Long before sophisticated video game platforms could stage spectacular, ultra-realistic comic book battles, young comic book fans of the early to mid-1970's resorted to drastic measures when it came to simulated superheroics. We used our imaginations!
You see, since Atari's PONG (left) was the only thing close to a video game we had at the time, there were basically two non-electronic, imagination-fueled options for reenacting epic comic book clashes. One was to use Mego's line of comic book action figures (not dolls, mind you!):
The Mego figures sparked hours and hours of surreal adventures that only the addled minds of 8 year-old boys could cook up. However, the Mego figures were a little pricey for a mid-70's allowance, and tracking down the full variety of characters was tough before the advent of internet shopping...so as cool as the Mego figures were, we usually turned to the second (and much cheaper) option of improvisational make-believe.
At the insistence of our moms, these elaborate battle royales were staged outside...beginning with each kid loudly declaring which character he was about to play. Next, we shook down our dad's garages for items that could approximate our character's superpowers and/or equipment...such as:
• garbage can lid = Captain America's shield (duh)
• tennis balls = Human Torch fireballs (or any matter or energy-based projectiles)
• sledgehammer (or, in a pinch, a regular hammer) = Mjolnir, hammer of Thor
• rope = Spider-Man's webbing, a bolt of electricity from his enemy Electro, or (if a girl happened to be playing) Wonder Woman's lasso.
• frisbee = Batarang
• ski goggles = the visor of Cyclops (X-Men), along with tennis balls to simulate his force beam.
Get the idea? Whatever we could get our hands on usually became some sort of imaginary weapon, magic talisman, energy bolt, or piece of high-tech equipment (to the occasional chagrin of a dad wondering what happened to his funnel, welder's mask, or measuring tape).
Satisfied that we'd approximated our hero or villain's powers, we'd then try to agree upon some kind of simple plot to set the tone of the battle...such as "Electro robs a bank, then Captain America fights him" (we also liked sticking heroes with villains from outside their regular "rogue's gallery"). But, sometimes we'd bypass the context-setting scenario and just start mock-fighting.
Once our epic clashes were underway, I remember how we'd even imitate the "battle banter" we read in the comic books...which included grandiose threats from the villains or snappy quips from the hero. Why I remember this, I have no idea...but a favorite pejorative of ours was "Joyboy", which the Spider-Man of mid-70's Gerry Conway scripts would often lob at villains.
Of course, as with all things of childhood summers, we eventually outgrew our "backyard battles" and went on to find new challenges for our imaginations and boyish energy (like girls). Ahh, but I still smile whenever I think about those grandiose (mock) slugfests...and can still sometimes hear the echoes of Batarang frisbees clashing against garbage lid shields and mighty falsetto-voiced oaths.
P.S.: Speaking of summer, be sure to take a crack at my Summer Heat contest...and possibly win a copy of Comic Books 101! Midnight tomorrow (Wednesday) is the deadline to submit your guesses!