I never got into comic books when I was a boy, and Superman was the reason. For the life of me, I didn’t understand why he ever had to be Clark Kent. Couldn’t he just be Superman all the time? I mean, he’s fucking Superman, for crying out loud. Why would he ever feel the need to be some hapless asshole working a loser job? “Man, this whole being-the-best-person-on-the-
I wasn’t able to suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy comic books, even as a boy. But they were around since I had two brothers and lots of friends living nearby, so I did read them. I just didn’t read them obsessively. At least not the comics. I was fascinated by the advertisements in the back. X-Ray Specs? Wow! It wasn’t the concept of x-ray vision that captured my imagination, actually, it was the fact that there were people out there gullible enough to think that they worked. If all it took to see through clothing was a dollar, Western civilization would long ago have come to a complete standstill, guys drooling on every street corner.
Another ad that piqued my interest promised large rewards for selling a newspaper with the unlikely name of Grit. One ad I remember stated plainly that I could “Make lots of money easily” selling Grit, and if that wasn’t enough to convince me, a young child was pictured holding up a bag with a dollar sign on it, as if he’d just robbed a bank in Toon Town.
Even at an age when I was stupid enough to believe I could blind myself with a clock radio (more on this in a bit), I wasn’t dumb enough to think that I could earn any money selling Grit. If I went door to door selling Grit, it wouldn’t be long before someone was burying my tiny little corpse in a shallow basement grave, because that was the true purpose of Grit: It was designed to send children door to door because Grit was owned and operated by serial killers. (Legal disclaimer to prevent me from being sued into the stratosphere: This is not true. Grit newspaper is owned by awesome, wonderful people, who only rarely bury children in their basements, if at all.)
Ok, the clock radio thing: When I was a kid, my mom warned me one day that there was going to be a solar eclipse while I was at school. She was sure that we would not be allowed to be put into a position where we could see the sun, but just in case, she warned me that I needed to be really, really sure that I didn’t stare at the sun on that day OR ELSE I WOULD GO BLIND!
That was kind of alarming, but I was more curious as to what, exactly, a solar eclipse was. So on the way home from school I stopped at the library and read all I could about eclipses. Later on that night, after I’d gone to bed, I sat there thinking about solar eclipses when I noticed the round, orange dial on my clock radio. I quickly located a penny and started passing it in front of the dial to simulate an eclipse. Getting the penny positioned correctly took a certain amount of trial and error, but soon enough I had gotten it down to the point where I could really make it look like the pictures I’d seen at the library.
Then it dawned on me that although the orange dial on my clock radio was nowhere near as powerful as the sun, it was an awful lot closer, and long story short, I was soon sprinting into my parents’ room in an absolute panic, worried that I was about to go blind. Which is pretty stupid, but not selling Grit newspaper stupid.
(Parents love stories like this because we all have them. One night my daughter (five at the time) burst into my room in tears, worried that a black hole was going to destroy the Earth. Being the responsible parent that I am, I calmly told her that we’d all be long dead before that ever happened, and satisfied with my answer, she went back to bed. Possibly related question: Is it normal for kids to get by on just 15 minutes of sleep each night?)
So I was never into comic books as a kid, which is kind of puzzling considering the amount of time I spend as an adult thinking about superheroes. I mean, I once spent the better part of an evening ruminating on the consequences of superhero pubic lice, and just recently addressed Aquaman and his superpower: Being a waterlogged asshole. The amount of time it took me to write those two posts alone probably exceeded the total amount of time I spent as a child thinking about superheroes.
It’s almost as if the more mundane I discover life to be, the more my brain compensates by dragging me in the other direction and forcing me to think about shit like superheroes . I draw the line at Star Wars fandom, however. I will fling myself off of the new World Trade Center before I join the ranks of the entirely unfuckable.
So it was this weekend that I realized that part of my brain, the part that apparently keeps track of totally useless superhero trivia at the expense of being able to recall my zip code on demand, was trying to tell me something. Specifically, it was trying to tell me that I once devoted brain power to storing information about two ridiculous superheroes, the first of which is named Gin Genie.
Gin Genie is a “superhero” who can cause earthquakes with her mind in direct proportion to how drunk she is. Really. No shit. Excuse me, but how is this a superpower? Everybody knows that the drunker you get, the more likely it is that you’re going to break shit. That’s not a superpower, that’s fucking reality. They just picked up some psycho drunk chick, slapped a superhero costume on her, and went into battle, which is kind of weak from a superhero recruitment point of view.
I learned about Gin Genie some time back during one of my random web-surfing jags. Most people spend a couple of hours poking through Youtube videos. I uncover the dark and unseemly underbelly of the internet. Like Bacon or Beercan, which, if you’re anything like me, will keep you occupied for weeks on end.
The other superhero that my brain forced me to remember comes from a much more deeply repressed memory. His name was 8 Man, and according to Wikipedia, he “smoked energy cigarettes to rejuvenate his powers.” Big fucking deal. Anybody can come by superpowers that way. I smoked “energy cigarettes” throughout college, and my superpowers were super-giggling, turbo-snacking, and invulnerability to getting off of the goddamn couch.
I vaguely remember 8 Man from the early 70’s, when my older brother went on a Japanese cartoon kick. These cartoons were broadcast by some TV station in the Midwest staffed entirely by heroin addicts. Seriously, you can’t convince me that any TV station that showed this kind of shit wasn’t shooting something into their veins:
(Proofreading this post, I realized that I have another clock radio anecdote: That same, orange-dial clock radio had a second hand that didn’t exactly sweep around the dial with grace. Sometimes it would linger on the 11 for a while before jerking far past 12 in an effort to catch up. This was probably because the radio was assembled by chimp labor, but when I was in the midst of an ESP kick I started seriously entertaining the notion that perhaps it was due to the fact that I could stop the inexorable march of time with my mind. That’s pretty goddamn retarded, so maybe I should give the junkies and reprobates who aired Prince Planet a break.)
Let’s see, where was I? Oh yes, Gin Genie and 8 Man. Yeah, that’s the kind of shit my brain hangs on to. Join us tomorrow when I damage my readers’ brains by exposing them to my memories of the Love Boat Follies. (I really plan on doing this, so if you want to get a head start on committing suicide, I totally understand.)