Anti-Heroes Never Disappoint You

The adage says never meet your heroes, they’ll only disappoint you. I guess I’m safe. The only hero I ever had was New York Yankee catcher Thurman Munson.

The Captain died when I was a ripe old age of 11, 40 years ago last month, to be precise. The small engine plane he flew crashed, and my hero was gone, taken from my during a my formative years. I got to see him play live, once, it had been earlier that year. He didn’t exactly play the game, he was nursing an injury preventing him from performing his usual role as catcher. But he did come on as a DH, and nailed a walk off home run for the Yanks only score in a losing effort against the Chicago White Sox.

Since this time, I’ve had Anti-Heroes.

Anti-Heroes aren’t far off from heroes. Much like my departed hero, my Anti-Heroes are blessed with extraordinary skills, regardless of their origin. Anti-Heroes can’t disappoint you. They’re either fictionalized entities or normal peeps, and the irony is the latter often gives birth to the former. As a result, because normal peeps are fallible, both are inherently flawed.

Some of my early Anti-Heroes are obvious figures from fiction…

Conan. Snake Plissken. George Taylor. Robert Neville. Hazel. Elric. Hawkeye. Tarzan. John Carter. Starbuck & Apollo. Han Solo. Moon Knight. Supergirl. Carl Kolchak. The Man With No Name…

And some are real people, living and dead…

Musicians…

Ozzy. Dio. Bruce Dickenson & Steve Harris, fuck it – all of Iron Maiden. Ritchie Blackmore. Zakk fucking Wylde. Gary Moore. The Bard: Phil Lynott. Godamn KISS. Shawn Morgan. Johnny Reznik…

Filmmakers…

John fucking Carpenter. James Cameron. Kathryn Bigelow. Quentin Tarantino. Neil Marshal. Adam Wingard.

Wrestlers…

Roddy Piper. Jake Roberts. HHH. Buzz Sawyer. Paul Ellering. Bobby Heenan. Paul Heyman.

Actors…

Michael Biehn. Lee Van Cleef. Kurt Russell. Daniel Day-Lewis.

Actresses…

Fay Wray. Nicole Kidman. Sigourney Weaver.

Writers…

Richard Matheson. John Skipp & Craig Spector. Stephen King. Brian fucking Keene. Nancy A. Collins. Robert E. Howard. L Sprague De Camp. Cormac McCarthy. Frederick Pohl. Richard Adams. William Gibson.

Anti-Heroes can never disappoint you. They’re only human. They only do as a much as humans can do.

The weekend of my birthday in 2005, I had an opportunity to talk to one of these Anti-Heroes: Zakk fucking Wylde. I took that time to express to him not my adoration, but to tell him how much my wife, who typically isn’t a fan of his music, loved a particular song he wrote (In This River.). He appreciated our time – because it wasn’t what he expected. The mother fucker gave me a bear hug. The song has gone on to be his eulogy to Darrell Abbot. When my father in law passed in 2013, I hired Joe Altier to record the song as a special Christmas gift for my wife. It had become her song to identify with her Dad. Zakk Wylde is an amazing musician, but he’s a fucking human.

Last year was a bucket list of Anti-Heroes. I was able to pick the minds of both John Skipp & Craig Spector, and express to them how I always wrote, but I didn’t learn how to write until I read their material. For those not in the “know,” the former rock stars of Splatterpunk horror aren’t on amicable speaking terms. Skipp thought Craig was in the room with us and the look of anxiety over it I saw in his eyes told me he was terrified of seeing his former writing partner. It’s very much on a John Fogherty vs. CCR level. BUT – Craig is battling prostate cancer, the same disease that took my father from me on Superbowl Sunday, 2017. As a result, the empathy I have for Craig is immeasurable.  So, yeah… without a doubt, Skipp & Spector are fucking human.

Later, I got to spend 10 minutes alone with another of my Anti-Heroes, Brian fucking Keene. The talk was rather casual, and when asked for advice on how to apply my work ethic, he reminded me of his blue collar roots, and how he applied that in his approach to writing. He also revealed to me that he, too, suffers from ADHD, a demon I’ve battled since I was a child. He’s fucking Brian Keene. But he’s fucking human. And when he had the fire and burn scare earlier this year… it only reinforced this notion with me.

If you place your heroes, idols, inspirations or muses on too high a pedestal, it’s a set up for failure. You imprint yourself with hubris. It blinds you to the simple fact, these people… they’re only human. They’ll always disappoint you if you look for it, and when you suffer from hubris, it becomes a delusional poison.

Here’s to the Anti-Heroes. Long may they live, flaws and all, to show us…

We’re only human.

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