Too Many Long Boxes!

End of Summer

The Quest for Campiness

by Russ Yocum

My Search for the Legends of the Superheroes

Having been born in 1971, I was too young to have seen Adam West's "Batman" in first run. Yet, I have fond memories of the eternal re-runs. Syndicated Batman in our area was on Sunday. My big sister would make tons of french fries and we would watch Adam West and Burt Ward on our TV in their colorful garb with our fries and a vat of ketchup. To me the only worthy superheroes were Batman and Robin (I heard of that Superman guy, and saw some of the George Reeve black and white re-runs, but he just didn't do it for me). Consequently, the only true comic worth buying was anything that had Batman on the cover. My purchases were always more eager when other members of the Batman family graced the cover with Batman. I suppose I thought I was getting more bang for the buck!

My horizons expanded in 1978 with the two-night "Legend of the Superheroes" starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Along with Frank Gorshin (the Riddler) they reprised their roles from the original Batman series. Seeing other "real-life" versions of heroes on the screen was truly awe-inspiring to me. The Atom, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Captain Marvel (who I always mistakenly called Shazam!), Black Canary, Huntress. This was a cornucopia of heroes. Seeing these other heroes on the small screen prompted the addition of titles like World's Finest and Justice League of America to my comic buying habits. I still preferred ones with Batman on the cover, but like before, the more heroes on the cover the better.

Like the original Batman TV series, LOSH worked on two different levels. Kids loved the colorful heroes straight from the pages of their favorite comic, but didn't get the inside jokes and sexual innuendo that were aimed at the adults.

The two episodes were "The Roast," and "The Challenge." In The Roast, Ed McMahon hosted a "celebrity" style roast of a retiring hero, "Retired Man." In the process some embarrasing antecdotes were revealed about the other more familiar heroes. The second episode was The Challenge wherein the heroes had to split up to battle a plethora of super villians who perpetrating a bomb scare. Being more action packed, this episode was far more memorable to me. I enjoyed these episode and owe nearly three decades of comic enjoyment to having seen these Legends in live action. Who knows, otherwise my comic enjoyment might still be limited to Batman, and Detective Comics.

Alas, I was only able to watch LOSH when it originally aired. It has never been released to video or been re-run. My quest to see LOSH again began in earnest when my 6 year old son started enjoying superheroes. Among his enjoyment of a wide range of guys in long underwear has been a healthy dose of Adam West Batman re-runs on FX and the Batman movie on VHS. I remembered LOSH and knew that my son would love it. I began searching the internet to see if this movie had been released on video. This is when I learned that the movie was only aired the one time and had not been released to video. I even sent suggestions to NBC (the original network to air it) and SCI-FI to re-run the show. Finally, I saw someone offering a copy of a copy of a... you get the picture, on e-bay. It was going for 5 bucks but someone bought it before I could bid. I contacted the buyer and offered him a 5 spot if he would copy it over to a blank tape which I would send him in a post paid package. He agreed and today I just received my copy in the mail. Tonight, after our 21 month old goes to bed, I will watch Legends of the Superheroes again for the first time in 23 years. My 6 year old will watch it with me, and he will be a year younger than I was the first time I saw it. Afterwards, I will send my 6 year old off to bed, do some work on an inking submission and then go outside and enjoy an adult beverage and a fine cigar. I will look up at the stars in the Florida sky and contemplate on growing old, re-living my childhood in proxy by playing with my sons toys and reading his comics, and the timeless appeal of superheroes.

When I was a child, first seeing Legends of the Superheroes; the major concerns in the world were starvation and nuclear war with the Soviets. Today the concerns are AIDS, and the faceless, random acts of cowardly terrorism that can hit without warning. Heroes and escapist fantasy are just as important in today's world as they were to the world of 23 years ago. World peace and an end to starvation and disease would be absolutely wonderful. Yet, I almost hope that the world never gets so utopian that the need for fictional heroes to look up to fades away.

I challenge you all to try to rebuild your comic collections and other childhood memories. Find that Batman Family # 20 you need to complete your set. Scour the quarter boxes of comics for that old Justice League, you know, the one with Green Arrow on the cover calling it quits. Search the internet for that episode of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, or Shazam that you can vaguely remember, but would love to see again.

Heroes make the world a better place.

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