Monday, July 13, 2015

Super Heroes and Heroines... Beyond Comic Books

A Whole New Meaning For "Comic Relief"...

All that remains of the seventy-five year old icon of comic collectors is "his red hair and toothy grin."
No longer the bumpkin of the yesteryear "hip" era... he has been just lately transformed into an overly suave, Bieber-like bobblehead "Bad Boy" by the Archie Comics empire. His Riverdale High gang have suffered a similar fate. An upgrade? I wonder...

To quote from Toronto Star's columnist's description in her July 9th, 2015 column... "Archie's best friend, Jughead, still wears a crown, but in every other respect he looks more like a stoner than a jester."

Despite the suggestion by the chef executive officer that the brand was emblazoned in readers' minds as a nostalgic stereotype and that the wave of emerging indie titles was sweeping into comic book stores"... my own very late teenage lads still hanker for an Archie in their stocking and even to this very day continue to display copies on their bookshelves in their college rooms. This behaviour hardly fits with suggestion of the chief executive officer at Archie Comics... "that Archie was moving down the path of irrelevancy."

Liam... aged... a tall and intelligent fifteen..."in quiet conversation"... with Archie

As I was out doing chores this past week, I found myself tuned in to our local WNPR radio waves and happened upon an interesting broadcast which dealt with the phenomena of super heroes such as Superman. As a youngster, I always enjoyed reading Superman, long with other favourites Like Donald Duck, Little Lulu, The Black Hawks... and the Classics for 15 cents... just to recall a few.

Trading comics regularly with other neighbourhood kids was a passionate 50's pastime for kids like myself who were on a limited allowance. I went door-to-door soliciting... with all my trades in my CCM wagon. Looking back on this activity, the social and educational benefits were huge. It taught me salesmanship and helped me develop self-confidence and new friendships aside from my school chums. It also increased my penchant (which continues to this day)... to prefer to read books accompanied by pictures.

The public radio broadcast also reflected upon the creation of the comic book heroine Wonder Woman in the mid 1940's. Her fortunes soared because of huge appeal to male readers due of her statuesque beauty... and she captured the imagination and consciences of young girls and women... who saw her persona as an opportunity to elevate the possibility of heroism in women - unheard of in a time with the accepted and unchallenged dominance by powerful male images of conquest such as Batman and Superman.

Perhaps the rise of female characters/heroines in comics coincided with the necessary emergence of women in the work force during the war years which sparked the soaring popularity of Wonder Woman... enabling her to continue to maintain her popularity as the most dominant super hero figure of all time and right up until today.

Comic books introduced us all (in a skewed manner) to the notion of what heroes and heroism was about from a very young age. In my own mind, the notion focused too strongly upon control and dominance... magical powers or superhuman physiology attributes. It did disservice to the notion and probability that heroes and heroines could be... and were actually very "ordinary", in every sense of the word. They might actually be neighbours, friends, family members... or our Selves! The possibility of that  purely a matter of perspective... and an active Faith in one's Self.

Beyond the World of Childhood's Version of Pulp Fiction... The Real "Super Man"

This picture below forever changed my own measure of what a true hero was for me. I believe that it also did so for many other individuals ... world-wide. Terry Fox was indeed a quintessential Canadian teenage boy... until he lost his leg and his youth to cancer. However, that loss caused him to set out upon a lonely marathon to raise money and public awareness. He created an alternative to viewing himself as the "victim" of the cancer. He used the remaining tool... his leg which had carried through track meets alongside his new prosthetic leg. 

He began his long Marathon of Hope on the east coast of Canada... "one distance between telephone poles" at at a time on his arduous pilgrimage and along the way. His magnificent act of courage and grit gathered momentum... undreamed of amounts of money from adoring public and world-wide press attention, as his epic journey unfolded kilometer by kilometer. Children and young Canadians in particular were captured by his selfless courage and determination. They greeted him like a pied piper in every hamlet, village town and city that he passed through. 

Singlehandedly... this very ordinary cancer-stricken curly-headed youth captured the hearts and respect of all Canadians... and most especially..."He" touched my heart and changed "Me" forever when I met him the first time in June of 1980 as we passed along the Trans Canada Highway at Havelock, Ontario. As fate would have it play out... we had rented a twenty-six foot Winnebago to embark on a Cross-Canada adventure of our own. My eldest child Lisa was thirteen... my daughter Allison barely a year old... not walking and teething.

My wife Joan and I knew that with Lisa's impending move to Manitoba with her second family members that our close time together was drawing to a sad close. This was to be a special opportunity to see Canada in a lasting fashion together. It certainly became that and remains with all of us to this day as a highlight of our early years as a family.

Ironically... when I was in the thrall of passing through the magnificent Rocky Mountain Range... Lisa was sprawled up top over the cab... devouring  a steady diet of Archies. I was so angered at what I considered " a slight"... in the face of the beauty that surrounded us and... very high cost we assumed to make this possible for her. That view... as I have come to discover was purely a knee jerk response to my own obsessive and unreasonable need to record every turn of the road and view between Kingston and Tofino. Sorry Lisa... you were entitled!

When we were headed home after being eight weeks on the road... we met Terry again at Thunder Bay. As I reached out my hand to him as I passed... I knew in my heart that "He"  was at a more critical stage beyond merely "running on empty." His face continued to reflect the true grit that had carried him the distance 5573 kilometers over the 143 days... but his eyes revealed to mine when they met... the deeper danger which lurked beyond the surface of his tired face and more laboured gait.

A scant three days later, he would be forced to abandon his epic dream Marathon. On June 28th, 1981... Terry Fox's magnificent Marathon of Life was drawn to a sudden close by pneumonia and complications related to the spread of his cancer.

Though his physical Marathon of Hope was drawn tragically to a close, its vision of Hope continues to fuel the ongoing September ritual worldwide to sustain his dream in his honour. The Terry Fox Run For Cancer has raised more than $600 million worldwide to date and continues to flourish unabated. 

Terry was awarded the Companion of the Order of Canada... the highest tribute paid to [ordinary] Canadian heroes and heroines. To date, he remains the youngest Canadian to receive this singular honour. Statues have been erected at three points along the path of his intended journey. I have been blessed to have visited each of them.

Starting dip of the prosthetic... Saint John's, Newfoundland

"Final leg"....Victoria, BC

                               Me and Terry... reunited at Thunder Bay

This is my visit the middle marker for his incredible journey is at Thunder Bay... the exact place where I met him for the last time. It was a tremendously humbling and emotional moment relived for me. The deep pride tinged with great sadness was overwhelming. It brought back that special moment and glance that we shared. It reran the movie of the precious events in my own life which led to my teaching partner Leslie Coleman and I assuming a project with our combined classes for learning disabled children to lead a school filled with youth at Polson Park Public School in Kingston.

I had always been a fitness freak of sorts since high school... running 10k distances or more to stay trim. Leslie and I came up with the idea to use our daily K-Club fitness group to spearhead and restart Terry's Marathon... virtually and collectively... kilometer by kilometer until we, as a group finished the distance "from sea to shining sea."

Our wee band of sixteen  "challenged learners" issued their agreed upon challenge to an auditorium of their peers and teaching staff at a special Friday morning assembly that they led. During the next week our K- Club membership instantly... and dramatically swelled. The noon hour and after school three block neighbourhood and schoolyard circuits revealed clearly that the torch that Terry had thrown had been picked up with the zeal and pure sense of honour that lives within each child I ever met.

Personal K-Cards were punched daily with their mileage by our monitors and rehung each week in the hallway outside the main office on a board with a map. Each Friday our lads showed a National Film Board movie which recorded the area that we were [virtually] passing through during that week... and the red woolen line edged its way inches at a time towards "Mile Zero" at the Pacific Ocean... Victoria, British Columbia.

I was dreadfully ill with very bad flu/cold that gripped me for too long on the day that our final virtual destination was reached. That illness faded in the presence of the euphoria that our school felt collectively. Was it simply chance that this Marathon concluded on February 11th... my birthday??? It was not ever planned to be so. The UNiverse reveals itself in mysterious ways!

MacDonald's Restaurant of Kingston contributed a school-sized Cross Canada Cake and orange drink for all to commemorate this victory. The Whig-Standard newspaper featured a picture of our wee band of lads with their cake. Their smiles richly recorded their inner newly-held belief that "disability" is just a word... and that they could "have their cake and eat it too".... just like their "normal" peers.

That accomplishment and memory remains the zenith moment in my own rich personal teaching career. It remains that for me because it represents the fusion of Terry's dream... my connection to him and the realization that like him a group of otherwise unsuccessful... unnoticed small band of boys proved to the peers about them that they had the power within to summon up "super human" accomplishment and good... beyond even their own dreams.

This is the essence and raison d-etre for this too long and [seemingly] "art-less" post. Within each of us lies the "Hero/Heroine" we can become... when passion and need engage to allow what is necessary to accomplish acts of bravery and courage. We simply must Risk and then take the courage to Act.... and Believe.

Faith... especially in one's Self is a powerful tool for enablement. Faith often must be maintained without the actual physical presence of an outcome. It must be doggedly maintained in the face of great adversity and fear. It is an elixir for the soul... a medicine for body... the candle of Hope in a vast Darkness. Dig deeply... if you have need. It's there to be used within each of us. 

Be the Hero/Heroine... that you see in others!

Post Script
These are not merely words thrown carelessly about. These words are shared from my current life and situation of adversity for our family. Little did I know... or dream that I would have to re assume a Marathon of Hope at this point in my long life. Neither did I dream, that this venture would be in support of the wee teething baby Allison who was with "Me" on that fateful journey when Terry Fox and "I" intersected in our parallel earthly journeys.

Cancer is again the enemy... and yet Hope and Faith remain in our hands to do battle. I have been working out an outline for a course of action to personally address this adversity... beyond being with my darling Allison during the course of her treatments and recovery.I choose to end this post today with a direct quote from Terry Fox which is forever etched upon the Victoria monument to his incredible dream and journey. It reads:

"Somewhere... the hurting must stop."


A Heroine and a Hero.... May 26th, 2015.... pre-chemo. Here... we are commencing our common Marathon of Hope. 

"Donations"... of good vibes and prayers are gratefully received.

Rich blessings and Good Health!... To All


  1. If you could open your front door today and see all those good wishes, prayers and vibes entering your home, you would be amazed! May you be strong until you have to be weak; then may you be there for each other to gain strength from one another. Best of luck with the treatments and may Allison have the heart of a lion through it all.

  2. Thank you for for your wonderfully uplifting and heart-felt words of encouragement this morning Rhonda! They most certainly help[ to reassure us in our journey.

    I can assure you that Allison indeed has the "heart of the lion" of which you spoke. Her courage and optimism to proceed is a shining beacon of Hope and Faith for us all who love "Her" so!

    Thank you for taking the time to read the post and to respond so positively!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Bruce, cancer is a scourge that touches many. I lost my dad to lung cancer when he was 47. My mom has had 2 bouts of bladder cancer. My grandmother had breast cancer. My heart is with you in this moving and beautiful post. You need a worker in IL for your efforts, count me in.

  4. Good morning Sherry... Thank you for your continuing staunch support and presence here this blog.

    You are so right about cancer being so rampant in our society Sherry. This experience has opened my eyes to this fact and has as well become a form of "continuing education" that I really never would have willingly signed up for. But the upside... is that knowledge displaces fear and ignorance - a better place to try to live in ... and through.

    Thanks for taking the time to add your experiences and support. I always look forward to your visits and our "chats."

    Happy Summer!
    Warmest regards,

  5. Someone remembers, someone cares; Your name is whispered in someone's prayers.

    Best wishes, Allison..

  6. Good morning Wendy!... You always carry and bring to uplifting message of Hope and Faith. Thank you for this message this morning!

    When someone remembers, and someone cares... to whisper one's name in their own daily prayer...
    It adds comfort to know... that someone is there.

    I am so grateful for your words... thoughts and prayers.

    Allison will read your message as well.

    Thank you Wendy!

    Happy Summer... and Rich blessings back to you!

    Warmest regards,