Poor Aquaman. Breathing water and talking to fish is a lame superpower. He cannot save the world without help. Unless, of course, it is a fish-based evil spawned by an underwater supervillain.
That’s what it feels like to work for an hour on making a scan of my colored pencil tribute to the Aquaman art of Murphy Anderson. You don’t see the problem? My flatbed on my scanner is too small for this work of art. So, I must scan in it in pieces, then puzzle it back together with an art-editing program. Look carefully for the seams. You can’t miss them.
But when it all goes wrong, what do I do about it? Well, I pretend it makes a good post and that I wasn’t planning anything better, post it, and move on. So stop laughing at me for screwing it up. Aquaman can’t do any better. But, wait, this is a humor blog. Go ahead and laugh. I will take what I can get.
I was a comic book nut from a very early age. I started collecting comics in 1966 when I was ten years old. Almost as soon as I started collecting them, I began copying the drawings, copying Spiderman, Hawkeye, Captain America, Avengers, and Batman. I am a comic book lover, and I am also a comic book plagiarist. But I promise to use my own artwork and photographs to illustrate this blog post. After all, I am illustrating being a copy cat.
Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad in the style of artist Curt Swan in 1962.
My parents didn’t approve of kids with comic books. I desperately wanted Spiderman comic books and Avengers comic books, like the ones I read in the barbershop every time I was waiting for a haircut. But they had gotten wind of Frederic Wertham’s campaign against comic books two years before I was even born. The learned psychiatrist insisted that comic books corrupted children with sexual images hidden in the artwork (oh, gawd, look where Saturn Girl’s hands are… close anyway), Batman and Robin were homosexuals trying to influence young boys to be gay, Wonder Woman was a lesbian who was into bondage. This he said in 1954, but it didn’t really reach my parents’ ears in rural Iowa for another 12 years. The result was severe limits on my comic book ownership possibilities. But Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes were acceptable, as were Casper the Friendly Ghost and Scrooge McDuck.
So, my copy above of Curt Swan’s work is from the Legion of Superheroes. Superman was boy-scout enough to qualify too. I could get by with Tarzan even though he was a mostly naked guy running around the jungles. And time and money solve a lot of problems. I was allowed to subscribe to Avengers and X-men and the Amazing Spiderman once I had field-work money to put towards it. I drew lots of comic book heroes from that point onwards.
I learned how to draw men with unhealthy amounts of muscles, women with waists that would break in two with the amount of breastly boobage a teenage boy would pack on top, and numerous people who actually seemed to think capes made sense as a fashion statement. I also learned how to do shading in pen and ink and foreshortening from master artists like John Romita Jr. and George Perez and Barry Windsor-Smith. And I would be remiss if I didn’t give proper credit to Murphy Anderson and Jack “King” Kirby. I know you don’t know who those people are because you are not the comic book nut I am… nobody is. But believe me, they are masters of an American Art form. And I will never be one of them, because even though I am almost as good as some of them, I chose to be a teacher instead of being a comic book artist, a thing I could’ve so easily succeeded at back in the 1980’s. You should know this too… I have never regretted making that choice.
Yes, Futterwacken, the dipsy-doodah dance of the Mad Hatter. That is what life has been for me of late. This is my first school year in 33 years wherein I will not be teaching at all. The two jobless school years in 2005 to 2007 saw me teaching a cappella without a safety net (in laymen’s terms, substitute teaching- where a good sub can be called at the last possible minute to fly across town to take the class from hell that the regular teacher can’t tame with a whip and a chair. (Personal survival is entirely optional.) ) (Wow! I never pulled off a parenthetic expression inside a parenthetic expression before.) Being now in the eighth month of the Mad Tea Party of retired-teachery-ness, I have never truly been so free and schedule-lite before. I have pulled off repairing siding and painting the house while being arthritic and extra-wobbly on an aluminum ladder. I have registered two children for school three times (my son Henry in two different schools this school year). I have written and completed three novels (The Bicycle-Wheel Genius, The Magical Miss Morgan, and Superchicken). I have signed a contract to get one published in extreme slow-motion (Snow Babies). And I have managed this blog with the latest accomplishment being 36 daily blog posts in a row and uncounted Paffooney pictures, both photographical and colored-pencilical. I have invented three new words in this blog post alone (according to my computer spell-checker who was apparently an anal-retentive old-maid school teacher from the New England countryside in a past life.) So, imagining myself as a Mad Hatter, dancing a disjointed dance where my head spins like a top, is not so far out after all. Let me share with you one last wacky Paffooney choice for no particular reason…
Or maybe this Paffooney was to honor the comic book artist Murphy Anderson who inspired it. (Yeah! I’m gonna go with that explanation).
Today’s Paffooney is a tribute to a childhood hero, Aquaman. I drew the picture from a comic book inspiration source coming from DC Comics in the 1960’s. Aquaman is a B-level superhero with not nearly so many fans as the big three, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. He was, however, my second favorite after Spiderman. He was more important to me than the Avengers. And this was strange, because I only had the chance to read the sacred comic books in the old barbershop in uptown Rowan. I only remember about two different issues that I was able to read during the long wait for a haircut. (Haircuts on Saturday took forever, because all the bald and crew-cut farmers would take forever getting their hair cut. And they hardly had any hair! I think the barber cut each hair individually.)
Aquaman and Aqualad would journey together in an incredible undersea world of sea monsters, giant fish, scuba divers, villains like Black Manta, and Mera, a real hot underwater babe. Topo the octopus could play comic relief by playing musical instruments or getting drunk on old lost kegs of pirate rum. I became a part of the adventure. I’m not sure whether I imagined myself more as Aquaman himself, or Aqualad. Aqualand was dressed all in red and blue, my favorite colors. I liked his blue swim-trunks. I myself could never wear swim trunks without a fatal case of embarrassment over my knobby knees and hairy legs. I admired Aqualad’s smooth and muscled boy-legs, though not without some shame and embarrassment. Some suggest that the relationship between Aquaman and Aqualad was a homo-erotic thing just like Batman and Robin. But, hey… NO IT WASN’T! It was a hero and sidekick that mirrored the complex relationship between a father and son. My father and I could never talk at any deeper level than Aquaman talked to Aqualad. Yet my father had super-powers for solving my problems and helping me do things and make things. Yes, I think I loved Aquaman because he reminded me of my own father in his quiet competence.
And I had a Captain Action Aquaman costume, a Christmas present and wonderful treasure. I played with it so much that only the broken trident, mask, and swim fins remain. The rest was all broken and unraveled and disintegrated from being played with. The Aquaman in my Captain Action collection has replacement parts in it to make it more complete. Yes, I spent time and money putting that toy back together so that I might play with it yet again.
So why is the super-powered King of the Sea so important to me? After all, his super powers are to breath underwater and telepathically talk to fish. I think, reading back over this stupid little essay, that the most important theme is the father-son thing. I never owned a single Aquaman comic book as a kid, but I watched him on Saturday morning TV. He was one of the Superfriends. And my father had been in the Navy on Aircraft Carriers. Yes, Aquaman is my favorite because Aquaman is secretly my father.