Monday, 10 July 2017

IF I HAD A HAMMER... (I DO, I DO! I'VE GOT TWO!)



Did you play superheroes as a child?  I did, but it was
(with two exceptions) a rather solitary pursuit, as other kids
didn't seem to regard dressing up (outside of Hallowe'en) as some-
thing to indulge in.  The two exceptions were JOHN FIDLER, who
was ROBIN to my BATMAN, and PHILIP MARSHALL, who was
WONDER MAN to my POWER MAN.  (Or might've been the other
way around.)  In my neighbourhood at least, it was viewed as uncool,
though I'm not sure if that word was in vogue back in the mid-'60s
outside of the hippie community.  Even though I was only 7 or
8 years old, I came in for a fair amount of mockery for my
costumed capers from my critical contemporaries.

The only time I saw anyone else playing superheroes
was when I espied GEORGE COOPER and his wee brother
BRIAN (or perhaps another brother, IAN) playing at Batman &
Robin in the narrow lane adjacent to their back garden.  Obviously
they didn't want to be observed out in the open street, and that was
the only time I saw them indulge themselves.  However, there was a
couple of other occasions when caution was thrown to the winds by
other of my peers, who, perhaps intrigued by what I found enjoy-
able in the pastime of assuming a costumed alias, deigned to
join in my escapist escapades.  In fact, they asked if they
could, as if I'd be bestowing a favour on them.

The first such occasion was during a 'playtime' break
in primary school one fine day.  IAIN MORRIS and a few
others who I no longer recall as being associated with this rare
event, asked me if they could play superheroes with me.  "Sure", I
agreed.  I would be SUPERMAN and they could all be Superman's
robots.  They instantly fell into 'mechanical man' mode, favoured in
more modern times by robotic street performers, whereupon I in-
formed them that Superman's robots walked and talked just like
normal humans (or Kryptonians), not robots.  It was to no
avail, and they simply did their own thing, leading me
to abandon the exercise as a lost cause.

The other time was when some of the neighbourhood
kids enquired if they could join in my superhero antics.  I
was surprised, but acquiesced, wondering if their usual games
like football and whatever else they got up to had perhaps tem-
porarily lost their shine, prompting them to investigate the allure of
pretending to be super-powered crusaders.  I was playing at THOR
when they asked me this, so I said they could be any hero they liked.
ELAINE BAIRD decided on WONDER WOMAN (I think - we'd
no concerns over cross-pollinating MARVEL and DC heroes back
then - if the distinction even occurred to us), and the others took
on the roles of various popular heroes.  We decided on the
DAVY CROCKETT hut in the nearby swingpark as
our 'hero headquarters' and set about our play.

I should mention that when I assumed the mantle of
Thor, I had two accessories.  One was a homemade mallet,
the other was a gnarled tree-branch which served as Dr. DON
BLAKE's cane.  I'd hit my 'cane' on the ground while supplying a
vocal 'thunder' sound effect, whip my 'uru' hammer from behind my
back, then substitute the cane in its place of concealment.  (This was
done in reverse when I changed from Thor to Blake.)  Trouble was, my
intrepid band of heroes were unable to grasp the concept (regardless
of however many times I explained it to them) that only Thor per-
formed this ritual to change identities and other heroes had their
own methods of transformation, such as mundanely switching
clothes.  To see them striking invisible hammers and hiding
invisible canes to the 'sound of thunder' was simply
ridiculous and frustrated me no end.

As you can imagine, dissatisfaction was felt on both
sides, and we each returned to our own favoured means
of entertainment, which was probably for the best.  After all,
you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it a superhero!
Anyway, speaking of homemade Thor hammers, you may be won-
dering what mine was made from.  Well, back in 1968, there used to
be a toy called, I think, ZIP-ZAP - which was a twin-coloured bit of
oblong sponge with a long elastic cord running through it.  The idea
of this 'game' was for two players to stand at opposite ends of the
room and quickly swing the sponge between them, trying to grab
it between their knees.  Whoever managed it 'best out of three'
was the winner.  My 'mallet' was the sponge tied to a cane
with thongs painted onto it - with blue HUMBROL
paint no less.  (I didn't have brown or yellow.)

Anyway, it's time to wrap up this self-indulgent post,
and I'll do so by telling you all something that I probably
shouldn't admit to.  A few years ago, I purchased a replica toy
hammer of Thor (a large one) from FORBIDDEN PLANET -
the one bearing the inscription "Whosoever holds this hammer..."
One dark night, I got a pal to run me along to my former neighbour-
hood, and unobserved (I hope), I walked over the remaining half of
the field where I'd played Thor as a kid (the other half had become
the site of amenity apartments for the elderly some years before),
clutching my mighty uru (okay, plastic) hammer, remembering
and re-creating a moment from my childhood, and bringing
the past closer to the present in the process.  Sure,
bonkers I know, but what the hell...!

I now have a newer version of Thor's MJOLNIR -
more like the JACK KIRBY incarnation - and I may well
be tempted to take it along to my old environs one fine ebony
evening and repeat the glad event.  So, if things suddenly turn
quiet on this blog for a while, you'll all know what's transpired.
After all, I can't publish posts from the cells of my local cop
shop - there's no flippin' internet access.  Oh, just one
more thing... "For ODIN!  For ASGARD!" 

 (Nurse, I feel much better now.)

******

I've just remembered re-creating Thor's battle with
HERCULES (which I'd just read in the 1968 FANTASTIC
Summer Special) with STUART MUNN, in a corner of the
school playground, either on a weekend or during the summer
holidays.  Doubtless another time when another kid was so
bored, he played along with my superhero fantasies.

8 comments:

Colin Jones said...

It's just daft that an ancient Norse hammer would have English instructions written on it but even modern Marvel draws Thor's hammer that way. The words should be written as runes or something which magically enable the reader to understand...I don't know, they can do anything in comics.

But I can sympathize with you re-creating that childhood moment - in my town centre there's a building that was once a cinema (I saw Star Wars, Sinbad & The Eye Of The Tiger and various other films there) and I pass it on my way to Tesco. I sometimes stand by the front doors to "re-create" the days when I was standing in line to see a film - it's always in the early morning when I do this so nobody is around to see me. My first ever film, When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth, was viewed at a different cinema which has since been demolished and is now an empty plaza so if I stand in the plaza I'm on the same spot as my first film experience :)

Kid said...

Well, how do you know that's not exactly what happened, CJ? Maybe the inscription was Norse, but as Blake speaks and reads English, that's the way he (and the readers) saw it. (Remember, he was Thor all along anyway.)

The ABC cinema in Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street where I saw Reeves' first Superman movie and Keaton's first Batman film (10 years apart) is now a concert venue, but the doorway and foyer look pretty much the same. When I acquired a replacement Superman The Movie poster (exclusive to Scotland) a couple or so years back, I stood in the doorway with it, to re-associate it with the place I'd bought my original in January '79. What's that, Nurse - time for my medicine?

John Pitt said...

Naturally we would play at Batman & Robin, but, as they were the only Super-Heroes on the screen in the sixties, we never bothered with anyone else. A few years earlier though we would play "knights in armour", balaclavas as chainmail, ( I actually had a grey, plastic knights outfit ) and the 3/4 Mustekeers, complete with a cowboy hat and our mac fastened with one top button around our neck as a cloak!

Kid said...

Why couldn't you have lived in my neighbourhood, JP? We'd have had a lot of fun playing comics and TV heroes. (I also used to play at The Man from U.N.C.L.E. - and Time Tunnel.)

John Pitt said...

In the early sixties, our Teacher recommended that we went to the cinema to watch "Ben Hur", so I pestered my Mother to take me! - This led to my next fad - Roman soldiers and that following Christmas I got a real metal ( aluminium? ) Roman outfit to wear as well!

Kid said...

Never had a Roman outfit, JP, but I've got a collectors' item action figure of a Roman soldier who looks just like Russell Crowe. It doesn't say that on the box though, because it's an unauthorised likeness.

John Pitt said...

Just remembered, my parents confiscated the metal sword off me for stabbing the element of the electric fire and blowing the fuses! If the sword had not had a wooden handle, I would have electrocuted myself!
I was very nearly "SPARKED-ICUS"!!

Kid said...

"No - I'm Sparked-icus!" Can't recall if I've told this purportedly true story before, but one of Kirk Douglas's sons was a singer who did a night club act. One night he was singing his heart out, but the audience were chatting amongst themselves and not paying him the attention he felt he deserved. So he stopped singing and said something like "Look, I'm here trying to entertain you and you're disrespecting me by not listening. Do you know who I am? I'm Kirk Douglas's son." There was silence for a second, and then a voice from a corner piped up "No, I'm Kirk Douglas's son!" Then another and another, etc., from all around the room - "No, I'm Kirk Douglas's son!" That's supposed to be a true story, but if it isn't, it ought to be.

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