Wednesday, June 1, 2022
By MICHAEL WALSH
Today’s Superman anniversary reminded me of the surprisingly important role that comics have played in my life to date. Seven years ago, I posted the restored version of the first newspaper feature for which I received a paycheque. It ran in the Saturday, November 26, 1966 edition of The Toronto Daily Star and the subject was comic books.
I first encountered them as a kid in the 1950s, a time when they were not taken seriously, and one was expected to outgrow them. I probably would have, too, but for a fateful meeting with Marshall McLuhan sometime early in the 1960s. I was in 10th grade at the time and discovered his first book, 1951’s The Mechanical Bride, tucked away in a back room of the school library.
Subtitled “Folklore of Industrial Man,” his unique examination of post-Second World War popular culture changed the way I looked at the world. Because he devoted considerable space to the importance of comics within what we've come to call the mass media, I began to take them seriously.
In 1966, I was attending the Toronto college where McLuhan, a celebrity professor in the English department, had founded his multi-disciplinary Centre for Culture and Technology. I was writing movie reviews and news articles for the campus newspaper, The Varsity. Then, the Star’s entertainment editor called about a piece I’d done on something called COM-EX, a Comic Book Exposition being held at Hart House, the men’s student union at the University of Toronto.
Journalism? I don’t recall it being a career path I'd ever seriously considered. And yet, McLuhan and Superman were among those who nudged me in that direction at various points along the way. Among the results is this Reeling Back website. There have been five additions to the archive since mid-May, including:
FLYERS — Director Dennis Earl Moore's 1982 IMAX docu-drama celebrates America’s romance with military aviation during the First and Second World Wars. (posted May 29)
TOP GUN — Tom Cruise stars as Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, spokesmodel for naval aviation in director Ridley Scott’s 1986 Pentagon-sponsored recruiting poster. (posted May 27)
THE LONELY LADY — Pia Zadora has the title role in director Peter Sasdy’s 1983 adaptation of Harold Robbins’s roman à clef about film industry ambition. (posted May 25)
THE ADVENTURERS — “Albanian Adonis” Bekim Fehmiu stars as a Latin American playboy-revolutionary in Lewis Gilbert’s 1970 adaptation of Harold Robbins’s jet-set epic. (posted May 25).
NEVADA SMITH — Steve McQueen has the title role in director Henry Hathaway’s 1966 Western spin-off from Harold Robbins’s big, bold novel The Carpetbaggers. (posted May 25)