When I was a youngster back in the fifties, my little brother Johnny and I could barely wait for Mom to get home on Friday afternoons from her weekly trip to the grocery store. As soon as we heard the car crunch into the gravel drive of our home on Aalf’s Road we would bolt out the door and down the steps to help her carry the brown paper bags up to the house. And then into the kitchen and onto the table with the two of us up to our armpits in those bags to see what she had brought us. And what she brought us were comic books. Sometimes we would get two each. My favorite comic book character, as you probably know by now, was Superman. But, of course, we also had Batman and Robin, Casper the Ghost, the Flash and so on.
I was elated back in 1978 when the first “Superman” movie came out with Christopher Reeve, co-starring with no less than Marlon Brando. It was fun to see how the special effects could finally bring it all to life on the big screen. I was not disappointed. But I suppose the bar was set pretty low back then: Are you old enough to remember the black and white TV series with George Reeves? George’s costume definitely needed some help. The Man of Steel looked as though he was wearing crumpled long johns as he went about his daily hero business. And what a coincidence that the 1978 movie starred a “Reeve” in place of a “Reeves?”
And Mom? Well, she was just as bad as us kids. She was still getting the South Bend Tribune at the age of 89 primarily so she could read the daily “funnies.” I will be doing the same if I make it that far.
The newspaper comics have changed over the decades, of course. “Mutt and Jeff,” “Popeye” and “Dick Tracy” have long ago been replaced with “Non sequitur,” by Wiley Miller, “Pickles,” by Brian Crane and one of my personal favorites, “Pearls Before Swine,” by Stephen Pastis. But, not surprisingly, these comics are not for kids. In fact, the strips carried in my local paper have nary a single comic that I can imagine would be of the least interest to our current batch of elementary and middle-schoolers.
But, that’s okay with me. That little chuckle or two I get over the comics each morning provides me with a bit of well-needed fortitude before heading out to face the daily challenge of upholding Superman’s motto of “Truth, Justice and the American way.”