Sunday, July 26, 2009

Larry Kramer a.k.a. the Fabulous Fris-- er... Awesome Airfoil

The first character casualty in Worlds Apart occurred years before I ever finished my first draft. I took his demise particularly hard because he was one of my oldest and most endearing creations. This hero wasn’t killed by some sociopathic super-baddie or noble act of self-sacrificing martyrdom. The causa mortis listed on his fictional death certificate would read something like: Acute Litigatory Apoplexy. In layman’s terms, my original character died because his legal right to exist rested on some pretty shaky ground. Let me explain.

In the horrifically humid summer between fourth and fifth grade, I created a superhero in my backyard while amusing myself throwing frisbees. Using the flying discs as projectiles, I engaged in a kind of target-shooting exercise against the side of our garage. At some point, I grew tired of retrieving the thrown frisbees and hit upon an idea. Punching small holes in the lips of the discs, I threaded some fishing line through the openings. My frisbees were now attached to fishing line which wrapped around my throwing hand. Suddenly, I could not only hurl the discs, but also recall them back into my hands with a snap of my wrists.

A hero was born -- the fabulous Frisbee! I imagined him as a kind of Hawkeye or Green Arrow, albeit armed with an arsenal of gimmicked frisbees. I bestowed a not-so-secret identity upon him, world-famous frisbee champion Larry Kramer. I already had a home for him, too. His character would fit in perfectly with Beachcomber, a Trademark Comic I’d started a few months earlier with an aquatic-themed superhero and his sidekick, the sensational Sand Dollar. (Note: this is the self-same Sand Dollar who appears as a Lyon News analyst at the opening of Worlds Apart.)

Lovable Larry Kramer’s first appearance in Beachcomber found him stopping a gang of smugglers using only normal frisbees and some stainless-steel trash-can lids. Taken under wing by Beachcomber and Sand Dollar, Larry spent the next couple issues slacking and cracking wise before circumstances forced him to put aside such childish things. Inspired to use his natural gifts to fight evil, Larry Kramer became the Frisbee, one of the Trademark Universe’s oldest and most-utilized superheroes. Case closed. Or so I thought.

Enter Worlds Apart artist and amateur legal scholar Tony Lewis. When first introduced to the fabulous Frisbee back in the mid-‘90s, Tony off-handedly mentioned that he didn’t think I could actually use the name Frisbee if we ever created a comic book. “Frisbee,” Tony informed me, is a registered trademark of the Wham-O toy company. I pooh-poohed him, told him the word “frisbee” had to be in the public domain by now, and promptly dispensed with his obviously paranoid reservations. I never even gave the matter another thought until years later when Worlds Apart started becoming a reality.

Much to my chagrin, as Worlds Apart started coalescing, Tony reintroduced the subject of Wham-O’s trademark on the word “frisbee” and their penchant for litigation. After doing some further research, I found myself compelled to agree. The fabulous Frisbee had to die. We could rename him, of course. But he would never be the same. A part of my childhood and my creative life required euthanasia. Not to be maudlin here, but I actually passed through all Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross’ stages of grief before actually allowing myself to mourn his tragic passing.

From the ashes of the fabulous Frisbee arose the awesome Airfoil. He’s still Larry Kramer, and he’s still the same slacker-turned-super-dude. But he’s not the fabulous Frisbee. For more on Airfoil, let’s consult his revised entry in the Titanic Trademark Encyclopedia:

Airfoil (Larry Kramer). Known by beach bums the world over as the undisputed master of the flying disc, Larry Kramer was content to spend his teenage years living off endorsements, catching rays and waves, and chasing bevies of bikini-clad babes. All this changed, however, when Larry relocated to Lasher Beach and took up with a couple of fledgling superheroes, Beachcomber and the sensational Sand Dollar. During a tussle with super-baddie Tempest, Beachcomber and Sand Dollar were taken prisoner, and Larry took it upon himself to save his friends and the world to boot. Modifying Sand Dollar’s arsenal into an array of high-tech flying discs, Larry became the awesome Airfoil and hasn’t looked back since.

Since first arriving on the scene, Airfoil has continually butted heads with old-school, establishment-type heroes like Silver Streak, Hangman, and Flurry. Often looked upon as immature, lazy, and a bit air-headed, Airfoil’s membership in the original Protectors was only considered probationary. In fact, he wasn’t accorded full Protector status until years later during his fourth stint with the team. Needless to say, Airfoil spent most of those “probationary” years trying to establish a respectable reputation in the super-biz, a task made all the more difficult by his problem with authority and his penchant for partying and playing pranks.

Weapons -- Airfoil is armed with a flying disc for practically every occasion, his most popular being the exploding variety and those with razor-sharp edges. For transportation, Airfoil tools around town on a disc-shaped craft he calls his Hover-Bee.

Personal Items -- Airfoil likes his freedom and hates taking orders. On the other hand, he desires nothing more than adulation and recognition as a real super-hero. Subsequently, Airfoil has been a Protector (several times), a member of both the Challengers and the United Front, as well as flying solo. At one point, Airfoil was heavily involved with Clarion, but mostly he prefers keeping things loose and his possibilities open. Currently, Airfoil is on his fourth tour of duty as a Protector, where he enjoys the camaraderie of Clarion and his best bud, Buckshot.

NEXTthe FYI on Todd Harper, a.k.a. the battling BUCKSHOT!

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