Monday, September 07, 2015

It was the Mystique of the Super-Hero That I Fell For.

When I was a boy, between the ages of seven and fourteen, I was mad for comic books, particularly the super-heroes, many of whom I fell deeply in love with. I collected hundreds of them, stacked all about my bedroom, no god knows where I got the money to buy them all, my allowance wasn't that generous. Perhaps I swapped them for toys from other kids, maybe I even shop-lifted them, I was that addicted. Encouraging my bent, my parents bought me the hard-cover albums for birthdays and Christmas, books that contained several issues so you could follow the ongoing stories all at one go. Though I treasured them I gave them away to all the poor neighborhood kids, already an altruist, half regretting it as they'd be worth a fortune now.

I adored the hunky guys in tight, revealing costumes, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Marvelman, Aquaman, Phantom, Tarzan, Mandrake the Magician, Doc Savage and Conan the Barbarian. Now in my old age I realize it wasn't just the overwrought masculinity of these super-heroes that was attractive to my burgeoning homosexuality, it was also that there was an inherent mysticism behind the training of many of them. Many of the great comic book writers/artists, such as Jack Kirby, Jerry Seigel and Steve Engelhart, were fascinated by, and students of, Paganism and the Occult, investing many of their story-lines with gods of ancient mythology and mysticism.

Madame Blavatsky's Theosophical writings was especially influential. She asserted that there were seven enlightened great Masters hiding out in the Himalayas training any worthy acolytes who had the strength, courage and heart to find them. Super-heroes such as Batman, Doc Savage, Phantasma, Mandrake, Doctor Mystic all trained with these "secret chiefs" to get their powers. As a child, reading of the existence of this kind of knowledge was fascinating and seemed to promise there was more to the mundane world than the dreariness of the housing estate and domestic violence I grew up with, that my life could indeed get inspired with some magic, if only I dared seek out the wonders over the horizon. (One of my favorite movies, "The Lost Horizon", I'd seen on '50s television and that also bolstered my enthusiasm for mysticism.)

Swami Compassion.
Little did I know that all this mystic training of super-heroes had sunk into my Unconscious, influencing my life path, guiding my steps a decade later, when I was nineteen, wandering down Collins Street, Melbourne. I noticed a sign outside the creaky arcane building of the Theosophical Society, announcing a free lecture inside on Yoga being given by some outlandish fellow named Swami Compassion. I traipsed inside and was immediately smitten by the old fellow, eventually sitting at his feet for several years, indeed nursing him until his death in Rishikesh at the foothills of the Himalayas, imbibing tales of India, power-training and enlightenment that I lusted to achieve for myself.

As a nobody weakling, working-class poor boy, destined to grow into the monstrous demon of the night that was homosexuality in those days, I longed to overcome my diminutive status and emerge in adulthood as some kind of super-hero, perhaps even to save the world. For I had felt the sexual desire in my guts for my fellow childhood mates and was smart enough to know what this portended but somehow I would still get a life.

One of my favorite heroes was Doc Savage, he who got trained by the Himalayan Masters, I devoured every comic I could get my hands on, he was so handsome, manly, human, didn't come from another planet or fly with a cape, it was possible I could grow up to be just like him. And so I spent many years in India, seeking out enlightened masters to study with, so many of them. And I search always for the Secret Community in the high mountains, where I might find refuge, succor and knowledge, but I haven't found it yet. ( Perhaps it's all around me, hiding in plain sight, wonderful souls who toil for humanity without recognition and fortune?)

I do believe some of the Big Babas charisma, energy, powers, rubbed off on me and I got back to Auz with my batteries over-charged, somewhat deluded that I could achieve great things, influence history, like Doc Savage or Superman, even save mankind. I got involved in lots of political activism, the fag super-hero who helped stop Uranium being shipped out of Sydney, which maybe was destined to end up fueling nuclear bombs. It was a small victory but I was kidding myself, THEY shipped it out of Darwin instead, and it's probably Aussie uranium that's in the Fukushima power plant that blew up not so long ago and is still poisoning the world.

Getting involved with "The Prisoners' Action Group" we did improve conditions for inmates in our medieval jails. As squatters we saved many heritage buildings from demolition and now, renovated, they are tourist attractions. Supporting Aboriginal Rights we helped get respect for our indigenous Australians and some of them eventually got Land-rights though their struggle for dignity continues. And after a riot of gays with police in 1978 we got decriminalization in 1983 and thus I don't have to be the deviant monster prowling in the night any more, though growing up twisted it's not possible for me to find love in a committed relationship, THEY took that away from me.

And there's my downfall, SEX, it overwhelms me and has my Kundalini leaking out of my second chakra, or so the mystic teachings say. It's a pity that Sex is so put down by much of the esoteric sciences, the Masters seem to have a phobia about it. I wouldn't mind mastering Tantric Sex, where orgasm is felt as a divine gift enthusing all the Universe. But my mind slips, I get horny and forget the numinous, I vibrate with my mantra all the day long, and still lose my temper, get impatient, paranoid, grumpy, randy etc. I guess I'm only human after all.

Luckily, we evolved to lose our libido in old age and I'm not so randy any more. I guess that's why most of the supposed Masters are old, with long white beards, it's not only that they're wiser, they simply don't want sex as much as they did in their youth and so it doesn't bring them down. (Though I've heard the old folk-tale where Shiva disguises himself as a gorgeous dancing girl to test the mettle of many meditating adepts and they all fell flat on their face for her in lust.)

When I hit puberty at fourteen the chief icons of my masturbatory fantasy were Superman, who I wished would fly me away to some high tower and make mad love to me, Tarzan who would swing me on a vine up to his tree-house and open up his loin-cloth, and Doc Savage who would carry me crushed against his bronze chest to some mountain retreat and let me fuck him stupid.

In my ongoing travels in the Himalayas I had a dream in which I was taken into a cave system where the esoteric Masters dwelt in eternal meditation and just as I felt overjoyed to finally find them, shutters came crashing down to block off my further entrance and sight of them. And a voice echoed through the caverns, "You are not ready yet, you are still too weak and distracted by desire. Maybe next life..."

Back down in the lowlands I have happily discovered that there were gay comic book super-heroes imagined for such souls as I.  Apollo, (a clone of Superman, powered by the sun, sent from the heavens by his father to save the earth) and his lover, Midnighter, (a clone of Batman, denizen of the night, vigilante knight fighting evil-doers who would bring co-operative society down.) But being a heterosexual supremacist world, they were not popular and their line died out as sales dwindled. Oh well, better luck next time.

As I grew into adulthood I gave comics away for the most, finding them infantile and repetitive. I switched over to literature, thousands of books from which much knowledge of history, science, anthropology, philosophy, psychology and politics has been gained, and many mysteries solved. I still long for the mystic though, often finding it in cyberpunk science-fiction. And the few comics I still read are those of Crumb, Shelby and the Anarchists. I didn't make it to super-hero status, am just a furry freak bro smoking pot, the man who got trumped, gambled and lost, I followed my dreams, stepped off a cliff and flew into the void, without a cape.

P.S. This essay was inspired by my reading of "Our Gods Wear Spandex - The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes"  by Christopher Knowles.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.