Tiger-Man, Tiger-Man…Does Whatever a Tiger Can? (or: a brief digression about the pursuit of happiness, Steve Ditko, and how memories sometimes resurface without warning)

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My personal pursuit of happiness involves several variables, two of the most important being looking forward and looking back.

The looking forward component involves the planning for—and anticipation of—future events or activities. This can be special moments, such as birthdays, anniversaries, holidays or vacations. Or, it could be the release of an anticipated movie, book or video game.

An everyday example of this, in my world, is what entertainment choices I have planned. For instance, I’m currently watching episodes from eleven different series, old and new. I plan for two different episodes a day, one of which I normally watch in the morning before leaving for work and one I watch during my lunch break.

Today, which is Saturday as of the moment I’m typing this sentence, I watched an episode of the final season of Supergirl and one from the second season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Tomorrow, I plan to watch an episode of The Walking Dead from the ninth season and the season finale of American Horror Story: Murder House. I have a rough idea of what I will be watching for the remainder of 2021 and on into 2022, although my short-term plans are more firmly set.

In order to keep from getting frustrated, I’ve always found it to be in my best interest to think of plans as something I make to give me something to deviate from. Sometimes life intervenes and priorities change. Since most of my plans are on computer documents, they are easy to alter. Sometimes, I may average more than two television/streaming episodes per day, especially if I find myself in a waiting room, such as at the doctor’s or while getting my oil changed.

I’m reading six different books at the moment. Three science-fiction novels, one detective mystery, one nonfiction book about physics, and one comic book collection. Two of these are old-fashioned, real books with covers and pages that you turn. The other four are on my Kindle Fire. Although I admit to being change-adverse, I eventually adopt technological advances, just a few years later than everyone else does.

My reading habits aren’t quite as regimented as my television viewing. I read a chapter or a few scenes of two of the novels every day. The rest I may alternate, but I read some of all of them each week.

In the past, while re-reading Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, I broke down the books the same way I do a television series, planning which chapters I would be reading each week. While this was an effective way to make it through some longer works, the process itself leached away some of the enjoyment I usually experience while reading.

I keep an active list of the books I’m reading or plan to read in the near future, but don’t give myself any deadlines or quotas these days.

I also listen to music during my daily commute or on my phone during work downtime. Lately, I’ve been listening to entire albums, from beginning to end. I put my earbuds in when I’m in bed at night, and I listen to a few minutes of a podcast before I fall to sleep. Listening to people talk always helps me nod off. It takes several nights to get through an entire podcast episode, of course, but I rarely have trouble finding where I stopped actively listening the night before.

Movies, documentaries and standup comedy specials are also on the menu. I tend to watch these in smaller increments, typically no more than fifteen or twenty minutes at a time. You might be amazed how much content you can get through in a year’s time by doing it this way. Fifteen minutes a day equals an hour-and-forty-five minutes a week. Because math plays a role in my pathology, I feel compelled to add that this equals 5,460 minutes a year. If we figure the average movie running time at 120 minutes (it’s probably less when you factor in documentaries and comedy specials), this computes to 45-and-a-half full-length movies a year. That’s a lot.

We’re still about a week away from November 2021 as I write this, and in the month of October alone, I’ve watched two movies, two documentaries and three comedy specials.

In addition, I keep several writing projects going at the same time, and play several video games.

What I’m getting at is that I always have plenty of things to look forward to. Things to plan for. I’m an inveterate list-maker, and I get plenty of personal satisfaction out of crossing things off my lists.

The looking back portion of my pursuit includes rewatching, rereading or replaying various entertainment choices I’ve enjoyed in the past, or writing about them and the events in my life that I associate with them. Nostalgia plays an important role in nearly everything I do. My conversations with my wife and friends includes a lot of “do you remember when—?” Even new television series or movies that I watch will invaribly remind me of things I’ve experienced in the past.

The older I get, the easier it becomes for me to become enthralled by things that I remember. Like most people, I have related some stories from my past many times through the years. My wife is quick to remind me when she’s heard something before. Oddly, the people we love are less concerned with hurting our feelings by preventing us from repeating ourselves. Co-workers and acquaintances usually suffer in silence.

Most often, a memory is evoked by a new stimulus. Perhaps a song or an obituary of a famous person, or a smell or an old movie. Memories can be triggered by almost anything. I often use the “cubing” method of prewriting—a one-person brainstorming method that I’ve written about before. I usually find the most inspiration on the “Associate” facet of the process. I’ve discovered that I most enjoy writing about things that I strongly associate with other things, people or events from my past.

The death of David Prowse, the man in the Darth Vader costume during the original Star Wars trilogy, made me remember that time I met him in a Hills Department Store in North Carolina. For instance. And, how could I not associate entries in the MCU with the Marvel comics I read in the 1970s?

Writing about current events isn’t usually my thing. But, the on-set tragedy in which a prop gun fired by Alec Baldwin resulted in the death of a director of photography made me think about the accidental deaths of actors Brandon Lee and Jon-Erik Hexum. Judging by the newsfeeds, I wasn’t the only one.

This brief digression into what makes me tick was inspired, at least in part, by a suddenly recalled memory from nearly five decades ago.

I had listened to an episode of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast that was about the late comic book artist Steve Ditko, the creator or co-creator of Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, the Creeper and Captain Atom, among many others. Many of the coolest supervillains were created by Ditko as well, including the Green Goblin, Mysterio, the Vulture, Electro, the Lizard, Baron Mordo, Dormammu, and Nightmare.

Ditko had a cartoony style that worked well in the types of surreal settings he seemed to prefer. I still have the digest-sized reprints of the early Spider-Man and Doctor Strange appearances drawn by Ditko. If any other artist had illustrated or co-written these early stories, it wouldn’t have been the same. Ditko was a unique talent.

Even in death, Ditko’s legend continues to grow. Some people have an image of the man as a curmudgeonly hermit, an ardent follower of the philosophies of Ayn Rand. His character creation Mr. A is said to have provided the template for the character Rorschach in Alan Moore’s Watchmen. I’m not certain about the difference between moral absolutism and moral objectivism, but I know that the troubled character Rorschach represents one of these, or perhaps a combination of both. Although I’ve never read any of Ditko’s Mr. A stories, I have to assume that character does as well.

The Edelman podcast briefly led me down a Ditko rabbit hole. I looked at sites selling his original artwork. I saw many pages that I would love to own, if I ever found an extra fifty thousand dollars or so lying around. As way leads to way, this led to images of Ditko cover art, where I saw this Atlas Comics cover.

I owned this one way back in the 1970s. But, I had forgotten about it.

Atlas Comics—known by collectors as Atlas/Seaboard to differentiate it from the “Atlas Comics” that preceded Marvel—was a short-lived comic-book company founded by Martin Goodman a couple of years after he sold Marvel. Some stories say Goodman started the company as revenge, since the new owners of Marvel didn’t give his son Chip a job as expected. There is a definite Marvel vibe to the Atlas Comics cover art, and Goodman even managed to lure Stan Lee’s brother Larry Lieber to join the company. Goodman also initially paid the creators better rates than his competitors and was a pioneer in giving author rights to orginal character creations.

Unfortunately, Atlas/Seaboard didn’t last very long. It published twenty-three comic book titles and a handful of comics magazines before it went out of business. In recent years, Akiva Goldsman’s name has been mentioned in conjunction with a revival of Atlas, with many of the comic company’s characters being developed as film properties.

I know there were other Atlas characters such as Wulf the Barbarian, Howard Chaykin’s the Scorpion, the Grim Ghost, and Ironjaw. But, I never owned any of their books. In fact, I’m almost certain that Tiger-Man #2, with pencils and inks by none other than Steve Ditko, was the only Atlas Comics book I ever owned. You can still buy a Very Good graded copy for around twenty bucks online, so it’s hardly a collectors dream acquisition like Amazing Fantasy #15.

I don’t remember the superhero’s backstory at all. He somehow acquired the powers of a tiger. I was reminded of Spider-Man, of course, even back in the mid-’70s. It may have been the Ditko connection. I don’t think the issue thrilled me in any memorable fashion. At least, I wasn’t moved to purchase any other Atlas titles at the time. Tiger-Man had only three issues, in fact. I owned the middle one. Even though I didn’t remember this until recently.

As with all of my digressions, there’s no ultimate point or theme to this post, unless it’s about nostalgia and the persistence of memory. Or, maybe about Steve Ditko and Atlas Comics. At any rate, if a Tiger-Man movie is released in the near future, you heard about it here first.

Excelsior.

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