I was very blessed in many ways to grow up when I did. In other contexts (see my Is There a Doctor in the House), I’ve talked about my Christian upbringing by my parents and at Wesley Memorial UMC in High Point and then Myers Park UMC in Charlotte. But in this post I’m dealing with my pop culture youth. My mother was a piano teacher and I was reared in a lot of classical music. My school system in High Point was progressive in regard to languages and the arts, and I began to play the violin in 3rd grade, continued right along into college and the UNC string quartet for a while. But I have to confess my first love was pop literature and pop music. You have to understand that I still have vivid memories of seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1964…. and that changed everything musically speaking. The first pop music concert I went to was Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Fundamentalist pastors were saying that’s already the slippery slope down to the devil’s music. I didn’t believe them. My philosophy was the same as Larry Norman on his great Only Visiting This Planet lp— ‘why should the devil have all the fun/good music?’ No reason I could see. But even before the Beatles I was watching cartoons (e.g. the Flintstones, the Jetsons, etc.) and reading comic books. Now DC comics were o.k., but they made their super heroes not all that easy to relate to. Whereas Marvel comics— I could relate to the teenage angst and difficulties of one Peter Parker. When I wasn’t busy playing basketball at home or at the Y, or doing music, I was reading Spiderman and some of the other great Marvel comics. This was long before Black Panther came along as a Marvel hero. This was back when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and Artie Simek and others were hand drawing and writing and coloring great story boards and turning them into comic books. This was back when Stan the Man was actually writing the stories. I seriously doubt we would even have had these comic books if computers and all that technology had shown up in the 1950s, watching the demise these days of print magazines in general. It was a golden age of human creativity before computers did it all for us.
What were my favorite comics? Well I already mentioned Spiderman. I liked Iron Man as well, and Captain America. I liked the Fantastic Four as well (and sadly they have been the ones worst served by Marvel movies in the past 30 years. The only FF movie was a bomb). I also liked Sgt. Fury and the Howlin’ Commandos. I wasn’t much into Norse mythology, so I didn’t much get into Thor. But I spent countless happy hours reading those Marvel comics, and they not only did me no harm, they reinforced my already clear Christian sense that: 1) there is both good and evil out there in the world and the latter must be combatted, and 2) human beings are flawed and too easily swayed in many cases by selfish and self-centered interests. Witness 2020 in America. I liked flawed and anxiety prone super heroes. They gave us all hope the flaws could be overcome, and good could result. And there was this larger theme that all of us have a duty to our society and world to make it a better and more safe place. ‘Enuff said’, as Stan the Man used to end his editorials with. I already miss his cameos in the recent Marvel films. They made the old Hitchcock cameos in his films seem tame!!!