When I think about my childhood days - I see them like black and white newsreels - with splashes of colour from the fantasy comic world of heroes, spacemen and aliens found in Eagle comics - and later in Marvel and DC. I can remember living in a world inside my head that was full of heroes like Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future,
- Tom Swift, and his amazing adventures involving his own inventions......
I don’t feel too bad about that - perhaps I should. But I do know that my “virtual life” in my fantasy world developed into a gifted imagination - which has helped me a lot in life, by helping me see things from alternate perspectives - from “outside the box,” you might say.
I grew up (from birth to 15) in England, South London to be specific, in various suburbs with such typically “British” names as Brockley, Upper Norwood, and Penge, although my mother would always claim that we lived in Upper Sydenham (pronounced Siddenhum) - it was a class thing with her.
My family moved around various places in South London and Kent for most of my childhood - so I often was the “new boy” in class - so it was tough to make lasting friendships. We moved a lot because we lived in flats while I was growing up. We could never afford a single family home - those were either the luxury of the upper middle class or the “gift” of the government for those with a lower income. It had always seemed a little upside down to me as a kid that my friends, who my Mum and Dad assured me, came from “poorer” circumstances, had nice little houses with their own rooms and back gardens, while I had a tiny room in a flat with no separate garden.... I was quite sure that getting a “council house,” was not as demeaning as my parents made it out to be..
I was a chubby kid, and wasn’t very good at sports - nothing’s changed there. But as a kid it made me feel a little outcast and shy. So I used to play with a few close friends or I played with my imaginary “hero” friends. I liked them a lot better than the real ones anyway. My imaginary friends would never ask me if I wanted to play a game - then not pick me for their team....
My favorite games always involved me being some kind of hero - I liked masks, capes and gloves and anything that added realism to my secret identity. Don’t get me wrong, I did have friends who liked to act out these fantastic adventures with me - we’d lose ourselves for hours being these “invincible” avengers of justice. We’d wreak havoc among all the imaginary villains that would challenge our powers.
I used to love “Saturday Morning Pictures” - which was the British version of the kid’s matinee - where I’d sit through a bunch of cartoons and an invariably long and boring western film, waiting for the 10 minute serial episode of Commando Cody in “Radar Men from the Moon," or “Crash” Corrigan in the “Undersea Kingdom.”
As soon as the lights came up I’d rush home and put a box with eyeholes on my head and somehow attach the control unit from my train set to the front of my shirt, and spend the rest of the afternoon running and jumping into the air in my back garden -
“Look out baddies - it’s Commando Cody and his Rocket suit!!”
THE MARVELS OF MARVEL
I lived my fantasies mostly in black and white until the arrival of colour comics from America - they were even more real - amazing!!
There were DC Comics with Superman, Batman & Robin, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Aquaman - and my personal favorites The Flash, The Atom, and the little known Metal Men (who to this day I owe for helping me pass a difficult science test). Because of that comic, I knew the melting points of various alloys, because The Metal Men’s weakness, (all heroes have them), were geared around that very issue.
They all were the coolest heroes EVER....
Then one day I was at the local newsagent and discovered the world of Marvel comics - OMG!!!