This is by my green, canary, cartoonist buddy, Randy Enos!
I know exactly where I was standing when I heard that President Roosevelt had died. I was standing on our sun porch. I was also on that same sun porch when Babe Ruth died. When I heard that World War 2 had ended, I was just about to jump into my red cart on the top of the Campbell St. hill and take a fast ride down. People burst from the houses shouting and crying out the news! When President Kennedy was shot, I was standing next to Barney Thompson’s drawing board at The Famous Artists Schools talking to him when someone burst in to tell us the news. One of the other cartoonists said, “Good!” I was working on a Playboy illustration in my studio when I heard that Bobby Kennedy was shot. We tend to remember where we were when these important events took place.
I was sitting on the front steps of Ottello Breda’s house with 2 or 3 friends when we saw the first issue of Mad Comics in 1952. We were stunned. A comic book in black and white that made fun of EVERYTHING!
Ottello was one of my best friends and when we were younger in the primary school years, he was the only other kid I knew that was a member of Captain Midnight’s Secret Squadron and possessed a secret decoder badge (free with several labels from Ovaltine) by which one could get clues as to what was going to happen in the next day’s radio adventure of Captain Midnight who came on at 5:15. “The Shark will cause trouble for Captain Midnight!”
I had millions of comic books like every other kid and we could always be found on somebody’s front porch steps reading, trading and discussing them. My very favorites were, “Captain Marvel Jr.” (I was lucky enough in later years to work with and learn from the artist of that book, Barney (Bud) Thompson), “Little Lulu” and “Hawkman” (I thought he had the coolest costume of all the super heros). Another was “The Boy Commandos”. God, I loved the Boy Commandos. They were 4 kids from the U.S., England , France and Holland who, with the help of their leader a grownup named Captain Rip Carter, fought the Nazis. My favorite kid was the one from the U.S. named “Brooklyn”. He wore a red derby and carried a machine gun. They were all orphans and they were tough. The only thing that always bothered me about them was that the French kid, Andre, was always saying “Oy oy!” It was many years before I realized that what he was saying was the French word “Oui”.
But, of course, there were hundreds of other comics and I devoured them all despite my father’s warnings that they would rot my brain. When I went off to art school, he cleaned out my precious collection. In those days we were all under the scornful eyes of our disapproving parents but we continued on with our sinful pursuit.
One of my favorite comic book trading friends was Brian. We walked to school each morning together. All we talked about was comic books. We lived in a comic book world of our own so it wasn’t hard for me to convince Brian that The Green Canary was, indeed, a real superhero who walked among us. Over a period of time, I had created this fictional character who, I insisted, really existed in our town of New Bedford. I knew people who had seen him, I told Brian. He was skeptical, of course, so it behooved me to go further in my deception. I started to leave little notes to Brian and myself on the path we took to school. It was my habit to walk across the Common to his house in the morning and then we’d go back a block or two to the Common and walk up to our school which was at the top. I would place the notes off to the side of the path we took and then zip down to Brian’s house to pick him up. As we’d walk along, I would suddenly spy something off near a bush.
“Hey, Brian, looks like a little piece of paper over there with some writing on it!”
We’d rush over and read the latest note from The Green Canary. Brian was so caught up in this fantasy world of super heros that he actually was buying my little trickery. I, of course, was starting to actually believe that I was, indeed, a super hero named The Green Canary. Why I came up with that absurd name for a champion of justice, I’ll never know. We always had canaries in the house when I was a kid so that was probably the problem right there. It reached a point that I started to create a costume for myself from handy items in my wardrobe with the help of a towel cape and other stuff.. I also had a black (or was it green?) mask (Lone Ranger style). I had boots. I fashioned some sort of hood for my head, etc.. I was dying to make an appearance to Brian to clinch the deception I had engineered, so one day, the note on the path was an invitation for us to actually SEE the Green Canary. A date was written there along with a time and a place for us to be when the hero would make his appearance. Coincidentally enough, the “viewing” was to be at the corner of Campbell St. and Smith St. where my house was. Brian and I were to be there at 2 in the afternoon and we were to look down the street one block to Pleasant St. where the Canary was to appear.
The day arrived and so did 2 o’clock which found me suitably attired in my patchwork quilt of a costume and waiting for my gullible friend. THERE HE WAS! He peered down at me in disbelief. I struck the best super hero pose I could come up with and waved my hand in a comradely gesture and then… dove off where he couldn’t see me and quickly tore off my costume and ran around a back way to the corner where Brian stood. I apologized for being late and asked if he had indeed seen the Canary. HE HAD! And I had missed the chance of a lifetime.
Well, that was long long ago. It was back when you had to wait an hour after eating a tuna fish sandwich before you could go swimming at the beach.It was a time when all else would vanish and you could get swept up and lost in the intoxicating world of flying heroes and evil, fantastic villains. Goodness and bravery always won. A time when Joe Palooka and Superman took time out of their busy schedule to do combat with Hitler himself. Where a force so evil would sometimes take the combined effort of super heros from different comic books that would come together to make this world a better place. A heady, hypnotizing world where you shut out the real world as you turned the pages of a 10 cent comic book and could just faintly… ever so faintly, hear your mom and pop shouting “You’ll rot your brain”.
SO, if, by any chance, you happen to be out there, Brian, and you just happen somehow to be reading this story, I feel… I guess that I can now finally reveal that I…was………… The Green Canary!
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Read many more of Randy’s cartooning memories: