I have this happy thought. Make them thoughts. During summer and other long vacations, I would always stay with my grandparents in Tarlac. When I was there, I always said to myself as I munched on a bowl of Frosted Flakes, “This is the life.”
I was spoiled. Yes, I was and I freely admit it. I’d sit on my grandfather’s favorite rocking chair watching television (they were connected to the US Armed Forces network emanating from Pampanga) watch cartoons and baseball.
Some days, my grandpa would take me to the train station where he’d let me go up the trains and cabooses. Other days we ride the bamboo rafts along the river. Sometimes we go to a farm where I’d jump on a haystack.
At night, I’d read those books on Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Read those Time and Life magazines of his about Camelot (JFK and Jackie), the Vietnam War, James Dean, the Beatles, Elvis, Joe DiMaggio, juke boxes, pulp novels, a time when right was might and not the other way around, and the exploits of gumshoe reporters.
Once or twice a week, walk to a nearby panciteria where I’d eat ice cream with barquillos. That was a treat if there was ever one. Some days my grandpa would take me to the convenience store where we’d buy comics. So I became a fan of the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, X-Men, and other Marvel Superheroes. That pretty much made me a fan for life.
Those were the days that I cherish so well. They remain so vivid like a Norman Rockwell painting of my brown self in those golden days of summer. Where I’d sit on the tracks with the sweat running down my forehead and onto my nose. My grandpa would wipe my face with his handkerchief and ruffle my hair. I love the man and miss him tremendously.
Because of those days, I fell in love with the culture of a bygone era. Anything on the 30’s to the 60’s, I was obsessed with. Whether it was the music, novels, pin-up girls, heroes, and fiction. Some of my favorite television shows and movies are Happy Days, The Wonder Years, Homefront, Laverne and Shirley, Flash Gordon, A League of Their Own, and Oscar to name a few.
Even if I lost much of my personal collections during the flooding brought about by Typhoon Ondoy, I still seek to reclaim some pieces I cherish and simply must have.
One may say that they are material things. Those who say that know nothing of that loss. They are not only totems but signposts of our lives. They are things that were bought and have much value.
Today, I was finally able to get the late Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures. Ever since I first picked up a copy of Pacific Presents #2 in a bargain bin that featured Stevens’ character Cliff Secord clutching the Rocketeer jet pack, I’ve been a fan. It was like discovering gold. It was my only copy until the comics adaptation of the movie starring Bill Campbell and Jennifer Connelly and the fantastic novelization by Peter David. Then I was able to get the graphic novel of Cliff’s New York Adventure. But my collection remained incomplete until today.
Cliff Secord was Peter Parker without the webs. He was ornery and really nothing special until he got ahold of the rocket pack. If you loved those Indiana Jones movies where there was adventure, intrigue, and Nazis… well, the Rocketeer did it first.
Dave’s art is gorgeous. It’s lively and full of emotion. It pays a lot of homage to the pulp stuff of yesteryear with cheesecake shots and a dash of adventure (can you say The Shadow?). His women are bodacious and paved the way for artists like Adam Hughes and Frank Cho who were made to drawn the female of the species.
Stevens’ design of the Rocketeer’s helmet is one of comicdom’s all-time best. C’mon, name someone with a famous helmet – Iron Man, Magneto, Galactus? The Rocketeer’s fin is awesome!
The movie adaptation is faithful and Campbell is a deadringer for Secord. Betty became Jenny wasn’t the pin-up girl she was in the comics. But Connelly’s breathtaking beauty added to the charm.
After I closed the 148-page collection, I sighed, then went through it again like some photo album from a bygone day. I thought of good things. Good memories. Like my sainted grandfather. Ice cream on a hot summer day. Comic books. Stories of the 1930’s-1960’s. And Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer that will always have a place in my heart.