Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My mommy always said there were no monsters...

Most of my childhood memories play back in my head as a happy, dizzy blur. Once in a while, though, time seems to slow down and my recollections clarify for those occasional painful, unusual or disquieting events that lay unresolved in my adult psyche. This post relates my near-mint-condition memory of a Very Weird Day I recall having as a kid that's haunted and perplexed me ever since.

I remember taking a nap one particular afternoon in the summer of perhaps my seventh year. I had a brief dream in which four classic Universal monsters: Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolf-Man, and Frankenstein's Monster, were meeting high above the earth in the misty upper reaches of the atmosphere. Oddly, as they strode through the clouds four-abreast (talking shop I suppose), Superman appeared. Just as the Monsters and the Man of Steel began to engage in a mind-blowing standoff, I was awakened to the sound of my mom calling me into the kitchen for lunch.

As I ate, something bothered me...the images I had dreamed about were somehow too familiar. Even stranger, the entire dream seemed to have been broken up and bound within static panels, which is an odd way to dream no matter how many comic-books one reads before nap-time.

I soon became convinced that the admittedly unlikely sight of Supes and a foursome of famous film freaks traipsing casually atop the thunderheads had come from somewhere outside my imagination.

So I sat in my bedroom for the remainder of the day, scanning through every comic I owned (modest estimate - about one zillion), certain that I would find the source of the dream's origin therein. I did not.

During dinner, I tried to explain my sudden manic obsession. My mom was skeptical. She posited that the bookcase full of Aurora Monster Models directly opposite my bed and my creepy habit of sleeping with my eyes open were probably the culprit. "We all dream funny things sometimes." she said kindly.

I would have none of it. Bolting from the table, I raced back to my room with redoubled determination. I sorted all my comics into ordered stacks and began methodically scanning them again. All of them. But by bed-time, I was forced to consider my mom's theory. And yet...I was so sure it wasn't my imagination, so sure in fact, that I remember actually bawling in frustration.

Over the years, my increasingly skeptical mind would turn to that afternoon, and I'd chastise myself for entertaining the notion that such an obviously subconscious-fueled mashup as "Superman and the Famous Monster Squad Cavort in Cloud City" could have existed in the pages of a comic book. Superman stories could get pretty silly, but this was over the fence. It was just a dream after all...

Or so I thought until last night, as I was perusing back issues of old Superman comics online, and came across this:

Superman #276, a test-run for the eventual meeting of Superman and Captain Marvel, although you can see by Cap's insignia that he's not quite himself (he debuted as Captain Thunder, actually, but for all intents and purposes he was essentially the same character).

The article continued, I scrolled down lazily, enjoying the feelings of vague nostalgia when suddenly my hand froze. Holy Moly.

Holy fucking MOLY!
I'd been right. After all these years - vindication!

And even though I got the actual identity of the caped hero wrong, the fact that those four monsters turned out to be as real as the nose on my face thrilled me to no end.

I have boxes and boxes of my old comics laying around. Taking a deep breath, I went to them. With dumb luck on my side, I opened the first box and found this very issue laying on top of the stack. I picked it up reverently, and my shaking fingers began flipping through the yellowed pages, searching intently - searching for that same quartet of monsters I had hunted for thirty years ago.

Once again they weren't there.

How could this be happening again? They have to be there! The internet insists!
Again I read through the panels and dialogue balloons, over and over, until at some point I reach the very middle of the book (where the staples live), and notice that the page numbers are not 10 is followed by page 13! The very pages I am now informed where Captain Thunder confronts and conquers the Monster League of Evil. I groan as the Great Mystery resolves itself.

I've no idea how and when those fantastic, fabled pages came to be lost. Torn carelessly out by one of my oafish playmates, I suppose.

Looking at the picture some more, I'm filled with awe. A meeting of genres I had spent over a quarter of a century convincing myself never happened was now staring me right in the face.

This Halloween I can finally lay that Very Weird Day to rest.
My monsters were real after all.


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