Sunday, September 25, 2005

Biography, Part 2!

Continuing the thrilling story of my life so far...

When I left off, I was beginning first grade, and we'd moved to our third house in Tacoma.

Just general memories of my grade school years... I remember being into drawing, and showing an aptitude for writing (I always got A's when creative writing was required for an assignment). I was fairly good at math, too... but geography and history -- especially the way it was taught -- bored me to death, and subsequently, those grades weren't so hot. I was reading at a college level by the time I was in 4th grade, at least... reading stuff like "Cyborg" by Martin Cadin (the basis for the Six Million Dollar Man) and Pierre Boulle's "Planet of the Apes" (much more literary than the movie based on it). Summer reading programs at the library? Blew through 'em quickly.

I always had an interest in comics, all through these years, and like most kids, I made up my own characters, thinly-disguised versions of DC and Marvel characters... there was Super-Duper Man (named after the Super-Duper Market, a grocery store in the town in South Dakota where my grandmother lived -- we used to take car trips to the Dakotas every summer to visit relatives... so far as the name of the town goes... it's the one where the big motorcycle races are every year, and I'm blanking on the name right now, dammit!), and there was Magic Man, and Elastic Man, and so on. I drew cheesy comics with these guys, and even sold some of them to the neighbor kids!

What I enjoyed most about going to the Dakotas was that I'd always get some new comics to read on the trip... one year was the year of the JLA/JSA/Seven Soldiers of Victory story, and while it took some getting used to, eventually I caught on to the whole Earth-1/Earth-2 thing.

When I wasn't drawing comics with my own characters, I was using other characters. Jack In The Box was just opening in Tacoma, and they had animated commercials with Jack, the Shakes (fuzzy creatres who had a rock band, and were very easy for kids to draw), and other characters... and I did a bunch of comics with the Shakes.

Mego super-heroes were a part of my childhood, too, as you can well imagine, and so were G.I. Joe's. In fact, the two toy lines crossed over, and I even started creating super-hero costumes for the G.I. Joe figures! I distinctly remember making an Iron Man costume for one, which used a McDonald's french fry container for the chestplate.

I was also into puppetry as a kid... I'm not sure if I learned to sew making my own puppets, or making G.I. Joe costumes.

I recall that I made a Captain Marvel (Shazam) costume for one of my G.I. Joe's, and proceeded to make what I called a "movie" with it -- said movie being some pictures taken with my Kodak Instamatic! I don't think I have any of those photos these days, nor do I have the ones I took with my brother's Six Million Dollar man action figure.

I also got into Star Trek, which was then showing five nights a week on the local station. We'd missed out on Trek in its original run, because Mom thought it was going to be monster of the week, like Outer Limits (well, the first episode aired was "Man Trap," after all). Another show I missed in its original run was Land of the Giants. Strangely, I remember being allowed to see Laugh-In on occasion!

Monster movies were another big part of my childhood. The library's summer program involved showing edited-down versions of the classic Frankenstein movies, as well as other monster and non-monster movies, plus Channel 11 (who was showing Star Trek) also had their sci-fi theatre program, which guaranteed the SF stuff was making it on the air! Channel 7 had Nightmare Theatre on Friday and Saturday nights at 11:30 or so, but I only got to watch these when I stayed the night at a friend's house (which I tried to do often).

Ventriloquism was another part of my childhood... I remember seeing Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney, as well as Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. So one Christmas I wanted my own ventriloquist dummy, and my parents got me a Danny O'Day. Was I familiar with Danny? Nope... neither he nor Farfel the Dog. In fact, I didn't see those two performed until I was much older, and their old Nestle commercials were being shown!

My comic books came from three sources in those days... maybe four! On the way home from school, I passed by a drug store and a 7-Eleven, and both stores carried comics. Of course, the 7-Eleven also had Slurpees, and for a while, every summer they gave away free comics character cups with the Slurpees! I also could get comics cheap at the annual sixth graders' "junk sale," which raised money for camp. Sometimes I'd use my lunch money to buy comics there! I was also able to get comics at garage sales, too (I was introduced to garage sales at an early age).

I've told you about the Gov-Mart/Steranko History of Comics story before... so I'll skip that.

My first Beatles records were probably garage sale finds, and they were 45s... I remember Help!/I'm Down, Act Naturally, and a few others... and I have no idea what happened to them. We also had a few Archies records, but most of them were the "free" records that were put on the back of cereal boxes, and you could cut them out and listen to them on any record player!

Well, that's enough of this for now... I'll continue the grade school reminiscences another time!

Jon

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