Saturday, June 14, 2014

Thor Odinson Vs. Norrin Radd

It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog, is an old friend, follows me on Tumblr/Twitter/Instagram or even knows me a little bit that I'm a HUGE geek. I fall into the mostly sci-fi geek tribe nowadays but my base is comic books, like I imagine many people who are also in this tribe. Hell, that was partially how I learned to read. We usually begin as those weird kids who know how Rogue got her basic powers beside power/personality absorption,(1) can tell you who was in the originals Defenders line-up,(2) can name the founding members of the original Legion of Super-Heroes as well as their benefactor(3) and can explain to you the complicated family tree of the Summers family.(4) We grow and get picked on sometimes and sometimes graduate to more mature geeky readings and movies and TV shows, like Lord of The Rings, BSG and The X-Files. Us old geeks were geeky before it was cool to be geeky. We took those early blows so that you gals and guys could be comfortable in your geeky skins now.

You're welcome.

The person I need to thank who helped me (and therefore you neo-geeks) on this geeky path was my father. He showed me the Star Wars trilogy reinforcing the Hero's Journey, praised EightMan and gave me that early taste of anime and loudly talked throughout the premiere of Jurassic Park with the accompanying laughter of a surprisingly predominately Caucasian audience. He did all of this but most importantly he introduced me to comic books. He was an artist and comic books were an art form that could be enjoyed by a wide age-range. It encompassed ALL the possible stories that could be told by mankind, like all good science fiction. From a nerdy teen from Queens who got powers from a radioactive arachnid to a family of explorers fighting a mystical/technological Eastern European dictator to tales of soldiers in Vietnam to humanity fighting aliens in the far future for survival, comic books had it all. We loved them all but our favorites usually came from the Marvel vaults.

My father's favorite was The Mighty Thor. It was Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and The King, Jack Kirby himself, at their most operatic and most bombastic. Many other writers followed but I think the Walter Simonson run was his favorite. It captured the original Journey Into Mystery feel with more flair. It was a story of generations and space gods doing battle with other gods and monsters.

I was meh about the whole thing. Thor was a product of the 1960s to the weird 1980s to me. He was a big, whiny, blonde guy who talked funny and had a hammer. Yes, he was mythic and could bring down great and terrible weather conditions but I already had Storm in the X-Men and she was a foxy Black woman so, there you go. I think my dad liked him because Thor was very much a part of the "epic hero saga." The Odinson's stories were about family issues at their heart and having companions that were fated to play roles until Ragnarök took them all. I think the destiny thing worked for my dad because the actual life people live is not written out by the universe for us. There is comfort in that story, even if your fate is to fall in Ragnarök after defeating the Midgard Serpent Jörmungandr, who ultimately poisons you. It is a doomed end but it is also a noble and heroic one. A "manly end."

I could take or leave this big, flaxen haired warrior when I was younger but dad introduced me to another Lee/Kirby creation. An argent agent of a massive purple humanoid force of nature. The herald of the universal planet eater, Galactus. He was Norrin Radd of doomed Zenn-La, also known as the Silver Surfer.

Yes, he was also a bit whiny but I got his complaints. Thor was a child angry at his father with vast powers and some weird anger issues. The Silver Surfer had legitimate beefs. He was a smart dude yearning to explore on a planet of people that were very comfortable with their condition on an Utopian world. Despite this, he sacrificed his life and soul to save them and the woman he loved. He came to Earth and recognized the nobility of these aliens called humans that were very similar to him. He rebelled against his master, saved another planet of people and was rewarded by being trapped there. He complained a bit but he had adventures still and accepted his conditions with bravery and a stoic, at times, resolve. Plus, he "surfed" and I lived a block from the beach.

I understood this dude.

I liked this dude.

You know who I'm rooting for here, folks.

Norrin was a loner with a broken heart looking for other weirdos who understood him. He was a traveler, always looking for the next lesson, the next adventure. He rebelled against authority. All of these qualities oddly got to me when I was a young kid, before anything similar happened to me.(5) And he kept evolving. He eventually got off of Earth and had crazy space adventures and fought mad gods and teamed up with the angry duo of The Hulk and Namor, who I still say is the dickiest of all characters except maybe Black Adam. They even have similar dickish haircuts but let's move on.


Looking back, maybe the reasons why my dad gravitated to this Nordic space god and I went for the silver rider of cosmic waves were simple. All of the time he was with us dad had family that wasn't really family. I was introduced to people my father grew up with, all his friends. People he loved and treated as family but weren't blood. His family wasn't around or he didn't connect with them or vice versa. I didn't meet any of my father's family until his funeral last month. He has one sibling, a brother, that I've never seen or met but my father would always say that "Sean, you are exactly like him. I had my brother's child." He picked his family and  created his family from his friends and his children that he raised to varying degree. Maybe Thor being pretty much a family saga called out to something deep in his psyche and soul. That feeling of being connected by fate, destiny and blood that he was missing.

All related.

And if that was the case, maybe the opposite was why I liked the Silver Surfer so much. I have a TON of family. Always have and they have, usually, been near or around me. My cousins have lived in the same house as me at a few points or down the street or a couple of blocks away. I've always had an uncle living in the same house with me; I have one doing so right now. My grandmother always lived above me. My younger brother and I are usually in close proximity to each other and my oldest sibling always used to come by and forced me to not sleep in my own bed when I was little. My life has always been lousy with family. (6)

But even with all this family, I've felt alone many times. Not lonely but alone. I've always searched out for more people like me, who shared similar likes and dislikes. My family is filled with smart people but I was always the geeky, weird guy reading the encyclopedia in the empty bathtub. I was the non-fighter of my siblings. The well behaved one. The one who would go down this already prescribed path to success.

I wanted out.

I liked to go exploring. I tried different things. I was the guy who would hop on a plane to try somewhere new or go for a visit to a friend nowhere near me. (7) My sister and her family moving around helped me to scratch my new place itch at times. I moved out to Vegas.

I also loved being around my new like-minded and mostly geeky or nerdy friends. But, I also liked being alone. Going for walks by myself. Sitting at the beach, solo. Exploring the church on campus. Maybe it because I didn't always fit in with my friends either. They seemed more sure of themselves. They were/are certainly cooler than me. I would and still get into my "Sean needs to be alone" moments.

I was Norrin Radd. (8)

Mr. Solo Dolo.
Maybe I'm reading too much into our preferences on who was the better character in these old funny books. I'm no psychologist. I think I might be partially correct about my dad and I feel pretty confident that I'm 90% right about my own self-diagnosis.

Yeah, this seems right.
Either way, I owe that DAD guy a lot. Not just for half my DNA but for the love of this geeky life he gave me. He provided the foundation to build on. I wasn't always his fan and we didn't always see eye to eye on certain things, comic book characters being one of those things, but I always loved the man. That love was expressed in our discussions about who would win in a fight or which characters had the best story arcs or why he loved Lord of the Rings so much and, as he got sicker, what was going on in the universes of four color heroes. It was how we connected, like the way he connected with my other siblings through talking about their kids, or boxing or basketball. Me and my father had comic books, geeky movies, drawing things and the whole landscape of science fiction. 

So far, at least in the movie world, his guy is beating my guy. I like the cinematic Thor WAY more than the Silver Surfer in the Fantastic Four movies. But, I'm not giving up on my guy yet. Maybe someone will do my guy justice. Maybe I'll do him justice because that might be the most important thing I got from my father- a belief that anything was possible. 

Tales could be created and you could bring things into existence if you put enough effort into creating characters, ideas and concepts that people could relate to and adopt for themselves. Thor or Silver Surfer, if you could get behind them as more than characters, could become real in your world. You could give them life like the masters that did it before you.

My father created life through me and his other kids and their kids. He touched the life of his wife in immeasurable ways. He was a beloved man by his friends and co-workers and pretty much anyone that encountered him. He might not have realized all his dreams but he is certainly inspiring me right now to go after mine. I'll always love him for that.

Thanks, Dad. I won't bust Thor's chops (too much) anymore, for you. Maybe we'll meet again, pass the rainbow bridge Bifrost and Heimdall's all-seeing eyes in Valhalla, in eternal Asgard. (9)

I can imagine it. I owe you that.

(1) She absorbed Carol Danvers powers AKA Ms. Marvel, who is now Captain Marvel and got her powers from a Kree device and took her name from Mar-Vell, also know as Capt. Marvel. Ms. Marvel is now Kamala Khan.
(2) Dr. Strange, Namor and the Hulk. Some people often include Silver Surfer but he wasn't in the original mission versus The Nameless One and The Undying Ones.
(3) Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Boy(Lad). I guess you can include Superboy in there if you want. They were financed by RJ Brande.
(4) Do you have a few hours and a whiteboard?
(5) Well, maybe I was always a loner looking for "my people" but definitely no real heartbreak then. That didn't happen until like 6th grade when I was old and experienced.
(6) I mean "lousy" in the best way, guys. I love you all.
(7) Living on the last stop on the A train helped with that as well.
(8) I might still be Norrin Radd. I dunno.
(9) And Heimdall is a Black dude in our version too.