When I was 7-years-old, I was a superhero from beyond space and time named Starlad.
Really I was. I even had my own comic book appearance in Warren Publishing’s Eerie Magazine #136 from November 1982. Here’s the cover and that boy on the front with the blonde curly hair is me.©1983 Warren Publishing
Well OK, so I never actually fought any lava monsters or saved the space-princess like the cover depiction implies. But my dad, who was a frequent writer and sometime editor for Warren Publishing at the time wrote the story that was featured on the cover about a boy who was sick in the hospital and had his dreams come true when he was granted the powers like those of all the comic heroes he idolized. The character’s name was Billy Bryant and my dad took the name from my first name and my middle name Bryan. I remember when Nestor Redondo came to our house in Connecticut and my dad gave him a photo of me. That’s the photo from which Nestor created the likeness for the beautiful oil painting he rendered for that cover, featuring me in my full seven-year-old splendor, blonde curls and all.
This was really an amazing and monumental event for me as a boy. Of course, my dad being a published writer of such amazing stories was a big part of why I grew up to be a writer myself but at that time I was just a boy who liked to run around in tights and fight imaginary crime.
Back then my dad and I always played like we were both superheroes. The lines of reality and fantasy were a bit blurry for me back then, being a boy who was constantly surrounded by stacks of comics and original comic art, which I looked at back then as chronicles of actual living heroes rather than made up stories. My dad was always the Golden Age Green Lantern, and I was always, you guessed it — Starlad. I ran around my yard sporting tights and a cape and red boots much like those in the painting and I thought I was a legitimate, bad-ass superhero. My dad, who was in real life the actual Golden Age Green Lantern as far as I knew, never appeared to me in his costume. His story was that it was safely hidden near the entrance to his secret hideout, which I imagined had a doorway somewhere behind the patterned wallpaper in his bedroom closet, although I could never find the entrance to that secret hideout for the life of me.
Thinking I was a bonafide, super-powered hero, thankfully, didn’t lead me into many fool-hearty adventures. This was mostly because our two-acre property in Danbury, Connecticut was relatively hidden away and the only other adults who knew that I was the real Starlad were our neighbors, whose house was actually in another town (Ridgefield). I can only wonder what my school days would have been like if we had moved to California a few years earlier when I was still so strongly under the spell of make believe. Would I have run through my suburban streets of Woodland Hills trying to fight bad guys and thwart evil? I can only hope that my father would have taken me aside and stressed the vital importance of maintaining my secret identity above all costs. But thankfully, we were a bit insulated from the world at large and I never attempted to wear my costume to St. Joseph’s, the Catholic school I went to as a boy in Connecticut.
One misadventure I do remember from around that time period was when I dressed up in my Starlad costume and confronted the man who was putting my sister’s geese in his truck. My 6-year-old girlfriend egged me on to do it. As we were approaching, she kept asking me how come I don’t fly up to him or use my powers and I kept saying that it would be better to sneak up on him if I just walked. I confronted him cape and tights and all and said something like, “Halt criminal!” My parents, who were on the other side of the big truck came around into my view and started laughing. Turns out they hired the guy to come take them. Their laughter did not dampen my hero spirit though. In my heart, I knew I was Starlad and I had powers beyond reason and that if this man were indeed a real criminal, I stood ready to deliver swift justice (or at least tell my mom and dad as quickly as I could).
I don’t have the cape and tights anymore, although I saw the red boots at my mom’s house at one point recently. They didn’t fit me any longer, given the fact that my feet have grown incredibly large over the years to the point where I basically need to wear shoes that are mistaken for skis, but I could not help but wonder if there was any lift left to those boots that had spent so many years gathering dust in an old box in my mom’s attic. Maybe some other lucky kid would find that they fit his or her feet perfectly and they’d absorb some of the power that surely must have seeped into the rubber of those boots. Next time I look up into the skies and I see a streak of red whiz by, I’ll wink and think, “Have a blast, kid. Be careful of the asteroids, and remember to be back before the street lights go out.”