a counterfeit money scheme in The Dynamic Scooby-Doo Affair. Then foiling them again in The Caped Crusader Caper where the Joker and Penguin are prevented from getting the flying suit and there is a battle in the rubber factory with Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloon floats.
In 1989 when I was 12 years old I discovered Batman Cereal in the cereal aisle of the grocery store. It was a promotional tie-in for the upcoming Batman movie. You can bet I bought it. It had bat shapes that tasted sort of like Cap'n Crunch. What was really cool was that each box had cool prizes, from a Batman coin bank shrink-wrapped to the outside of the box, to mini-comic copies of the 1980 comic book series The Untold Legend of the Batman.
Of course I collected them all.
As the summer of 89 ramped up there were more and more tie-in products being offered like these candy heads I got at various convenience stores.
I also found and collected all of the Batman Cards from Topps.
I got the novelization to the movie in June before I saw the film in theaters with my dad.
Finally the wait was over, having seen the caped crusader on the silver screen after all the anticipation and hype. I thought it was the best superhero movie ever.
From the stiff necked gravelly voiced, "I'm Batman" to one of the best Joker portrayals of all time by Jack Nicholson, who defined playing crazy people or people pretending to be crazy (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The Shining).
My twin brother and I pilgrimaged from our house 3.3 miles on foot all the way to a Shopko where we had seen the figures associated with the movie. It was July by then and it was a scorcher of a summer. I remember stopping in a Ponderosa restaurant and drenching our baseball hats and drinking straight from the restroom faucet with cupped hands along the way to cool off.
The Toy Biz figures were pretty cool but I vastly preferred the classic comic book look of the 1984 Super Powers figures from Kenner. I still have my Joker.
We also managed to get a metal Batmobile from ERTL and plastic mini vehicles. My sons play with the Batwing to this day and I have stepped on it many times in their rooms.
Yes it is true, I loved other heroes not from Marvel. Mostly from other media sources like television, movies, coloring books, toys, and cereal. I did keep any Batman comic books I ran across but I never actively collected them. I did collect many non-Marvel comic books. I have already told the story of when I started collecting comic books (mostly Marvel titles i.e. Uncanny X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, and the Amazing Spider-Man) but it got me to thinking what was my very first comic book. I had to think long and hard about it because superheroes in general and comic books have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I came up with these four Masters of the Universe mini-comics from 1982 that were included with my HE-MAN, Stratos, Skeletor, and Beastman action figures.
My first MOTU figures and therefore my first comic books I got in my Easter basket in 1982 at the age of five.
Then I got to thinking what was my first regular sized comic book? I have this 1969 comic given away by the US Forest Service that I picked up somewhere and have had as long as I can remember. My maternal grandmother collected stuffed Smokey the Bear dolls and I suspect she gave it to me as a child. When she died I inherited her Smokey the Bear collection including her still boxed one from Ideal. But no definitive date on when I got the comic.
My first regular sized comic book would most likely have been a promotional comic given away free by the American Cancer Society: Spider-Man, Storm, and Power Man battle Smokescreen from 1982. I am pretty sure I was given a copy at a doctor's visit. It featured a villain who tried to get track athletes to smoke cigarettes and then bet against them knowing they couldn't win their races after smoking. I am pretty sure my first regular sized comic book was from Marvel! Make Mine Marvel!
D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) programs in school were all the rage receiving federal funding from the government to send police officers to schools to teach students to just say no to drugs. The first lady Nancy Reagan promoted President Ronald Reagan's Presidential Drug Awareness Program and teamed up with the elves from the Keebler cookie company to produce The New Teen Titans Drug Awareness Special in 1983. After hearing the officer's presentation and looking at his D.A.R.E. Camaro we were given this issue.
It seems like I was getting promotional issues from everywhere I went. Once we attended a kid's fair at the local power company where we ate hot dogs that were fried by a current between conductors; part of a demonstration of what would happen if you got too close to electrical equipment or touched a downed power line. There, we read our Story of Electricity comic books that we were given.
I remember free comic books from Radio Shack that featured the Tandy Computer Whiz Kids in 1987, where the Whiz Kids save and foil some drug smugglers after their plane crashes.
My twin brother and I went to Asthma camp high in the mountains at a Ski Resort during the summer when I was 11 years old. We did a lot of hiking, rode the trams to the top, did alpine slides, swam in the pool, soaked in the sauna and steam rooms, made crafts, climbed the climbing wall, went in a mine, had a regatta race of boats made from cardboard down the river, and played video games while we were there. Also, of course, learning to cope with our asthma. We also came away with a comic book: Captain America Meets the Asthma Monster 1988.
Eventually I started collecting comic books in earnest but along with the Marvel titles I sought out back issues of Charleston, Dell, Whitman, and Gold key horror comics and Bugs Bunny comics at yard sales and rummage bins or where ever I could find them.
Some of my favorites were from EC Comics that made Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear, and the Crypt of Terror.
EC Comics also made Mad that eventually turned into Mad Magazine, and I managed to pick up a copy of the first issue, albeit the 1972 reprint of the 1952 original.
Being a WWII buff because my dad was, I also really liked Sgt. Rock and The Unknown Soldier by DC.
As a kid growing up I was surrounded by superheroes and comic books of all kinds. I continue to have an interest, and although I don't actively collect them anymore, I will always love them. Heroes were my role models as a kid. My parents are also my heroes for introducing me to them. I am trying to introduce my sons to them (they have their movies, cartoons, and toys too). Comic book superheroes are a part of our collective consciousness and emblematic of our culture and times. They are a part of me, and probably will be forever. But if I have a choice... Make Mine Marvel.