When something would get under my dad’s skin, usually it had something to do with hippies, the Beatles or the graduated federal income tax system; he would start pulling on his right ear.
Over time all of my brothers and sisters, with the acumen of trained anthropologists, would observe the telltale signs of the silverback in our living room getting close to blow his top and seek shelter. You didn’t want to be there when it happened. Fortunately it wasn’t an everyday occurrence and when it did happen it was gone almost as quickly as it came.
Watching the deluge of coverage of the Comic-con convention in San Diego has me going for my lower lobe, and running to the New Testament where St. Paul proffers, “When I was child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child: when I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:11).
Now don’t get me wrong, I like a good comic book popcorn movie in the summertime as much as the next guy, just not as much as the next guy standing in broad daylight bulging out of some yellow spandex one-piece suit representing some obscure — well, obscure to me — super hero, super villain or super something. Besides wondering if most of these fellow travelers had ever heard about low-fat diet regimens, I also can’t help but worry that, as much as I vowed never to do it, I am becoming just like my dad.
A point of clarification: I will never be like my dad when it comes to courage, strength and deepness of faith. He raised 10 kids on a grocer’s salary, had about as much disappointment and discouragement as any man should have to take. Still he came out on the other side of it with not only a deep and abiding love of Christ and His Church, but having bequeathed that faith to each of his 10 children.
Seeing television reports on the floor of Comic-con showing attendees in their fantasy and horror regalia makes one wonder just how much leisure time and disposable income really is out there in the culture. For my dad, adolescence ended in high school.
He didn’t start working only five days a week until the last few years of his working life. And when you’re sending 10 kids to Catholic school and you have to clothe and feed them as well, the many hundreds or probably thousands of dollars it takes to build one of those cos-play costumes is really out of the question. And forget about leisure time. The only amount of that came on Sunday when our entire clock perceptibly slowed to a crawl — informed by Scripture once again.
The people at Comic-con pretend to be heroic, but my dad actually was, even though he would never be seriously considered as bankable fodder for even a made for TV movie. And as far as I can predict, a uniform consisting of a grocer’s apron, white shirt, black slacks and sensible shoes wouldn’t get many cos-play aficionados excited.
But Comic-con is big business. It generates over $100 million in revenue for the hotels, restaurants and probably spandex repair shops in San Diego and every major motion picture comes to pay respects to the forever adolescents and showcase their new products and tease the audience with glimpses of things to come.
Nostalgic TV is also heavily represented as people dress up in retro super hero costumes harking back to the 1960s “Batman” series and, of course, “Star Trek” which seems like it actually will live long and prosper.
Whether television informs the culture or the other way around, it is clear that the coming television fall season is going to make many of the Comic-con adherents happy. There are currently 18 fantasy/horror/sci-fi series slated for the television schedule in late 2014 and there are an additional 11 more series waiting in the wings lest any of these former shows falter.
I have no intention of crusading against the horror/fantasy genre, organizing a television boycott, or championing a petition drive to stop grown men and women from indulging their inner children by dressing up and playing make-believe. But in a very strange and non-sequitur kind of way, the infantile and childish nature of Comic-con has given me a greater appreciation for the grown-up heroic qualities of my father.
Work hard, get yourself to Mass and thank God for all your blessings is not the stuff of sci-fi super heroes, but it’s not a bad truly heroic model to emulate as we pulse our path through the Milky Way Galaxy.
Robert Brennan has been a professional writer for more than 30 years, including many years in the television industry. He has been a contributing writer for the National Catholic Register for many years and has also been published in Our Sunday Visitor and This Rock.