Superman Without the “S” on His Chest? (Or, The “Flaws” That Make Us Special)

By the turn of the year, 1940, Superman was already a sensation.  The Man of Steel had been around for just under two years, and, as the first comic book superhero, the titles he starred in (Action Comics and Superman) always were at the top of the marquee.  Imagine the surprise, then, with the publication of Action Comics number 20 (January 1940)  when the world’s greatest adventure hero appeared on the cover with a major omission on his costume.

 

It’s not hard to visualize the youth of America that holiday season of 1939-1940 (historically, comics always appear on the newsstands a month or so earlier than the date listed on their cover) as they spun the squeaky comic book rack at the corner store.  Browsing the covers of the new issues, trying to decide which one to plunk down their hard-won dime on, surely they would have paused when confronted with the cover of Action Comics number 20.  What sacrilege was this?  How could they make such a mistake?  And yet . . . there it was, for all to see.

The yellow triangle with the signature red “S” at the center that was supposed to grace the Man of Steel’s barrel chest was . . . missing!  In its place was . . . nothing—a blank, an empty spot orphaned of its famous emblem.  Was DC Comics changing Superman’s costume?  Had they decided it was too flashy, too loud?  But no.  Of course not.  When the following month’s issues arrived, the “S” had returned on Superman’s costume, confirming that the cover of Action Comics number 20 had been . . . an oversight.  A mistake.  A gaffe.

 

The result?  Not much.  It’s not as if the youth of the day rebelled and planned a “Superman strike,” protesting the publication’s carelessness.  They continued to support the Man of Steel, and Superman has not suffered.  He has been around for eighty years, after all, gracing thousands of comic books, not to mention a wide array of TV series and movies.  The Man of Tomorrow is enduring.

 

But so is the cover of Action Comics number 20.  Maybe the buying public of 1940 didn’t create a stir (though surely there were letters streaming in to the publisher’s offices that winter), but, as the decades ticked on and as comic book collecting became a major hobby worldwide, vintage comics enthusiasts began to take notice.  In fact, they especially sought out the issue.  Action Comics number 20 is now a prized item, often priced higher than the issues that immediately preceded it (a rarity in comic book collecting, unless a particular issue introduces a key character or for some reason had a smaller print run).  Look it up in the comic book price guide and the note will be provided:  “Superman appears without ‘S’ on his chest.”  Rather than creating a black eye for the issue, the costume oversight has made it something special, something unique, a one-of-a-kind presentation.

 

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In The Eye-Dancers and The Singularity Wheel, the protagonists also must deal with what they perceive as slights, flaws, blemishes that make them feel less-than or even freakish.  Mitchell Brant has a speech impediment.  Joe Marma is the shortest boy in his class.  Ryan Swinton is the tallest, and has a nasty case of acne.  Marc Kuslanski, as a junior-high student, is the class nerd; as he matures, he feels the need to shed his thick glasses and rid himself of the label.  And Monica Tisdale, “the ghost girl,” feels like an outcast, wielding a rare and devastating power that makes others—and sometimes even she, herself–fear her. Each of them must learn to accept, even appreciate, the very things they are ashamed of, the things others make fun of, belittle, name-call.

 

They are not alone, of course.  We all carry insecurities inside of us.  Some of them are nagging things, relegated to the back burner, a little voice that whispers in our ear at certain moments.  Others are monsters, albatrosses, wound tight around our neck like a gallows waiting to snuff the life from us.  No one is immune.

 

There is no magic spell, of course, no secret code or talisman to erase the things that dog us and threaten to drag us down.  Whether it’s some aspect about our appearance, or the way we talk, or the way we walk, or our professional acumen, or the way we furnish our home or the car we drive, or any and every other permutation imaginable, we are all imperfect, and we all feel the weight of it.

 

But, in this season of Thanksgiving, perhaps we can at least try to perceive our “faults” a little differently.  Maybe, just maybe, that “S” that’s missing from our chest makes us stronger, more genuine, more compassionate.  Maybe it’s the flaws that radiate the beauty and the potential within.

 

Just ask the Man of Steel.  If any character is said to be “perfect,” surely Superman—with his super-strength and super-memory and super-intelligence and super-morals and super-everything—tops the list.  And yet, for all that, it’s his decidedly imperfect cover from eight decades ago that is still, all these years later, remembered and treasured by the collectors and pop-historians who know him best.

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

Words of Wisdom from a Cartoon Character–Or, Reminders of the Meaning of the Season

Sometimes we just need to be reminded.  Sometimes world events, presidential elections, and our far-too-often harried personal lives threaten to throw us for a king-sized and ever-expanding loop.  The weather this time of year doesn’t help.  Daylight Savings is more than a fortnight in the rearview mirror; it’s dark when you go to work in the morning, and dark when you come back home.  And what little light there is, especially here in northern New England, is often muted by brooding thick gray clouds that hang low and bloated over the land, like dirty laundry concealing the blue beyond.

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For me, the reminders begin with the little things, the homey things, the kinds of things Truman Capote writes about at the beginning of his gem of a short story “A Christmas Memory” . . .

“Imagine a morning in late November.  A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago.  Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town.  A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it.  Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar.”

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Every year, early on Thanksgiving morning, when the house is dark and the sunrise is yet a rumor, I flip through some of the old classic comic books I’ve had since I was a kid, when I began a lifelong hobby of collecting comics.  Many of the issues I have tucked away in closets and boxes were printed decades before I was born.  Their pages, musty and faded with age, never fail to bring a smile.  There are old ads in those pages, tempting the children of sixty years ago with baseball gloves and magic tricks, radio sets and sea monkeys.

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And then there are the stories, of course–simple, far too often devoid of any real character or nuance, distilled to the most rudimentary of plot devices.  But for all that, they are brilliant, ingenious, and, perhaps most important of all, fun.  They offer a break from the stresses and strains of daily living, an escape from the next doctor appointment or set of bills, while simultaneously laying out a bridge to an imaginary world that is always there, only a thought away, ready and willing to amuse and cheer and revitalize us, if only we take the time to visit it.

On Thanksgiving morning, I spend fifteen, maybe twenty minutes with these old issues, these relics from a bygone era, these simple reminders of childhood . . .

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In the 1965 musical The Sound of Music–based on the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway classic of the same name–Julie Andrews’s character, Maria, sings about some of her favorite things:

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“Raindrops on roses/And whiskers on kittens/Bright copper kettles/And warm woolen mittens . . . Cream-colored ponies/And crisp apple strudels/Doorbells and sleigh bells/And schnitzel with noodles . . . Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes/Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes/Silver white winters that melt into springs . . .”  These are a few of her favorite things!

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It’s a basic list, simple and everyday; it echoes the sentiments of Capote’s “A Christmas Memory.”

But perhaps it was everyone’s favorite bookworm, Marcie, who said it best in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving:

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“But Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. . . . We should just be thankful for being together.  I think that’s what they mean by Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown.”

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

A Season of Thanksgiving, a Milestone Reached

I am always amazed at how time flies–or so it seems.  “The more I see, the less I know for sure,” John Lennon once said.  But it certainly feels like time speeds along, as if it were some majestic, brightly colored bird, wings outstretched, slicing through the crisp, still November air.

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It is hard for me now, sitting in front of my trusty old PC, to believe that I began writing The Eye-Dancers back in the first decade of this century, or that I started to conceive of an Eye-Dancers blog more than thirty full moons ago.  Perhaps, as Einstein said, time is an illusion.  How else to explain the swift passage of months and years?

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When I began this blog, I hadn’t a clue what I was doing.  (It can be argued that I still don’t!)  I had just written a novel, and planned on publishing it.  Other than myself, a few friends, and immediate family members, not a soul anywhere on earth or beyond knew of the soon-to-be book.  I needed a vehicle, something, anything, to “get the word out.”  One of the things I decided upon was a blog devoted to the novel, its characters, its themes, its inspirations, and the process that went in to writing it in the first place.

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It was a daunting task.  I knew nothing, less than nothing, about blogging, and had no idea if anyone “out there” would want to learn more about the novel, read about my interests, my take on writing and creativity, read my short stories . . .  It almost seemed egotistical.  Who was I to begin a blog?  Who was I to try and promote a book?  The doubts were very real.  As were the worries.  When I posted my first blog entry, I wondered, first and foremost, if it would be the online equivalent to a black hole and if anyone would even see it or read it; and, second, what their response might be if they did . . .

blackhole

 

But I also knew I had spent over two years writing and editing The Eye-Dancers.  I felt strongly about it, and I did not want the book to lie in a dark dresser drawer, or on a computer hard drive, as the case may be, collecting (virtual) dust, hidden from the world.

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“If you have built castles in the air,” Thoreau said decades and decades ago, from the mists and echoes of the nineteenth century, “your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”  That was what I intended to do.  I had a hammer, a chisel, and a determination to keep at it.

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Now I just needed to see how my posts would be received.

I learned very early on that there was no cause for concern.  No one came on the site and blasted the concept.  No one said, “Go home, you talentless wannabe.  We don’t need another sci-fi/fantasy blog!”  On the contrary . . . right from the first, fellow bloggers were welcoming, kind, interested, and, above all, supportive.  For a new blogger like me, it was just the encouragement I needed.

Gradually, slowly, day by day, The Eye-Dancers blog grew.  I remember the snowy winter day, nearly two years ago now, when I reached one hundred followers.  One hundred!  It was more than I had hoped for when I’d started.  It served as a tonic, a motivation to keep at it and keep going.

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Fast-forward to early November 2014, when The Eye-Dancers reached a milestone, going over 3,000 followers.  I never would have imagined this website would stick around this long, or continue growing as it has–and it wouldn’t have, it if it hadn’t been for the WordPress community.  I can’t thank each and every one of you enough.

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Because of you–your comments, support, interest, and willingness to read these random scribblings I come up with, The Eye-Dancers site has evolved from a place where I originally intended to simply promote my novel to a community of dreamers and writers and artists and thinkers and poets and friends.  It is a joy for me to be a part of.

dreamers

 

So consider this post a thank-you, from me to you in this month of Thanksgiving.  And though I’ve been blogging for over two years now, I can honestly say–this is still only just the beginning.

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There are so many posts yet to write, so many blogs to enjoy, so many dreams to dream.

Perhaps that last part is the most important–for all of us.  The Eye-Dancers, both the novel and the blog–is all about looking up at the stars on a clear night, seeing them sparkle, like distant diamonds in the sky, and having the courage and hope and faith to believe . . .

stars

 

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations,” Louisa May Alcott once wrote. “I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”

Thanks so much to all of you in the WordPress community for helping me, and inspiring me, to keep on reaching.  You’re the best.

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And thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

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