Growing up I had a deep distrust for comic books. This was largely due to the fact that my brother loved comics and in addition he loved to make fun of me as older brothers are want to do.
Terrible experience to be sure but it all proved to be an invaluable source of humor for me. I did my best to dissociate from all things related to him and this included comics so it’s a terrible irony that I was the sibling that published comic strips and then a comic book entitled “Yin & Yang: Tales of Neurotic Golfers.”
Alas it is impossible to escape from an older brother’s influence and it even went so far as to dictate my choice of dissertation research.
I chose the topic of cartoon appreciation in children. And that was no small feat in a Ph.D. program at SUNY Stony Brook where all the professors fancied themselves as hardnosed behavioral scientists.
Later in my career when I obtained my psychoanalytic degree I was pleased to learn that Freud considered the use of humor to be one of the hallmarks of mental health. And now I have grown comfortable with the world of humor and humorists and try not to resist the occasional smile and snicker.
My mother would call it a sneer but I assure you it was my effort to smile.
A couple of years ago I did a piece on John Reilly of Grasshopper Comics here in Williston Park and was surprised to learn that this specialty comic shop at 76 Hillside Ave. was nationally known.
Since then I have been waiting to have an excuse to write something else about his store and I found one this week. John was running his annual charity event for the John Thiesen Children’s Foundation where they collect funds and toys for underprivileged children and the event is now drawing nationally known celebrities and writers.
If you were driving along Hillside this past Saturday you may have noticed all the superheroes that were standing about. I got to meet Wonder Woman and Supergirl too.
All these kind folks were volunteering in an effort to draw in the town for the charity event in the evening.
And if you were smart enough to walk in you got to meet some of the real celebrities.
On the left side of the store, patiently signing autographs was Tom Walker, star of the television series “Daredevil.”
Walker has the good looks of a Ryan Seacrest and the charm of a Matt Damon.
In my interview with him I asked if it was hard to memorize all the lines each week and he said “Well actually I’m pretty lucky because I have what they call eidetic imagery (a photographic memory) so it’s pretty easy for me to remember what I need to.”
This comment confirms what I already know about all the stars I have met in my life.
They are usually in possession of numerous superior traits including good looks, stronger health and higher IQ’s.
In other words the gifted are usually gifted in many ways and it’s no accident and almost inevitable that they rise to the top of their field.
And another star of the evening was the noted television science fiction writer Michael Jan Freidman. Mr. Friedman has written Star Trek episodes and in addition has published over 60 books, 10 of which made it to the top ten on the New York Times Bestseller’s List.
And in his spare time he has written over 150 comics.
I spoke with him about the nature of humor and he told me “Essentially humor combines a feeling of being superior to the protagonist with the suddenness of surprise.”
The funny thing about his comment is that’s exactly what my research revealed. In other words, jokes are always about pain which is pretty funny so long as it’s the other guy who’s doing the suffering.
In other words “boo hoo hoo” is often followed by,”ha, ha, ha” if the other guy is doing the boo, hoo, hooing.
I wrapped up my time at Grasshopper Comics, took a photo of the proceedings and off I went. So now you ask me how to I end this little piece and better yet how do I tie it into the arrival of Xmas?? Well, that’s simple. If you are wondering what kind of gift to get your kids or your grandkids I would suggest you take a walk down to Grasshopper Comics and buy some comics or graphic novels for them.
You will find many hard to find but award winning books on his shelves. And there is no better gift to give a child then a book that may get them to fall in love with reading.
Last year as I perused his shelves I found and purchased the 2005 National Book Award finalist “American Born Chinese” by Gene Luen Yang.
And who knows if we’re lucky maybe John Reilly will invite Gene Luen Yang along with the famed illustrator Jungyeon Roh to come visit Williston Park next year.
Wouldn’t that be nice?