The misadventures of a first time father

Tag Archives: Superheroes

Party - Birthday Boy 2We recently had a birthday party for our little guy. It was the first time we ever actually had it at our house. Usually we relied on the kindness of grandparents on both sides to get us through over the years, as our house had long been too small to have anyone over beyond a group of 2 or 4.

With our new digs, though, we figured it was finally time to give it a try, and try we did, not only with family, but this time inviting some of his friends from pre-k to come as well. And was it ever worth it to see the look on his face when he was surprised by the arrival of each of these friends.

Rain the day before and morning of forced us to change up plans a bit, moving from the backyard to the garage. Well, after it was emptied and cleaned out, of course. Then with two pop-up tents from parents placed outside the garage door, and tables and chairs inside, we were good to go as family and friends arrived for this gathering of little heroes.

The theme was his choice (Superheroes), brilliantly executed by Meg with foods that added a heroic flavor such as Captain America Shields (circle pretzels with white chocolate and a red, white or blue M&M in the middle), kryptonite bars (rice krispies treats with drizzled white chocolate and glowy green sprinkles), and some foods that gained their super powers through some signs I made using the PicMonkey app on my phone and a variety of superhero images.

Party signs total

We transformed regular sheet pizza into Plastic Man’s Power Pizza, a vegetable tray into Poison Ivy’s Veggie Platter, and drinks stations became Joker Juice or for the adults, Chief O’Hara’s Adult Beverages (Begorrah!).

Meg also took giant cardboard boxes leftover from a swing set we assembled the week prior and created a backdrop of buildings for little superheroes to have their picture taken by.

Party - Kids and worm

Apparently all we needed for a party were crayons and a worm.

The kids crowded around a table to color super hero print outs, ran around wearing paper super hero masks from Party City and even enjoyed the arrival of a little sunshine just long enough to dry out parts (emphasis on parts…watch your step unless you like mud) to get some time in running through the backyard.

Oh, and never underestimate, much like the crayons and coloring pages, how something as simple as a worm coming out of the ground can create a fascination in a group of children that can be hard to pull them away from.

It felt just plain wonderful.

And when it came time to open gifts and he had oohed and awed over various toys, Legos, and books, I gave him a gift I had spent the past several months putting together for him.

You see, back at Halloween, he designed his own costume, which Meg made come to life – a superhero version of himself.

Hallowen heroes

Us at Halloween as a self-styled superhero version of himself.

But post-Halloween, something wonderful happened. He kept the character going, imagining new adventure after new adventure, as well as a rogues gallery of villains that he was going up against with each backyard or bedroom crime fighting spree. I did my best to covertly take notes of the superpowers, the villain, and turned it into a script for a short comic book story.

I then dusted off my drawing pencils and illustrated the story, handing it over to my good friend and collaborator on two indie comic book series, who graced it with his inks, colors and lettering skills. From there, I sent it out to a comic printer, and upon return, had a limited edition comic book of my son in his super hero persona, solving a mystery, overcoming the very villains he’s created as he plays, and making it to his birthday party to find family and friends waiting.

The shock on his face “Wait…what…how did…how did you get a comic book of…me?” when he opened it was everything. The fact that he asked me to read it for him four separate times that afternoon and again before bed was everything else.

With each passing day, he grows a little more, shows me more of the world and myself than I thought possible, and though not every day is perfect for us, every day he becomes more and more my real-life superhero.

Party - Montage of comic


Scrooge 124

I grew up reading comic books. It all goes back to that copy of Uncle Scrooge in “North of the Yukon” that was in a pile of old comics my grandmother kept in the closet for when we were home sick from school. I sat on the couch, leafed through its colorful pages (and beautiful Carl Barks artwork, even if I didn’t know it was him back then) and fell down a rabbit hole that has now been going on for more than thirty years.

My comics tastes varied over the years, from Disney Ducks, to Dark Knights, back to Disney Ducks and Brighter Knights, but the thrill of reading a good story with amazing artwork never got old.

As I became a parent, though, my perspective changed a bit and I started actively seeking out comics that were suitable and enjoyable for the entire family, not just the 13 and up audience.

lacey 1.jpgAnd that brings me to Lacey & Lily, a comic book series that I have been absolutely thrilled to be a part of, penning Lacey’s adventures alongside the incredible artistic storytelling talents of Andrew Cieslinski.

Lacey & Lily is a comic book series with an initial story spanning four chapters (issues). It’s the story of a middle school girl named Lacey, and her dog, Lily, who discover a pair of costumes in her late grandmother’s old trunk and while playing with them in the backyard discover they give them super powers.

Being the pure of heart and noble girl she is, Lacey and Lily put their newfound powers to work helping others, from stopping bullies, helping the elderly, or stopping a super-villain or alien invasion. You know, whatever a typical Tuesday brings about.

It’s fun, it’s adventure, and it’s family. Through her actions in and out of costume, Lacey shows that it doesn’t matter your age, your gender, your size, that anybody has the makings of a hero.

This book and this entire process has been a collaboration in the truest sense of the word between myself and the incredibly talented artist Andrew Cieslinski. We truly work together creating and building this world and it’s been a wonderful ride so far doing so.

The books are already available digitally via the Amazon Kindle and comiXology, but this Kickstarter campaign is to raise enough money for a large-scale print run of the first two issues of the series, which will allow us to get the book into the hands of many more readers around the world.

ll kickstarter covers

The covers to Lacey and Lily #1 and #2.

We have until 9 a.m. on August 5 to raise all our funds and make this a reality.

Lacey & Lily is aimed at all-ages, meaning it’s okay for kids and just as much fun for adults.

Hoping you’ll give it (and us) a shot!

 


Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve actually sat down to talk a little bit about life, and that’s just because life’s been so crazy it’s been hard to find the time! As I’ve said before, I commend those of you who can post every day or even close to every day. Where do you find the time? Kudos.

So, with so much that has gone on, I couldn’t think of where to even begin as I try to get back to some semblance of regular updates on life.

And as if in answer to my internal dilemma, this morning awoke our son, now four. Four!!!  His little hands holding the sheets up to his chin, grinning ear to ear, excited to tell me about the dream he just woke up from.

I’ll leave it in his own, delightful words:

“Me…and Supergirl…and Superboy…and all the other superheroes…and the Mickey Mouse characters…and gramma…and even the characters from Sesame Street…we all teamed up!!!

“And there was this special type of kryptonite…and it only affected businessmen. But not business ladies.

“And it turned them all into bizarros.”

Crazy bizarros

Those crazy bizarros.

Man, I want to have this kid’s dreams.

And how about gramma getting in on the super hero action?


I know that these days, many people associate Memorial Day as ‘the unofficial start to summer’ or a ‘long weekend’ to barbecue, travel or get together with family and friends.

None of those are inaccurate ways to spend the day. Heck, we took advantage of nice weather and worked on our garden. Just make sure while we enjoy having fun with loved ones, to take a moment and remember those who helped make it possible for us to do that. Those who have fought, who have passed and who have fallen.

Regardless of your politics, leanings or beliefs, it’s not a day about sides. It’s about people. People who put everything on the line and in some cases gave it all, for others. It’s a time to say thank you and to remember that.

I’ve often talked about my fascination with the WWII era, as well as my love of pop culture and comics from that time period. I can’t think of a more suitable depiction for a blog called The Dorky Daddy to symbolize it than with this piece by one of my favorite artists, Darwyn Cooke, and the 1940-era super-hero team The Justice Society, saluting a true hero.

Happy Memorial Day.

JUSTICE-SOCIETY-OF-AMERICA-50-Darwyn-Cooke-Variant

 


Not our actual bookshelf, but boy, doesn't it look pretty?

Not our actual bookshelf, but boy, doesn’t it look pretty?

Storytime is a wonderful and strong tradition to have in your household, and the earlier you start with your kids the better.

We’ve made storytime a nightly habit in our house, starting the week our little guy came home from the hospital. Now almost two, it has become routine for him to go to the bookshelf, grab a few books he wants and then bring them into our room for a family reading on the big bed.

Needless to say in that time, we’ve amassed more than a few that not only he likes, but my wife and I love to read as well.

As much as I often get nostalgic and wish for ‘simpler times’ or the always-idealized ‘old days,’ one of the great things about the current age we live in is that children’s books have come a long way from “Goodnight, Moon,” which, let’s be honest, is not one of my favorites.

These days, children’s books can be just as enjoyable for parents to read as the kids, so these are just a few suggestions that entertain parents as well as the kids that you might want to add to your family bookshelf if you haven’t already.

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” & “The Grouchy Ladybug” by Eric Carle

It’s the 45th anniversary of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” this year and this book helps to teach days of the week and successive numbers through the timeline of a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly. It’s one of those classics that is just educational, fun, and absolutely beautiful, as are all of Carle’s books.

“The Grouchy Ladybug,” as her name states, is a bad-tempered bug that doesn’t say please, doesn’t say thank you, and has quite the ego, thinking she’s better than everyone she encounters. The story follows her journey and teaches about concepts like size, time and, of course, good manners.

If you end up really loving Eric Carle’s books (and how can you not?), take a road trip to Amherst, MA to visit the wonderful Eric Carle Museum right over in Amherst. You’ll find his original artwork, as well as get to view the work of guest illustrators on exhibit firsthand. This place is like a mecca for our family.

 

Elephant, Piggie and PigeonBooks by Mo Willems

Mo Willems is a writer and animator and worked on Sesame Street for several years, where he won Emmy Awards, as well as shows on Cartoon Network. He has written so many wonderful books, but these are some of my favorites.

The Elephant and Piggie series – Gerald the Elephant (named after his favorite singer, Ella Fitzgerald) and Piggie are best friends and through these books deal with issues of friendship. Sometimes it’s separation anxiety, other times it’s being nervous about getting invited to a party, or sharing a new toy or ice cream. It’s all done in a conversational, comic book type style with word balloons and they’re just a lot of fun, each with its own great, positive message.

The Pigeon books – They star, obviously, The Pigeon, who usually wants something. Sometimes it’s to stay up late, or to get a puppy, or to drive the bus, and it’s always something he’s not supposed to do, giving the child, who oftentimes is being told “no,” the opportunity and power to say no themselves. These are highly interactive, so kids love them and parents can enjoy the humor, too.

That is Not a Good Idea – It’s done in a style of silent films, with a great twist ending and deals with just what the title says – not so good ideas.

 

How do Dinosaurs Love their CatsHow do Dinosaurs Take Care of their Cats by Jane Yolen

This book asks the question “How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Cats” and it’s just one of a wonderful series by Jane Yolen. Each book teaches manners and the proper way to act in different situation, this one, of course being if you have cats at home and the proper ways to treat them. There’s books for dogs, parties, playing with friends, cleaning your room; this goes on and on. Great lessons and great images by Mark Teague with a dinosaur name hidden on each page. Many of these types of dinosaurs are well beyond the common ones we come to know, which provides an additional educational element.

 

Good News Bad News by Jeff Mack

It’s about two friends with very different views on life – one optimistic and one not so much. When children are emergent and anxious to start reading, this is a great book. There’s only 5 total words in it. Those words are repeated, so they learn them better and can eventually read on their own. And the story itself is just funny and touching, and shows why it’s nice to look on the bright side of life.

Good News Bad News

 

I Wish That I had Duck Feet and Gerald McBoing Boing by Dr. Seuss

Sure, there are more popular or well-known books by Dr. Seuss, but these are two that really have great lessons. Both are about being yourself.

In “I Wish That I Had Duck Feet,” a little boy daydreams about what it would be like to have different animal parts but realizes the downside of each.

I Wish That I had Duck Feet

In “Gerald McBoing Boing,” a little boy named Gerald can’t speak but is born with the ability to make incredible sounds when he opens his mouth. He gets made fun of by others for his difference, being called Gerald McBoing Boing by bullies, but it’s about Gerald finding his place in the world and being happy with who he is that ultimately finds him happiness.

 

Click, Clack, Moo – Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin

We have the collection with the first three books of the series.

Cronin writes these to be entertaining and hilarious, and this book details the trouble of poor Farmer Brown as the animals in his barn begin to type and start becoming literate.

When that happens, they have more bargaining and leveraging power with the farmer when he demands things like milk, eggs, etc. It’s a great book that really teaches about give and take and even peaceful protest.

Click, Clack Moo - Cows That Type

 

Bill the Boy Wonder by Marc Tyler Nobleman

The kids will get sucked in by the beautiful art and images of Batman and Robin by artist Ty Templeton, but the well-researched story by Nobleman tells the real-life story of Bill Finger, the man who created most of Batman’s villains, decided he should wear a cowl and gloves. It was his ideas that Batman what we know today and sadly didn’t get the credit for it. A great true story told in the form of a children’s book.

Bill the Boy Wonder


Starman books 01Some people may scoff at the idea of a comic book making a profound emotional connection with someone. But, since you’re at a blog called “The Dorky Daddy,” I’m hoping you either know what you’re in for or are open to the possibility.

Feeling a craving for a bit of nostalgia from my teen years, I recently decided to re-read one of my all-time favorite comic book series, Starman.

Published from 1994 to 2001, it now sits on my shelf in the form of a nice, six-volume hardcover collection. It was a wonderful comic book series that felt like no other at the time and honestly, since. It can always be tough to go back and re-read something you had so much affection for at a different stage in your life, so I wasn’t quite sure how this was going to hold up.

What I ended up discovering, though, is this epic saga not only held up, but there were layers upon layers of themes and emotions within that there was no way the teenage and college student version of me could have ever grasped or felt during its initial release the way I do now.

The thing that changed my entire perspective between reading it then and reading it now was becoming a father.

I remember really enjoying this series during its original run because of its keen writing and its bent on nostalgia. It was littered with references to old comics and characters and history-laden stories of the 1940s, 50s and 60s and was a delight for a fan of older comics like myself. Another theme of the series, perhaps – an appreciation for the past and the beauty in previous eras and the things, people, and cultures that came before us.

There were things then, though, that I had no way of appreciating. It was not until now that I feel such resonance for what it is at its core – it is a saga about fathers and sons.

Starman_young_old_Ted

Young Ted of the 40s and Older Ted of the present

You have Ted Knight, a scientist who used his brains and sense of good during a more naive age of America, becoming a costumed crime fighter. Out of costume, he worked on the atomic bomb during WWII, something that haunted him for the rest of his life and cost him several years in an institution. Now, (now as in, the 90s, when these stories were printed), Ted is old, gray and devoting his remaining years to science.

You have David, the eldest son who wants to make his father proud by putting on the silly costume and taking up the superhero mantle, despite his brother, Jack, mocking it the entire time. David fails at being a hero. More on that in a moment, but his failure leads us to…

Jack Knight, youngest brother, collector, stubborn, and disinterested in the silly costumes of his father and brother.

The gist of the series is that Jack, an antique dealer, reluctantly inherits the mantle of “Starman” – the superhero identity of his father’s from the 1940s. Jack doesn’t want to do it, but after his brother tries to and fails, fatally, Jack has no choice but to use his dad’s inventions (but not his gaudy costume) to save his father, friends and city from old and new evils.

Jack goes on an incredible journey over the course of those 80+ issues, collected in these volumes. He doesn’t want to be a hero. In fact, he thinks his dad was pretty ridiculous to be dressed in a gaudy costume and flying around using his scientific inventions to stop thieves and mad scientists, even for the 1940s and 1950s.

When the tales begin, eldest son David, as mentioned, is trying to make his father proud, while Jack points out just how silly super heroics and costumed crime fighters are. Like many families, they fight. They fight over stupid things.

Even super-heroes can have dysfunctional families.

Even super-heroes can have family issues.

And when David dies in that silly costume by the bullet of a sniper, Jack does not think, in some cliche way, ‘I must avenge my brother’s death’ or ‘I must carry on my father’s tradition.’

Heck, no. Jack thinks he’s gotta get outta dodge.

However, it turns out it was no random act that his brother died, but old villains from yesteryear, now old themselves, taking out revenge on Jack’s dad and the family for years of those bygone ‘good vs evil battles’ when good always triumphed.

Jack picks up the mantle reluctantly, out of protection for his father more than anything else, but in doing so, inadvertently begins his own path down the road to hero. There’s no secret identity here. Jack makes no bones that it was him when people see a man taking to the skies again with his father’s inventions. But he doesn’t relish it either. No, Jack tells his dad he’ll do it for a little while, then be done. He just wants his normal life with his antique store.

How many of us say we’ll do something ‘just for a bit’ only to find ourselves doing it for years?

In time, Jack’s relationship with his father not only heals from the constantly-fighting father and son they began as, but grows into a man who starts to appreciate all his father had done with his life, and all he did for his family.

It develops into a relationship that can only come as one ages, one matures, and one sees through his own eyes what a father must do for his son(s). It’s in no way cliched and moves organically, naturally, a progression of maturity and spirit in the character of Jack that you feel along with him through each subsequent chapter.

BC & Starman

The wholesome adventures of the ’40s turned out to not always be so wholesome.

Jack even learns of the mistakes his father made along the way (an affair with the attractive super heroine Black Canary, for one). What this does for Jack is paint his father out to be more than an old man, more than the foil of his angst-ridden years. He learns his father is a human being, like he.

In time, Jack, a man who once went through relationships fast and loose, becomes so smitten in love with a woman that he is willing to head off into space (a scary prospect to think about realistically) for her in an attempt to find her long-lost brother, a forgotten super-hero from the 1980s.

At one point in his hero’s journey he is captured, drugged, and raped by the daughter of one of his dad’s old enemies.

A year later, Jack receives a letter from her telling him her intention was to become pregnant, and it worked, adding that she has borne a son and will raise him to hate his father and want to kill him.

How heart-wrenching.

As Jack’s eyes swelled with tears reading the letter and telling his father the news, my heart broke for him in ways it never could have when I read this as a teen.

In a medium like comic books, when you picture people like Batman battling the Joker or Superman engaging in a battle of wits with Lex Luthor, this type of villainous plan – getting pregnant and raising the child to hate the father – is quite possibly the most diabolical.

Ted Reads Letter

More diabolical than any world conqueror or killer clown.

Wow. Just wow. Talk about what an emotional punch to the gut that is for a man to think about.

By the saga’s end, the villainess is no more and Jack finally gets to see and hold his own son. Unfortunately, though, it is not before losing his own father. Ted, the former superhero, now old and dying, gives up his own life to save the city and people he had protected for decades, even paying his old arch-enemy, a man who hated him for decades and orchestrated a bomb that’s about to go off beneath them, a little bit of respect.

ted knight death

Ted Knight – a gentleman hero, right to the end. An explosion soon follows this page.

It’s soon afterward that Jack finds the love of his life has gone, and without his love, his brother, or his father, he is truly alone in the world to raise his young son.

letter

Following Jack from beginning to end on this journey from snarky punk to savior, son and father – you’ll want to weep right there with him as he falls onto the floor of his antique store, everything in his world gone, wailing alongside his infant child. I did.

A funeral for his father is touching, with old men and women who were once young, popular heroes of comic adventures during World War II giving eulogies about the man who shed his red and green super hero costume but still became a hero to the world.

Not long after the funeral, Jack decides that being a father is the most important thing in the world to him and super-heroics just doesn’t have a place in that life. So, handing over the inventions of his father to a young heroine acquaintance, Jack sets out to start a new life, as a former hero to many, but primarily a hero to his son, not as a man fighting crime or super-villains, but by simply being there and being a father.

A time when families made characters more interesting.

Not at all, Jack. Not at all.

What a ride and what a read.

Teenage me sort of got the ‘father and sons’ angle, but it was on the surface. My younger self could never have connected to and grasped the type of emotions touched upon here. As time went on, as I aged, as my parents aged, as I became a parent myself, all of this has given me a new-found set of eyes as I read through these pages once more.

I often find myself growing tired of comics the older I get, at least the new ones. I either pick up something new that in its own way has the feel of something older, or I just return to my bookshelf and the books I’ve enjoyed enough to keep in a collected edition in the hopes of reading and getting those old feelings of excitement again.

Starman is one of those books in spades. Writer James Robinson has woven a masterpiece of epic proportions across multiple fronts – superhero, nostalgia, and most of all, family. It is one of those books that I know I can always pull off the shelf when I want something to read that’s adventurous, funny, and best of all, full of heart.

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