Oh, god. Oh, god. This … this is evidently what passed for the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe in 1989. (This is the company’s float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.)
Can I be blamed for not getting into superhero comics until college? When portrayals like this represented the genre to the general public?
Dear God, what have they done to Dr. Doom?? And is that misshapen, dirty aluminum golem supposed to be the Silver Surfer?! And they’re all in a … multi-level mausoleum? A crumbling clock-tower? A haunted castle that inexplicably has a manhole right outside its entrance? Huh? Wha?
Hey, this was nearly two full decades before the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Indeed, it was the very same year as Tim Burton’s “Batman” — and that is actually the first bona fide modern superhero movie that I can think of without googling it. The genre had a long way to go.
Hey … the Spider-man balloon was pretty cool.
Omni in the 1980’s was an absolutely unique magazine dedicated to science fiction and science fact — it was always weird and occasionally wonderful. Its content was consistently a good deal trippier than anything you’d find in more mainstream contemporaries like Scientific American or Discover — futurism, the paranormal, and short stories that were pretty damned abstract. (I remember Patricia Highsmith’s “The Legless A” being a real head-scratcher for me.) And the covers to Omni were frequently awesome.
I had a subscription around 1989 or so — I believe I got a year’s subscription as either a Christmas or birthday present. I still remember it arriving in the mailbox. I think I had all of the issues you see below — except the third one. That issue is from January 1983, and I never had it. I’m including it here because it’s too interesting not to share.
Stephen King fans will recognize Don Brauitgam’s artwork for the cover of King’s classic 1978 short story collection, “Night Shift.” Brautigam apparently sold it to the magazine later. (Interesting, too, is the similarity of the artist’s name to a key character in King’s subsequent “Hearts in Atlantis” and his “The Dark Tower” series — the kindly psychic, Ted Brautigan.)
Anyway, if you were geeky enough to enjoy this back in the day, the entire run of Omni is currently available at Amazon for $3 a pop. It was available online for free for a while, and I think you can still find all of the short stories uploaded in pdf if you google them — I found a bunch, including Highsmith’s story. (I wonder if I’d get a better sense of it if I read it today.)
NBC’s “Knight Rider” might be the granddaddy of all 1980’s high-tech super-vehicle shows — if I had to guess which one was the most popular or most fondly remembered, this would be it. (I suppose the other leading contender would be “Airwolf,” which we talked about a couple of months ago — but that was aimed at an older audience.)
“Knight Rider” was cheesy. But most 80’s action shows were cheesy, and I still remember it as being decent enough. Lord knows I and Mikey Wagner, the kid on the next block, were fascinated by it.
As anyone who remembers this show can attest, there is a key character that isn’t even hinted at in the intro below. The car was sentient. His name was K.I.T.T. (Knight Industries Two Thousand), and he was an artificial intelligence who actually who had a hell of a lot of personality. K.I.T.T. was a super-intelligent, talking, futuristic, sleek, black sportscar, and he was an incongruous damned hero to us kids.
The other star was Davis Hasselhoff as Michael Knight. We looked up to him too. Hasselhoff, of course, is now better known for his subsequent starring role as a moronic lifeguard on the categorically awful “Baywatch” (1989 – 2001). I remember seeing snippets of “Baywatch” in the 1990’s — it was constantly playing in the newsroom at my first job as a cub reporter. (The guys there loved it.) I remember being disappointed that one of my childhood heroes had somehow morphed into a male bimbo on the most saccharine and brainless TV show I had ever seen. Hey, “Knight Rider” was a show for kids … but it was goddam “Masterpiece Theater” when compared with “Baywatch.”
Weird trivia — the voice actor for K.I.T.T. was none other than William Daniels, who also gave a stellar performance as John Adams in 1972’s film adaptation of Broadway’s “1776.” It’s so weird seeing that movie and hearing the voice of K.I.T.T. come out of Adams’ mouth.