Saturday, July 23, 2011

Halk Kar and Halk-Kar

I realized recently that I've never explained the drawing of me here on my blog, or, for that matter, the name "Halk-Kar".

As I mention in the "About Me" section, I am a fan of Silver Age comics, especially in the DC line. One of my all-time favorite characters was Mon-El, a teen with basically the same powers as Superboy, who Superboy, mistakenly, initially assumed was his (Superboy's) older brother.

Many years after my first encounter with Mon-El, I discovered that, years before his entry into Superboy's life, there had been a character named Halk Kar (no hyphen), who'd appeared in Superman's life, and whose story was uncannily similar to Mon-El's.

Halk Kar struck me as a goofier, late-Golden Age version of Mon-El, so he was never really a great favorite of mine, but I did harbor some affection for the character. When I decided to start a blog, I knew that a good number of posts would probably involve comic books, so I decided I should use a comic book name, but one that was somewhat more obscure than, say, "Superman Fan" or "Green Lantern's Light", and I recalled Halk Kar of Thoron. (That's a bit of a pun, there, from the original story of Halk Kar. He came from Thoron, a planet in the same solar system as Krypton. Thoron is an isotope of Radon, and Radon and Krypton are both noble gases in the periodic table of elements.) I decided to hyphenate the name, to make it stylistically more similar to the traditional hyphenated form of Kryptonian names.

Now that you know a little about Halk Kar, I should explain the picture below:

My good friend Don and I became fast friends when we discovered a mutual love of Silver Age DC comics, and, over the years, we've spent many an hour discussing favorite stories, covers, plot points and trivia. One of the amusing discussions always centered on the fact that each person on Krypton seemed to have only a single outfit --- either that, or they each had a wardrobe of several identical outfits --- because, for example, Superman's father, Jor-El, always wore the same outfit, no matter at what point in his life we saw him, and Superman's mother Lara always wore exactly the same dress any time she appeared in a comic book. Don asked me, at one point, "What would your Kryptonian outfit look like?" I had to think carefully about that, because, according to the tradition, it would be my one and only outfit for life, and, if I should one day become a superhero, it would become my costume.

I described the outfit in such precise detail that Don's wife, Doni (Yes, really.), who is a talented artist, decided that she'd like to try to draw me in it, in classic Silver Age style. The wonderful result, a full-size poster, now hangs in my Fortress of Davidtude, and a copy of it now graces this blog.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Personal Knowledge vs. Google

Recently, a friend of mine opined that, with the proliferation of smartphones with internet access, there was no longer any value to being (as we both are) masters of trivia. While that may be true for, say, Quizzo contests at the corner tavern, there is still value in having sometimes obscure information stored internally.

I was reminded recently of the personal advantage of trivia. In listening to one of my superhero podcasts (Batman: the Ace of Detectives --- Pendant Productions), I heard Robin, who was receiving a transfusion after having been attacked by a vampire, say, "Hey, Daddy-o! Make that type O!" Now, I'd bet not one person in a thousand would get the reference to the Nervous Norvus song, "Transfusion" , from the mid-50s. In fact, most listeners wouldn't even know it was a reference to anything.

Similarly, many years ago, my students, knowing I was a comic book fan, asked if I'd seen the episode of The Flash on TV the night before. I started expounding on the fact that, in that episode, the character of the blind news vendor was played by Robert Shayne, who was, at that time, legally blind. I pointed out that Shayne had played Inspector Henderson on The Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves as the Man o' Steel, and that Shayne's character in the Flash episode had his newsstand on Bessolo Boulevard, and that George Reeves' real name had been George Bessolo. One of my students said, "Man, you enjoy that show on a whole different level than most people!" I pointed out that, the more you know, the more such references you can "get". Again, I doubt a lot of people even realized there were such references.

When the TV show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was on the air, there was an episode in which Buck was in a spaceport, and there were loudspeaker announcements in the background. One announcement was, "Paging Dr. Adam Strange of Alpha Centauri." Again, most people might not even realize that was an allusion, as it were, but I enjoyed it.

It does no good to be able to Google the references, if you aren't aware that they are, in fact, references. It's certainly a good thing to be able to find information, but it's even better to know the information.