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Winning the race

My eyes ache and my eyelids are too heavy. My stomach is about like I thought it would be. I'd still be asleep, but my cat decided she wanted to be amused, and crawled on me until I made those noises she finds so funny. So I checked the news. No promises how long I'll stay awake, but regardless, I learned something that deserves acknowledgement. Namely, Harry Lampert, who with Gardner Fox created the Golden Age Flash, has died.

I always liked the golden age versions of super heroes. Generally, I liked them better than I liked the modern age heroes. I'm a huge Green Lantern fan, but when I was eight years old I read a reprint of the Golden Age Green Lantern, and no matter how much I got into Hal Jordan, he always seemed like a leotard wearing fancy lad next to the two fisted Alan Scott. One thing I liked was the abandon of the heroes. Barry Allen became the Flash only after lightning managed to twist its way into the room he was standing on the opposite side of the window of, so it could conveniently avoid all the metal in the walls or on the roof of police headquarters (hello? Radio tower on the roof?) to hit the stockpiles of chemicals and bathe him in its transforming chemical goodness. Jay Garrick? Fell asleep while breathing "hard water fumes." And when he woke up, he could play tennis by himself and he thought wearing a pie pan with wings on his head made for a good fashion statement.

I can get behind that. The visual look of the Jay Garrick Flash was always cool -- just this guy in a cobbled together costume who took joy in running. And from all reports that described Harry Lampert too. This is a man who, in his sixties, became a successful writer with a series of books on playing Bridge. In fact, his book The Fun Way to Serious Bridge is described by the Houston Chronicle as "the bible of the game." And that might have been a mantra for the man -- he made serious work fun, and he took fun things seriously.

Lampert was an artist from sixteen years old on. He was a part of arguably the most significant cross-media transition in sequential art, working on and inking Fleischer Studios cartoons. He worked on Popeye and Betty Boop for them. If you don't think that was big, bear in mind most kids today don't even know Popeye was a comic strip before it became a cartoon, and a Hell of a lot more kids watch the Justice League cartoon than read the Justice League comic book.

After his time in comic books, which sadly (for us) was short, he went on to draw cartoons for Time Magazine, Esquire, The New York Times, The Saturday Evening Post and others. He taught illustration at the New York School of the Visual Arts. And he enjoyed life. And, in the 90's, decades after he created one of the most enduring characters of the Golden Age of Comics, he learned an entire subculture prized his work. He went to the San Diego Comic Con for the first time in his seventies, and discovered people would line up for his autograph, would pay good money for a sketch, and were buying first editions of his comics for thousands of dollars. He was amused when he told The Washington Post that he couldn't afford to buy one of his own first editions -- they cost too much money.

I think it's nice that he got to be a comics rock star at the twilight of his life. I think it's nice that a DC Comics representative noticed him at San Diego, got his social security number, and sent him back royalties for his work, too. I think it's nice he got to know just how many people were touched by something he created.

Sometimes, the best race you can win is the one you didn't even know you had run.

Right, I'm going to have a cup of tea, some Tums, lie down and die. Enjoy, kids.

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Comments

Beautiful tribute, Bro.

But don't die. You haven't finished your novel.

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