As a child, I Was Not Pop-Culture Deprived

by L.A. Mood Comics and Games

By Dan Brown

For a long time, for some reason, I was under the impression there wasn’t much pop culture around when I was a kid.

Oh sure, there were Marvel Comics, Lego building blocks and one movie called Star Wars.

But compared to today’s tykes – who have AI, social media, online gaming, streaming services, you name it – I mistakenly believed I had been deprived. Heck, when I was a boy we didn’t even have dedicated comic-book stores like L.A. Mood!

I’m 55 years old and for many years I looked back on the late 1970s/early 1980s as a time when there wasn’t much going on. In my memory, it seemed like a barren era free of fun.

I recently sat down with my journal and made a list of all the pop culture I had access to back then. And guess what?

I see now it was a freakin’ Golden Age.

My memories were mistaken. There were so many things floating around that fired my developing imagination.

Sure, a lot of the stuff I was reading, watching and playing with was shabby, cheap or just plain weird – Rocket Robin Hood, anyone? – but it was all fodder for my creativity.

Want examples?

Here are a few.

Stores like the Drawing Card, the stationery supply place in Sherwood Forest Mall, had comic spinner racks where I picked up the latest issues of the Uncanny X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Alpha Flight.

The daily newspaper, which I delivered to doorsteps around Poplar Hill, had strips like Peanuts. More importantly, it featured the work of editorial cartoonist Merle Tingley – I may not have grasped his political points, but finding Luke Worm in each cartoon was a ton of fun.

I rode my bike every Wednesday evening to the Coldstream Library. I borrowed many Tintin books, as well as the Merlin trilogy from Mary Stewart. There were also books, bought or borrowed from friends, by C.J. Cherryh and John Morressy.
Once I graduated from Lego, Dungeons & Dragons was there to feed my hunger for adventure. I spent many hours creating imaginary settings and characters.

Via my clock radio, I listened to Fanshawe College’s CIXX-FM in the years before it was shut down by the CRTC for license violations. For someone who liked to groove to bands like Blue Oyster Cult, it was a godsend.

My aunt and uncle got me a subscription to OMNI, the sci-fi magazine. This was supplemented by other cool periodicals I bought with my paper-carrier cash, chief among them Dragon Magazine, which supported my burgeoning D&D habit.
On TV, there was the Muppet Show, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica. I was also a big fan of Doctor Who, which aired on TVOntario on Thursday and Saturday nights in serial cliffhanger form. Thundarr the Barbarian was one of the cartoons I watched every weekend.

At the movies, it’s true there were many turkeys – such as the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers remakes. However, there were also gems – for example, Raiders of the Lost Ark, which I now consider the perfect film. At my grandmother’s home in far-off St. Catharines I would Them! and other horror flicks from yesteryear on the TV in her basement.

You may think this is one of those columns where I despair for the youth of today. Don’t worry. Everyone’s “imagination journey” is different and I refuse to beat up on the current generation of young ones.

The truth is, you cobble together the ingredients you need to feed your imagination from whatever happens to be at hand.

In fact, the most important thing I had going for me wasn’t a thing at all, but parents who read to me from a very early age so I became a lifelong reader. Also, I had raw free time, especially during summers, to play and draw and think.
The truth is, I can’t wait to see what the next generation – raised on Captain Underpants, ChatGPT, Disney+, and the evergreen Lego – comes up with when they get older.

Dan Brown has covered pop culture for more than 31 years as a journalist and also moderates L.A. Mood’s monthly graphic-novel group.

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