Thursday, October 02, 2008

Doctor Strange is Always Changing Size

I'm probably a bit older than a lot of you out there. And I'm very grateful for that. I also had a lifeline to the culture of the 50s and 60s through my aunts and uncles, and spent much too much time alone when I was a kid. And having a touch of puer aeternus I've been able to experience five decades of youth culture, even if it was often second hand.

Of course, the touchstone of my life has always been Marvel Comics, in particular that of the Silver Age. I spend a lot of time reading my uncles' comics, but they were mostly DC fans. I loved the occult-oriented DC titles like House of Mystery, The Witching Hour and The Phantom Stranger, but I always felt like I was being suffocated when I read Silver Age DC superhero comics. There were only a few Marvel titles in that old crate in my grandmother's back room, but they were the equivalent of scripture to me.

Since my uncles seemed to dig the weird stuff, there were a couple of issues of Doctor Strange amongst all of the deadly-dull Flash and Aquaman comics. They were enough to get me hooked on the character for life. And believe it or not, I watched the Doctor Strange TV movie on the night it aired and loved every minute of it.

One thing younger people may not appreciate is that outside of Batman reruns, the Hulk soap opera and the dreadful Super Friends cartoons, getting a superhero fix outside of comics was tough going. A major part of the problem is that the technology simply did not exist to pull off a decent live action superhero yarn, and 70s animation was so cheap and inept even the dreary Hulk and Spider-Man prime time shows were more convincing. Since I'm basically still living mentally in the 70s, I'm continually stunned at how completely comic books have taken over Hollywood. Thanks, of course, to CGI.

But since I still keenly remember those dry spells, I'm usually able to get at least one good viewing out of any superhero or comic-related movie (except Batman and Robin, gods help us). Now, I may blow any cred I may have, but I even enjoyed the Shadow movie with Alec Baldwin and the Phantom movie with Billy Zane and the Rocketeer movie with Billy Campbell. I did avoid Tank Girl though. Well, not really, I did watch a little of it on cable one night. Much to my eternal regret.

Doctor Strange was a major influence on the psychedelic movement, and is still trippier and move visionary than most of what followed in its wake. And yet, it was created by a couple of stone-sober, middle-aged nerds (Stan Lee and Steve Ditko) who'd been doing nothing but battling deadlines since their teenage years. And it was also Jack Kirby's visionary work with Stan Lee that also provided a powerful impetus for the younger artists of the hippie movement, particularly those in the underground movement.

By the same token, the only member of Pink Floyd that got into acid was Syd Barrett and look what happened to him. We've also lost the woefully underappreciated Rick Wright out of Floyd, so here's a dose of prime time Psych paying tribute to the good doctor.

Here's David Gilmour paying tribute with Wright's classic "Remember a Day." Watch both videos and ponder the unforgiving hand of that old devil Time.