Growing up in (mostly) rural Idaho and being an only child as I was, at an early age I got pretty proficient at keeping myself entertained. I had Andy, my good dog, to keep me company–and what company! He was a German Shepherd/Collie/St. Bernard/Malamute mix, so he was fucking huge–and of course I also had the great in- and outdoors; most of these efforts at self-amusement I now see as an adult were incredibly death-courting. I’m honestly stunned I made it past age ten. I found once an old abandoned buried water tank on our property; I thought it would be neat to crawl down inside and look for salamanders, delightfully heedless of the fact that once I dropped down the eight feet to the floor, I had no good chance of getting back up. After a couple hours of terrified, useless screaming, I literally rock-climbed my way up by finding teeny niches in the old concrete to hold on to, probably abetted by massive amounts of fear-adrenaline shrieking through my veins. We also had a barn on the property, and I spent hours dicking around in there, and it chills me to remember confidently strolling around on the thick 12″ x 12″ rafters that crossed the barn fifteen feet in the fucking air. I used to run across them, pretending to be Spider-Man. There’s simply no good reason I’m not a fading stain on the concrete floor.
On the non-lethal side of things, I of course spent a good amount of time playing in my room. Like a lot of boys, I had a jones for action figures–you know, dolls. And also like a lot of boys, they were a motley bunch, culled here and there from various toy lines demarcated by whatever passing obsession I happened to hold at any given moment. But that didn’t matter, because whatever the little guys originally were marketed as, they were renamed and reinvented by my own imagination when I felt that their original purpose was lacking. I invented whole mythologies for the little bastards and had them act out elaborate (by my reckoning) dramas, roughly along the lines of the SuperFriends or, much cooler in my opinion, the Justice League of America.
For example, Star Wars figures were obviously hugely popular around this time, and sure enough, I had a couple. I had a Stormtrooper figure, a little plastic white guy around four or five inches tall. But the thing is, being a faceless, expendable guard-dork doesn’t make for much superheroing, so I renamed him The METEOR! The Meteor’s origin was thus: he was some astronaut guy (I know I gave them all “secret identities,” but I don’t remember those) who was testing a brand new super whip-ass combat/supersoldier/outer space suit and he was kind of cruising around in space somewhere giving the thing a test ride when ALL OF A SUDDEN! (and this kills me to remember that I concocted this) he has, like, the most wildly improbable thing happen to him when he is caught dead smack in the middle of a collision between two meteors. What, he didn’t have enough room in deep space to get the fuck out of the way? Talk about being in the most incredibly wrong place at the most unbelievable time EVAR. But hey, I was a kid. Anyway, as if that bunch of horseshit wasn’t enough, this incredible blast obviously didn’t kill the poor fucker, but instead it somehow fused the suit to his body! This gave him some pathos: so now the guy was a superhero (The Meteor! Or, uh, somebody really fucked over by two meteors, but never mind), but he’d LOST HIS HUMANITY and could never feel the sweet touch of a spring breeze on his skin, etc. etc. I constructed lots of scenarios where The Meteor, a fundamentally good guy, would periodically freak out and and protest to the heavens and pick fights and stuff, because I thought it made him complicated or something. I really liked The Meteor; he was certainly cooler than some mook who gets ignominiously shot in the first reel by a goddamn Wookie.
I also had a Luke Skywalker figure, a much more tragic story, because it was just a guy in a white tunic, and who fucking cares about that? He became even more pathetic once I lost the little red piece of plastic that served for his light saber, so I hit upon a solution: Luke was the perennial victim, for whom my team of heroes would rally around when (always, always) in peril. So Luke got kidnapped a lot, and my heroes would stage a massive battle and save the little turd, over and over, and it kind of got boring after a while. Then I began to hate Luke a little, because, Jesus, can’t this fucking putz do anything other than get kidnapped? Of course he could: he could die. It was great! So from then on, Luke was the victim of countless unspeakable crimes, and suffered countless horrible deaths, each of which would either (a) drive a member of the team mad with vengeful fury or (b) drive the entire team of heroes mad with vengeful fury, depending on how ambitious I was feeling on that day. So useless Luke still served a function: eternal whipping boy, fated only for cruel kidnappings or horrifically fatal barbarities.
I also had a Boba Fett figurine, but Boba Fett was so fucking cool, he was just Boba Fett, and I was happy with that.
Micronauts were also big deals when I was a kid, and sure enough, I had me a cool blue one with wings. So he was the Blue Angel (yeah, yeah, Marlene Deitrich, shaddup); he was some alien guy from someplace unimaginably far away, like the planet Cleveland or something. He could fly, obviously, because he had this cool flip-up wing attachment that was just greater than shit, until I lost the damn wings, and then I was kind of stuck with what to do with him until I decided fuck it, he could still fly anyway. He was all but indestructible, and could shoot mysterious power bolts from his hands; I decided this almost immediately because Micronaut hands were sort of three-quarters curled into fists for gripping little always-lost ancillary toys, but they also looked perfect for generating blast rays that would shoot out from the palms of his hands.
I also had–you know it!–super-villains. One was a sort of planet-eating bastard modeled on Galactus named ROM. Remember ROM (I realize here that good portions of this post will be gibberish to a lot of women)? He was the coolest damn thing I remember having; a giant battery-operated silver guy with a whole boatload (well, three) of gadgets that would blink and make ooky noises. He had a jetpack and an audible Vaderish breath-noise and a distinctly Cylon-like set of red blinking eyes. Basically, Parker Brothers just ripped off every single sci-fi thing they could think of and dumped it into this fucker. He was great, and would inevitably nearly, almost, but not quite totally destroy my team of good guys, or their Hall of Justiceish Place, or the Earth, or whatever in these terribly epic battles that could last for hours. But he never succeeded, of course, except with Luke, whom he gruesomely killed many, many times.
I also had this weird thing called Baron Karza that I don’t remember where the hell I got. Baron Karza was another big robotish thingy with a kind of Camelot 2578 AD feel to him, but he had a kink: his arms and his legs were held on by magnets. I have no idea why. But this was pretty cool for my aforementioned epic battles; inevitably, Karza would be thundering about my heroes’ IMPENDING DOOM, MORTALS! or whatever, and then the Blue Angel would come up with some devastating mot juste and hit the bastard with an energy ray, which would sever the foul Baron’s arm or leg or head and he’d scream NOOOOOO! Or maybe he ticked off The Meteor by killing Luke for the millionth time, and The Meteor, wracked by a mad frenzy of grief and sadness would yell THIS IS FOR LUKE, YOU INHUMAN MONSTER! and smash him right in the gut and all his arms and legs would fly off from the impact, and The Meteor would kneel, spent from the effort of avenging his useless and dead pal.
You’ll be terribly surprised to learn that I was really bad with the girls all through high school. Comic books and sci-fi movies have a lot to answer for.