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Wonder-Books

Boomtown!

Boom Boom Boomtown!

For boys of a certain age, certain time, adventure role models were characters more of this world than others. Taking your cues from Classics Illustrated, Wonder-Books, American Heritage histories and Marvel Comics, you might want to be a cowboy, a sea captain, an aviator (or the riskier version of that, a fighter pilot), a sports hero or some outsized superhero. Boys more darkly inclined might want to be gunslingers, pirates, Baron Von Richthofen, Bizzaro or a New York Yankee. All these characters were romanticized, and all, upon closer inspection, would reveal flaws, kinks in their makeup and the kinds of shortcomings that would shatter the idealized version. If you wanted to feel the air to go out of the balloon, all you had to do was put down the juvenile literature and read some eyewitness history, biography or open your own eyes to see Yaz sneaking a cigarette in the Boston Red Sox dugout.

In adolescence you’d discover that the American frontier attracted a lot of sociopaths, Ty Cobb was a racist and illegal gambling was part of most games, war was an ugly and unnecessary thing and in fantasy land, the price of being a superhero was a life of secrets and isolation. I think I’m pretty safe in saying, one could still go out to sea, but in hindsight it seems like a very lonely thing to do. There was, however, a type of hero celeb who seemed insulated from scandal, muck and mire, at least as far as my experience was concerned, and that was the local kids show host, the affable guy with the gimmick and the cartoons.