Mom once worked the tall, wooden cubbyholes that contained the comic books in the northeast corner of the old Walker’s 5-and-dime department store on West Main Street in Elkin back in the day. With the books that did not sell, she’d tear the paper covers off and send them back to the distributor for store credit. The remainder she was free to take.
She took them to my young cousins who lived on North Bridge Street. Later, after I came along, I’d come upon those old comic books at my cousins’.
Thus I became fascinated with the tales of Superman and Batman. I couldn’t read, much, but I loved the color and the flying and the costumes and the action depicted in the books. Once in a while I’d coax someone to read a bit to me.
When I began reading on my own I began begging Mom for new books from Walker’s, Ben Franklin and Roses dime stores. I became quite a little fan of the caped heroes. I annoyed my folks and friends talking so much about them.
When a “Batman” TV show debuted in 1966 I mailed a request to WSOC in Charlotte for a bat decal. The TV station offered them free as a promotion.
I got Mom to rustle up some black cloth and make me a cape and mask. With the orange-and-black decal on back of the cape, I roamed the yard as Batman. I got some twine and tried climbing like the Caped Crusader, but the twine would break. So much for being Batman.
I lost interest as my teen years approached, but I kept a passing acquaintance with my old super buddies. When a “Superman” movie with Christopher Reeve debuted in 1979 I wrote a newspaper column in another town gushing about dreaming of flying like Superman.
They’ve done pretty well promoting those old comic-book heroes over the years. It’s remarkable that they’ve lasted so long. Though I don’t see the comic books anymore in stores here in the hometown, we’ve been able to keep up with the fictional heroes through various TV shows and movies.
And now we’re about to get hit with a cascade of comic-book tales that will come faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive. We’ve now got six prime-time TV shows adapted from comic books, two of them new this season. We’ve never had more than two at a time before. Oh to be 7 again.
And they’re about to release a flood of new comic-book movies, starting with the two biggest names, Batman and Superman. That film debuts Thursday.
You have to wonder why now, and why so much of it.
Superman and Batman became popular with the beginning of World War II. That’s ancient history to the youth of today. But back then, a world being torn apart looked for heroes. The comic books were a hit among troops overseas, they say.
It’s a different, more complicated and more skeptical America today. We’re not looking for heroes; in fact, it’s trendy these days to try and tear down our heroes. Look for that theme in the new movie.
I’m interested in how a new generation of Americans will greet the old heroes. Will we soar into the clouds with them or will we hand them kryptonite? The answer will be telling.
On a personal note: Wow, this marks the sixth anniversary of these “Hometown columns.” Thanks for reading.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.