Sunday, August 17, 2008

We Interrupt This Interruption for a Bit of Fun

In desperate need of relief from my selfish mourning rage (see last post), I've been watching the just-released two-disc set of Filmation's DC Super Heroes cartoons from 1967 -- 18 cartoons that initially ran between the Superman cartoons that aired on CBS on Saturday mornings and later in syndication.

Historical note to youngsters: in my day, there were no 24/7 kids/cartoon channels like Nick and CN; we ruled the TV ONLY on Saturdays from roughly 8 AM-1 PM, and maybe for a few hours on Sunday mornings, and that was it. If Whitey hadn't taken all the satellite dishes from the much smarter Native Americans, we'd still be getting TV signals for the three main broadcast networks via aerials atop our covered wagons. It's all true! Google it!

(And, yes, I am sure they had some formative influence along with the old '60s Marvel cartoons and the West/Ward Batman series on me that ultimately led me to come up with SuperHuman Times, so there is some relevance to this blog.)

Anyway, the set contains cartoons featuring pre-Paul Dini/Bruce Timm renditions of the JLA, Green Lantern (Hal), the Atom, Hawkman and the Teen Titans. They HAD to have inspired them to become artists so they could create something better.

Among the highlights (for me, anyway):

* The limited animation makes the first season of The Flintstones look like The Clone Wars.

* The menu screen shows stills of Hanna-Barbera's Birdman instead of Hawkman. (At least he earned his own DVD set.)

* Green Lantern is voiced by the animated Fantastic Four's own Reed Richards, radio star Gerald Mohr, and his first cartoon has Paul Frees (the animated FF's Ben Grimm) voicing every other character.

* When Paul Frees doesn't voice all but the central character of every cartoon, Ted Knight does.

* The opening music in the JLA cartoons sounds like they're taking the stage in Vegas instead of preparing to fight evil.

* There are too many "WTF?!" moments in every episode to describe here.

Check it out here if you get a chance. For all their flaws, I treasure them more than ever because they couldn't have come out at a better time.

-- L.

PS: Check out the documentary about Filmation founder Lou Scheimer on disk 2. You may not come away with more respect for the cartoons, but the man responsible for them has class.

Friday, August 15, 2008

We Interrupt This Program to Remember Robbie Greenberger

Yeah, it’s one of those times I have to veer away from the main purpose of this blog (hyping the show) to attend to some personal business.

There’s no other way to start an entry like this, so: last night, a good friend of mine passed away.

Robbie Greenberger – son of Bob & Deb Greenberger, brother of Katie Greenberger – had been diagnosed with leukemia in January. His fight wasn’t a long one, but it was a powerful one, all documented by his dad on his blog. I’m probably getting my chronology wrong, but I think he’d just completed his first semester (year?) at Towson University when he was diagnosed. So he was young. Too young for this.

I’m sure I’m wrong about this, but I can’t bring myself to check for his obit to confirm his age and brief life path. All I know is that the little months-old baby I first met when he wore Superman sleepers, a swell kid who grew into an ace convention masquerade ninja, was snatched too soon.

And having him taken from his family, and from us, so soon really pisses me off. So much so that I can’t even restrain my rage long enough to go to the funeral home’s online condolence book to leave the message I know I should leave.

I’m mad that someone as young and vital as Robbie had to be chosen by The Machine to suffer this fate. I’m mad that his parents and sister have to live the rest of their lives with an unimaginable void that will surely shrink in time, but can never close. And, selfishly, I’m REALLY pissed off that I’ll never get to have breakfast with him again, because the last time I did was one of the most fun times I’ve ever spent around Clan Greenberger. (And we’ve had a busload or two.)

That was back in 2003. Bob and the brood were guesting at a local s-f convention that I couldn’t attend because I was watching Greg at home while Cindy ran the convention art show that weekend. Still, they wanted to get together with us for breakfast at a neutrally located IHOP, so we did. When people you’ve been friends with since ’82 still want to eat with you in public, you go, NQA.

So we arrived, there were hugs and kisses and pancakes and bacon, and Robbie just fell in love with Greg. They sat across the table from each other and played constantly while Bob, Deb and Katie grilled me about the latest that was going on in our lives and beyond. I wish I’d taken a camera, because the boys were distracting -- and hilarious.

But what also stands out about that breakfast was the fact that I’d ordered a large orange juice. And that Greg was having such a great time, he wrapped his little 3-year-old hands around my tumbler at one point and chugged about half of it down. It was the first and only time he ever drank orange juice, and I always wondered if Robbie loosened him up enough to give it a shot. I don’t know if I ever thanked him for that, but I know we mentioned that breakfast to each other on occasion when we intersected at later conventions.

If Greg ever does drink OJ again, I’ll think of Robbie because of the fun he had with him that day. And if he doesn’t, I’ll think of Robbie because we’ll never have another chance to have breakfast with him and test the theory. Maybe we never would have. As Robbie grew older, our time together grew shorter as we – especially he – had other things calling to him. Like the entourage of girls he acquired at the last convention where we crossed paths. It was something to see. I’m not sure, but I think that was the con where Katie, an accomplished ballroom dancer, hauled Robbie’s skinny ass out on the floor to teach him a few steps during the convention’s Saturday night dance. And he went! They were a unique pair of siblings. But they were born of unique parents, so no big surprise.

And none of them deserved this. I know, I know, his fight is done, he’s at peace, and that’s a good thing, but this family holds a special place in my heart for numerous reasons, so I’m mad again at their having to endure this pain. It’s a waste of energy and emotion, and if Bob, Deb and/or Katie ever read this, I hope they’ll forgive me, but this kind of rage has no place in a condolence book or a private email.

Maybe I’ll be able to contact them in a few days, but for right now… I just don’t have the words. None that can help them, anyway.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pour myself a tumbler of orange juice and drink a toast to a fine young man, a great kid, and a wonderful friend. (Greg's not here, so I'll get to finish it.)

Later, Robbie.

-- L.