When I was a youngster back in 1962, I spent a lot of my afternoons at William’s Stationary in Grass Valley, checking out the latest Marvel Comics. I had never been a big fan of Superman or Batman, but the Marvel heroes were tailor made for a young geek like me.
Peter Parker (aka Spiderman) was someone I could identify with; an awkward, shy kid with horn-rimmed glasses who couldn’t compete with the jocks for the attention of girls. Plus, the storylines were written for a “mature” audience, rather than the corny kiddie pablum offered by DC. The anti-hero had been born.
Now if you’ve seen a few people here refer to me as “Crabman”, then you know most of them are dating themselves. When I first started doing autobiographical comics, I always depicted myself as Crabman, mild mannered cartoonist for The Nevada City Independent. I actually used to walk around Nevada City with the costume you see in the above photo. (Taken by Jim Robison in 1977.) I didn’t have any super powers, although some people were amazed by my ability to down five boilermakers and remain standing. I never fought any supervillains, except one time when I confronted a guy from Auburn who called himself Lobsterman. He had a band called Mars Weather and had been inspired by my Crabman nightclub posters. They played across the street from my house at the Old Brewery, so I put on the costume and stood in front of them while they played. Afterwards, we talked for a while, but he had no interest in fighting or world domination.
These days, superheroing is bigger than ever. “The Avengers” movie is breaking records all over the world, and there are actually people who dress up in costume and attempt to fight crime. In a recent article in the Sacto News & Review, we learn that there is a fellow who calls himself Motor Mouth, wears a mask and a bulletproof vest and wanders the streets of Sacramento looking for trouble. Another example is the tale of the Phantom Avenger, who decided to tackle the supervillains who meet in Bohemian Grove every year. Instead, he got lost in the woods and when he did find their secret lair, he tried to burn down the mess hall and was arrested and sent to prison.
As for me, I decided to hang up my orange and purple underwear when I turned forty. I realized that if the character became too popular, I’d be expected to wear the damn thing for the rest of my life. There’s nothing more pathetic than an old superhero with a pot belly. You won’t see Crabman on the streets of Nevada City, except maybe on Halloween.