If you haven’t watched the recently released LEGO episode of “The Toys That Made Us” on Netflix, I highly recommend it. My favorite part was the absolute glowing reverence in which the Classic Space theme is described.
Archive for ‘Character Appearances’
When I first introduced Ronald to the comic, I was sure of one thing – you would always see him sitting in his “chair,” which in reality was the XT-5 space mobility unit formerly assigned to his brother. Mikey gave Ronald the the XT-5, his old uniform and his former robot partner (later renamed Mr. Wobbly Droid) after they were decommissioned and Mikey graduated to his new Futuron uniform, service droid and Aero-Module craft. Mikey never expected that Ronald would take to wearing the uniform full-time, instead of just keeping it as a memento, like he was an actual, card-carrying member of the Space Agency. Mikey also didn’t expect that Ronald would come to rely on Mr. Wobbly Droid as a robot butler/hamburger stand co-worker.
One thing I wasn’t sure about when I introduced Ronald was the REASON he was always in the chair. But I had two possible scenarios in mind. I’ve never confirmed it either way. On one hand, I thought it would be funny if he was so lazy that you just never saw him get up and walk around. On the other hand, it kind of felt right to actually have him be a disabled character.
I’m not a fan of writing that sugarcoats and panders to the audience. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to accept that, yes, Ronald got dealt a bad hand in life that has thrown some roadblocks in his way and perhaps resulted in him getting babied a bit. But his immaturity, selfishness and bad habits are all him! Ronald is determined to stretch his comfort level and lack of responsibility as far as it can go. He’s a human being with comically rich flaws, and whether he can walk or not is generally not important to the story.
I’m reminded of a girl I knew in high school and college. She had a health condition that resulted in atrophied growth and an inability to walk. She got around in a motorized wheelchair and had a customized van that was automated to lift in her chair and was set up so she could drive. I originally made the mistake, as I think is common to do, to view her through her disability first. I initially felt uncomfortable talking to her because, I think, I was focused on her problems and figured she must be, too. But thankfully, as time went on, I actually got to know her a bit. And I realized that her disability was just a reality she dealt with and went on living. I also learned that the image I had of her as kind of a child – even in college, because she was very small – was completely misjudged. In fact, she would regale me with stories about her sexual conquests! She was more experienced than I was! She had a totally dirty mind and an irreverent sense of humor, and I remember thinking, “Wow, this is like the coolest girl I’ve ever met.”
So I guess you can take this as confirmation that I went with Option #2 for Ronald. I just don’t want you to view him any differently.
The missing Thunderbird photo could depict either an abnormally large bird of prey or a long-extinct pteranodon, depending on the eyewitness account. When I started shooting this storyline, it actually featured a different Thunderbird – the bald eagle from the LEGO Creator Fierce Flyer (#3100) set. You can see a glimpse of this below. But I initiated a quick casting change after I discovered the LEGO pteranodon featured in this comic. Not only did it look cooler, in my eyes, but it had an opening beak, permitting the option for the graphic mayhem you see today!
THE LOST THUNDERBIRD PHOTO
One of my favorite obsessions is the legend of the Lost Thunderbird Photo. It’s a convoluted tale that reveals more twists the further you dig, but here is a simple synopsis of the basic story: In the waning days of the American Wild West, two cowboys were accosted by an enormous flying creature and shot it dead. They hauled the beast – described in different versions of the legend as an abnormally large bird of prey or a prehistoric pteranodon – back to town, where the creature was hung across a barn wall. Several men posed side-by-side, demonstrating the monster’s enormous wingspan, and a photograph was taken of this momentous event. This photo has supposedly appeared throughout the following decades in various men’s adventure magazines and books on the paranormal. Many people are absolutely certain they have seen this photo – have you? – but the kicker is that no one can find it today.
Library archives have been scoured, but still the “Thunderbird” photo eludes us. If found, it would surely be evidence of the incredible in our midst, more than a century distant but still documented in one murky, mysterious image. Believe it or not, the first part of this story – about cowboys shooting down a flying beast – has been located in the form of a news story that appeared in the April 26, 1890 edition of the Tombstone Epitaph. The story unfortunately did not include a photo, and ended at the point where the cowboys were planning to bring the creature back to town. The notion of a photo, while potentially implied in the Epitaph report, seems to have originated in the pages of mid-20th Century magazines about strange phenomena.
So what makes this legend so compelling? The original news article is a shocking read, but it’s from an era when editors weren’t unknown to publish tall tales in their papers. Also, why are so many people SURE they’ve seen the Thunderbird photo? I think there’s merit in the idea that it’s a false memory, an example of The Mandela Effect. The description of a tintype photo showing a giant bird or pterodactyl draped across a barn and surrounded by a posse is evocative enough to implant an image in the brain, one that feels very familiar yet years removed. Deep down, we want to believe it’s real. And we desperately want to find it. It’s a key to another, more fantastic version of the universe.
Of course, what if there is a kernel of truth, and the Thunderbird photo is still out there in the dusty pages of a magazine that’s been rotting in an attic for 60 years?
First-hand descriptions of the Thunderbird photo vary. Sometimes the creature’s hanging on a wooden wall flanked by cowboys or men in top hats. Sometimes it’s propped up on a mesa between its killers with monumental rock structures in the background. There are certainly many fakes out there, some of them truly artistic examples of photo manipulation. A couple of (debunked) versions of the photo show the beast on the ground, a trophy for Civil War soldiers. Here is my own version up close, a mix of these legends depicted in my trademark LEGO medium:
But seriously, have YOU seen the Thuderbird photo? Let me know in the comments!
More About the Missing Thunderbird Photo – http://themothman.wikia.com/wiki/The_Missing_Thunderbird_Photo
I don’t know, should I tell you a very personal story? Shoot, why not? You already read all of the strange notions that pour out of my head onto the comic page, and you know I’m an adult who plays with toys.
I can really relate to Ronald here. When I was a young teen, I became so concerned with body image that I mostly stopped eating. I shrunk down to a bag of bones and thought it looked awesome, because I thought “thin” equaled “healthy and attractive.” My parents were obviously terrified for my well-being, and could not convince me to please eat a damned sandwich, so they tricked me. They told me they were driving me to see yet another therapist, yet I learned when we arrived that they were actually dropping me off at a mental health facility. And I wasn’t leaving until I got better or the insurance ran out.
Thus began one of the best experiences of my life. I kid you not. Unlike Ronald, I quickly accepted the situation ( at least that’s how I remember it). I realized that I had gone too far and was wrong, yet it still pained me to eat a full meal or not sneak in push-ups whenever no one was watching. I was confined to a wheelchair until I put on enough weight. That wasn’t the good part. The good part was that I was surrounded round-the-clock by kids my age. Whereas I had always felt like an outcast at school, I naturally became a part of this large, diverse group – even popular! Sure, we all had serious problems that had led us there, but we faced it all together. I think that kind of experience somehow put everyone on a level playing field, and you had to socialize in a specific space, so connections formed that might not have elsewhere.
When the insurance did run out after two months, and I was mostly better and had been allowed to walk again, I didn’t want to leave. I had to say goodbye to my friends, and I was not supposed to keep in touch with them. However, my naive younger self thought this new social situation would carry over into my life outside, and that my everyday existence would be better. I was sadly mistaken. Back at school, I quickly went back to feeling unnoticed and rejected. This continued into high school, and (to my regret) I never went to live in a dorm at college. While I’ve always been blessed with a handful of great friends, the distance and separation that’s just been there as long as I can remember persists into the present day. Except for that one time. It’s sad to say, but I sometimes wish I could go back and relive those two months, or to try and take more from it that I could apply in the years going forward. The life-threatening reason I was there seems almost incidental, even though I’m certain that facility (and my parents) saved my life. The social experience was what really mattered to me, and it at least proved that it’s within me somewhere to meld into a larger group. It just took being locked inside a hospital wing to do it! I own the fact that I could have tried harder over the years, even if it felt like the deck was stacked against me. When I think back on that time at the hospital, it does feel like an alternate universe, another life that carried the fresh scent of a new beginning.
So Ronald, don’t overlook this opportunity. Even when the demon you face is a giant, hungry Thunderbird!
Speaking of the Thunderbird, I’ll have more to say about that topic next time…
Sometimes I wonder, would faking a foreign accent have given me greater success with the opposite sex? *sigh* Probably not.
LEGO Creator #31051 Lighthouse Point was one of the sets I picked up when my local K-Mart was going out of business. I had wanted the set and missed out when it went out of production, then found it on clearance with the store closing discount on top of it. It’s a nifty set. I love lighthouses, and this looks like the ones I grew up seeing at the Jersey shore. Of course, there’s something innately creepy about lighthouses, isn’t there?
Sometimes it’s hard to judge the size of a LEGO set based on the dimensions of its box. Modern LEGO City sets rarely appeal to me. I guess they seem… pedestrian? You could say the same about the LEGO Town sets from the 1980s that I adore, but they have the added glow of nostalgia. But for some reason the recent LEGO City Ferry (#60119) called out to me. Maybe because it’s a utilitarian vehicle that hasn’t been done that often in LEGO? Maybe it was the set’s very simplicity? Maybe it’s because I live close to New York City and ferries (at least the people kind) are a common sight? I don’t know, but I resisted for awhile and then finally found a good deal on KMart.com. Going back to my opening sentence, what surprised me was how LARGE this boat actually is. It breaks down pretty compactly in the small box, and I sometimes forget that LEGO scale has increased over the years. But yeah, this thing could nearly transport an X-Wing pretty comfortably. Large sets throw me off, actually. It’s part of why I prefer classic LEGO sets and their generally smaller size. I just don’t have the room to store and display too many large sets. I briefly got into LEGO Star Wars again recently until I realized the scale is just too large for me. The small sets from the late ’90s and early 2000s were easier to manage and, frankly, a little more fun for me to build and toy around with. I’m thrilled I finally got a LEGO Millenium Falcon (the Force Awakens version), but I hit the brakes on buying too much current stuff. I can appreciate it, and I value LEGO’s ever-improving designs, but I’m most comfortable with simplicity and petiteness. I’m not sure if I’ll keep the ferry, but it looked great in this comic, and the red sports car it came with proved incredibly useful as Starman’s Tesla Roadster!