Friday, April 25, 2008
Wendy Wilson, Comic Book Siren, or How The Hulk Almost Got Me Laid
Hulk #208 was different. I like the idea of Hulk becoming Bruce Banner again and living like a normal person. It’s a nice change from all of that violence with different villains coming and attacking Hulk.
That was the extent of my first letter published in a “real” comic book, real meaning Marvel, sometimes DC. Anything else was fairly contemptible to the thirteen year-old connoisseur of the form I considered myself to be, back in those halcyon days of the mid 1970s. I was a “true believer”, a pocket money-offering pilgrim to the mighty Marvel Comics Group, a division of Cadence Industries Corporation.
The first acknowledgement of this privileged arrangement was the above incisive commentary, written to the editor of Green Skin’s Grab Bag, the appropriately-titled letter’s page column of The Incredible Hulk. It was the June, 1977 issue, #212, the first appearance of Frank Payne, the super villain known as The Constrictor. Of course, I had to look this up on the internet. I mean, it’s been a few years, I’ve moved on from my comic book relationship.
Sorry, Hulk, I guess I just outgrew you. Or maybe you changed. It’s hard to say, but the truth is I’m not a nerd anymore, at least not the comic book-reading variety. Really, I’m not. Besides, this little story isn’t about gamma-irradiated giants and costumed bad guys, it’s about a girl.
Yes. That’s right. You heard me. A GIRL.
I told you I wasn’t a nerd anymore.
Her name was Wendy Wilson. That’s her actual name, I haven’t changed it to protect anyone’s supposed innocence. I actually don’t believe there was anything innocent about my affair with Wendy, not on either end.
Wendy lived in Kingston, Jamaica. Her letter arrived in early August, just a few weeks after I’d first discovered my name and address had become a part of the Marvel Universe. Her envelope, a delicate, soft, airmail blue, cut like a cyclone through my introverted, adolescent existence, spewing a flurry of feminine considerations. She told me of her eyes. Black eyes, she said, with a poetic force beyond her years. She told me of her hair. Black hair, she teased. She told me of her body. Slim build, with lovely shape, she smiled, seeming to literally breathe from the lightly-scented, decorative note paper, stationary that featured an illustration, in the lower left-hand corner, of two Keane-styled children, a boy and a girl, dressed respectively in overalls and a petticoat, tromping barefoot through a pasture of bright daisies. This idyllic drawing was accompanied by a script-written quote: “We’re not the only ones in love… we just think we are”, to which Wendy had coyly added Remember m, remember e, put them together and remember me. She went on to inform me she was, in no uncertain terms, a very pretty and attractive girl, very romantic and fun-loving. She told me her favorite sports were lawn tennis, table tennis, and basket ball (two words in Jamaica, apparently). She told me her ambition was to become an airline stewardess, “otherwise known as a ground hostess”. She told me that, in her spare time, she would be a singer.
Nearly twelve months my senior, Wendy was, in essence, a fourteen year-old siren, a rock I’d gladly have smashed into, ultimately perishing of starvation, thirst, and delirium. In my already-fevered imagination, one fed on the hyperbole of Smilin’ Stan Lee and the voluptuous curves of Jack Kirby (the curves of his female characters, not his), I saw Wendy calling me onward, urging me to leave my 25¢ vessel, a flimsy, pulp-hewn, four-color yacht held together by staples, to join her, to lose myself in her smooth, brown limbs.
Were they, in fact, brown? I’ll never know, but I saw them that way, it helped fulfill the fantasy of a shy, white kid living in rural Pennsylvania. It also did wonders helping me forget the frustration I was currently feeling concerning the lack of focus in David Anthony Kraft’s writing on The Defenders (that’s one for the nerds out there – hey, fellas? – your mom’s calling you, her walker’s stuck in that gap on the porch again).
Wendy’s amazing letter continued. My exotic new pen pal princess informed me that she was crowned 1977 Queen of the Year, at Queen’s High School (that seemed a bit too convenient somehow), that she won a medal for singing and acting, that her favorite gifts were rings, bracelets and necklaces, that her favorite singers were The Jackson 5, Donny and Marie, Olivia Newton John, Johnny Mathis, Debbie Boone, and The Gibbs Brothers (not the Bee Gees in Jamaica, apparently). She also told me her favorite TV shows were Starsky & Hutch, Switch, Happy Days, Little House on The Prairie (that explains the note paper), Medical Center, Family and, inexplicably, something called Testimony of Two Men, which we didn’t get in America.
By now, you’ve more than likely deduced that Wendy’s seemingly out-of-the-blue declaration of romantic union was, in fact, nothing more than a crazed plea from a raving, island nation lunatic.
Well, okay, perhaps it was really just a young girl dreaming, fancying herself capable of landing a gullible, younger man, an inhabitant of the all-powerful United States of America. Reading an A-lost title like the Hulk, I clearly came from a rich, well-established family. Regardless of my current address, we’d obviously be vacationing in daddy's summer home in Nantucket.
Still, whatever her intent, I was lost at sea, clueless as to how and why I was on the receiving end of such interest, awash in a terrifying mix of fear and lust, two words I only knew from comic books.
Hi Jeremy, How are you? her missive began. As for me, I am cool. This is my first letter to you and I have seen your name in the magazine.
The magazine? What magazine, I asked, curled on my bed, secretively reading her letter for the twentieth time. What was this crazy, Jamaican girl talking about? I’m not in any magazine!
Then it hit me.
The Incredible Hulk #212. The first appearance of Frank Payne, The Constrictor, a cover by Rich Buckler and Ernie Chan, the very issue that heralded my short-lived run as an overly-effusive comic book letter writer. I quickly ramped it up from this nervously concise debut, in the weeks to come finding myself rhapsodizing ineloquently to Chris Claremont about the “emotional power” of The Man-Thing mythos, then digging at the editors of Mike Grell’s The Warlord for causing me to become so enraptured by the storyline that I let my bowl of Rice Krispies go soggy while reading in bed – true story, I swear.
Ah, to live again the life of a teenage comic book fan, to so lovingly sculpt my little communiqués, posting them with the hopes that people I didn’t know might verify their existence by reading them, perhaps even to comment upon them. Sigh. How desperately quaint we were, not so long ago. How much we’ve all changed. But, please forgive me, I’m completely forgetting my lustful longing for Wendy Wilson.
How could I do that?
I’m sorry, Wendy, I’ll make it up to you, I promise. I’ll buy you a bracelet, tomorrow, before you jet in from your Tokyo layover, to join the cast of Switch, on stage at Radio City Music Hall. Man, that Eddie Albert can sing.
But, seriously, I’m talking about Wendy Wilson here. Wendy, the girl who offered herself to me, body and gift list. Wendy, the girl who helped fuel my budding interest in the partly-veiled nooks and crannies of the female body (I love you, Alfredo Alcala) I was able to glimpse in the “mature” black & white comics magazines I was just beginning to sneak into the house.
Wendy. Wendy Wilson. 5 ft, 3 inches tall, weighing 115 lbs. Can you ever forgive me for not responding to your letter, Wendy?
You have to understand. I was thirteen, I was scared, I was still reading Super Friends for Christ’s sake! I just wasn’t ready for you.
Look, I’ll be honest, I was a virgin. One embarrassingly brief letter to The Incredible Hulk was not the experience you were looking for. I know that now, I suppose I knew that then, but things have changed.
Wendy, my crowned queen of the stewardess lounge, my sweet, dark, table-tennis nymph, I’ve grown, I really have. My letters found their emotional power in the murky swamps and the soggy cereal of an adolescent ride that has brought me to this, my very first blog post. I’m a MAN now, Wendy, a man who is ready to buy you rings, and necklaces, and Gibbs Brothers records, and run barefoot with you through the daisies. Wendy?
Wendy Wilson? Are you out there?
Write sometime, OK?
You can be coy about it, tell me you ran into my blog by chance. You needn’t admit you’re really a lonely, frustrated, attractive, forty-something, Hulk-reading, singing, Jamaican stewardess, who found me while Googling “kinky green stuff” on a Friday night. I was listed right beneath nude composting. Nothing to be ashamed of.
Just let me know you’re out there, that’s all I ask.
Whatever happens, regardless of if we’re ever to meet, regardless of if I ever have a chance to show you all that Mike Grell taught me about romancing a beautiful, scantly-clad woman, high atop a prehistoric tree, promise me, Wendy, promise me you’ll remember one thing.
Remember m. Remember e. Put them together, baby, and remember me.
And answer back real soon, OK?
Love - Jeremy