Sunday, March 2, 2014

I still like old stuff

I haven’t changed much since September 1993, when I spun off these words for a four-minute radio report about the steam engine Milwaukee Road 261, which had been restored and was carrying an excursion train through Wisconsin’s Fox River Valley.

I like old stuff. I always have. I’d rather watch Charlie Chaplin in the movies, or Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby than tonight’s sitcom. I’m a comic book fan, but I’d rather read Captain Marvel battling Dr. Sivana than the stuff that passes for heroics nowadays.   
I prefer the warm sound of vinyl records with all their clicks and ticks to the cold, precise cleanliness of a CD. I think Emily Bronte and Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote rings around contemporary novelists.  
Even on the information superhighway, I like clunking along in the rumble seat of our Commodore 128 when I exchange bytes with other computer buffs, even though we have a perfectly fine version of last year’s Macintosh at home. It’s in the genes, I guess: My father waited to buy his first color TV until the late 1970s.

Twenty years along the line, I still love old stuff. (Oh, the Commodore is packed away somewhere, but I type these words on a seven-year-old iMac.) I didn’t mention it at the time, but by 1993 I had already created a superhero named Myke Phoenix, whose adventures I have finally begun chronicling monthly, just as I’d hoped to do all those years ago. It just took a little time to get him off the ground.

The series, I think, can trace its roots to three influences of the 1930s and ’40s:

  • Captain Marvel, the Big Red Cheese who fought outlandish threats and bad guys with a sense of innocence and whimsy.
  • Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze, and his band of friends who traveled the world righting wrongs. Here I am influenced as much by the creator as the creation: Lester Dent, writing as Kenneth Robeson, astonishingly published 180 short novels, one every month, for more than a decade and a half. I always wanted to try something like that.
  • The Spirit, Will Eisner’s immortal weekly comic book that was inserted into Sunday newspapers for many years. Again, the influence is as much the creator: Will Eisner wrote short stories set to the music of comic-book style art, stories about people, and sometimes The Spirit himself barely makes and appearance except perhaps to help clean up the mess. Search for a link between The Spirit and Myke Phoenix in stories like The Song of the Serial Kisser and Night of the Superstorm, where Myke is more of a supporting character than a centerpiece.
This week I release the fifth ebook in a series of 12, Duck Man Walking. My blurb for this installment is:

How do you trust a guy after he’s tried to kill you a few times? That’s the dilemma facing Myke Phoenix, superhero extraordinaire, in “Duck Man Walking.” 
One of Myke Phoenix’s most impossible foes, the half-man-half-duck Quincy Quackenbos, is released from prison. Rumor has it that after years of trying he cracked the code and has developed the formula that can kill Myke Phoenix.  
Are the rumors true? Or is Quackenbos telling the truth when he claims he’s turned his back on his criminal past? Find the answers mere moments from now in “Duck Man Walking,” just a click away.

I issued about 80 episodes of a podcast called Uncle Warren’s Attic; I have boxes and shelves full of goodies from bygone eras; and now I have a monthly superhero series that is best described as “new pulp” fiction, and it has all happened for a very simple reason:

I like old stuff.

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