|Copyright MARVEL COMICS|
When I were but an 8 or 9 year old lad (he said in his best Hovis TV ad voice), only two of my friends were prepared to indulge my superhero roleplaying shenanigans by dressing up in homemade costumes and running around the neighbourhood pretending to fight crime. (The only 'crime' was our costumes, 'cos they were dreadful.) John was the first, and he was Robin to my Batman, and Philip was the second, and he was Wonder Man to my Power Man (or it may have been vice-versa). The latter two names were nicked from The Avengers tales reprinted in Terrific, a black and white weekly comic by Odhams Press which featured Marvel stories. I think they were originally villains, but we converted them into heroes to better fit our purpose.
Believe it or not, I came in for quite a bit of stick for my costumed activities, being the object of some ridicule from a few older local kids - who were much more interested in playing football and the like, as opposed to embracing more fantasy-orientated pastimes like I did. I realise now that their scorn was probably a facade to preserve their street cred with their pals, as I've since spoken to one or two other people who likewise cavorted as the Caped Crusader when they were a similar age to myself, give or take a year either way. The difference, in one instance anyway, was that they confined such roleplaying to their back gardens and didn't take it out into the surrounding environs where they'd be subjected to the scrutiny of their peers.
Just over 20 years later (1989), when Michael Keaton's Batman movie was a blockbuster hit, it seemed that everyone and their brother was wearing a Batman tee-shirt. I took great satisfaction in the realisation that I'd been a couple of decades ahead of them, a real 'trailblazer'. However, for much of my teenage years I grew up thinking that, a couple of pals aside, I was the only person my age who read superhero comics. It just didn't seem to be the 'in-thing' among 'ordinary' teenagers. So for a long time I believed that my comicbook collecting interests were the solitary pursuit of a select few who were destined never to meet, and was a guilty pleasure that shouldn't ever be admitted to outside of a close circle of friends. Imagine my surprise then, when I attended my first-ever comic mart in 1982, and saw men in their 40s, 50s, and older, searching through boxes on tables looking for some never forgotten cherished treasure from their youth.
And you know what? I thought it was sad. Small, nerdy, dishevelled-looking men with combover hairstyles and milk bottle spectacles, who one could all too easily believe had never had a girlfriend (or any relationship with a female of the species outside of platonic) in their lives. "How could they allow themselves to turn out like that?" I thought. Well, now I know. Okay, I still have a luxuriant head of hair that is doubtless the envy of many, as well as my own teeth, and I'm a fairly tall, handsome manly-man who doesn't look as if I'd blow over in a strong wind, but - as opposed to the youth in my early 20s that I was back then, I'm now older than most of the people I couldn't help but be silently aghast at, at that mart (in Glasgow's Royal Stuart Hotel in case you were interested) all those years ago.
In fact, having believed that comic collecting was the hobby of those cast in my own image - i.e., quiet, insular, inhibited, thoughtful individuals who were beyond the common throng of ordinary mortals, and was a 'secret', magical interest that only a few select adherents were privy to - I was extremely surprised to find that hundreds of other types of folk from all walks of life also shared my love of four-colour (and b&w) printed periodicals. It was a shock to discover that what I thought was a 'private garden' was open to everyone - high, low, good, bad, rich, poor, old, young, etc., etc. I must confess that it took the shine off it for a while, as something that I considered exclusive to me wasn't, in fact, exclusive at all. Some of these people seemed downright weird, not quite right, and it was with alarm that it struck me that I was probably perceived of in the same way by those who mocked me for playing at Batman as a lad and reading comics at any age.
Now I know what you're thinking - what a terrible snob! And you're right! In the ignorance of youth I felt that my hobbies, pastimes, interests, etc., helped mark me out as the individual I thought I was, and that I had a virtual monopoly on them. Maybe you were the same? Then comes the day when you find out that you're really not that special at all, and you're just another small, insignificant cog in the huge wheel of life, and that what you saw as your own personal playground (whether it's comics or anything else) is not confined to, or reserved for, your sole pleasure. Now I'm the sad old guy who should know better, searching for reminders from my past on the Internet and elsewhere, in pursuit of my expired youth, labouring under the delusion that I can somehow reclaim it. I'm hoist with my own petard.
So what are your thoughts, Crivvies? Did you once hold similar views as my younger self, or were you always aware that, underneath a few superficial differences, we're all the same? Jock Tamson's Bairns as it were.