Exciting news kids. With a concept that was blatantly not stolen from Moonlight Investigations, tomorrow night “I Saw Elvis” records it's very first podcast. If all goes to plan then by the end of the week it should be available to download right here. Please folks, do try and contain yourselves until then.
Speaking of stealing stuff, for those of you who don't keep up with the excellent Naveed's Realm (Gee Note: And there really is no excuse if you don't. No really, I've been reliably informed that only fascists and weirdo's don't read Naveed's Realm. And you wouldn't want to be a fascist or a weirdo now would you? Would you? Think about that while I play some records) about a week or two ago Naveed posted a kind of overview on the subject of Reptoids, which coincidently is one of my favourite subjects.
Now this may come as a shock for those out there who read this and picture me as some kind of well dressed, fabulously charming, Adonis of a man, but I can actually be kind of a geek (Gee Note: Not that I'm not amazingly charming and all the rest of it. It's just, you know, sometimes a man can be both sexy and a massive nerd at the same time.) Especially when it comes to the subject of comic books.
Comic books are an art form that will never really be accepted by the mainstream. The image of a comic book fan to most people is this:
Which is a shame really, because as a man who regularly bores people in pub conversations about classic literature (Gee Note: Seriously, never ever get me on to the subject of Shakespeare. Unless, of course, you happen to be looking for a cheap alternative to sleeping pills.) there are some comic books I would genuinely rate along side any piece of writing from The Bard and the like.
For example, in my opinion both Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are works of such depth and complexity that very few non graphic novels can compare to them. The Sandman series written by Neil Gaiman is another sterling example, prompting Norman Mailer of all people to call it “a comic book for intellectuals”. (Gee Note: By the way did you know that Norman Mailer stabbed his second wife with a pen knife, nearly killing her? Makes that loveable old guy from “When We Were Kings” seem less, well, loveable doesn't it?). Add to that list The Dark Knight Returns, so close to being a complete masterpiece of the superhero genre it's scary, and you have enough to rival any “serious” art form beloved by regular folk.
Strangely enough what ignited my love of comics wasn't the super heroes themselves. Back then, and to a lesser extent even now, I found most heroes exceedingly boring and one dimensional, driven by an “aw swell” need to be good. Even those who were “edgy” and “dark” were often simply portrayed as having a low level of teenage angst.
No, for me the joy of comics always came from reading about the villains.
Trust me, until the recent "anti-hero" explosion inspired by Frank Miller and Alan Moore, the villains were always more fascinating characters than the heroes were. For example, take Bruce Wayne. A poor little rich boy who, while being skilled at hand to hand combat, basically beats the bad guys because he has an enormous wallet. Compare that to the Joker, a man driven to insanity for unknown reasons (Gee Note: "If I'm going to have a past I'd prefer it to be multiple choice") to the point where he kills people in unbelievably gruesome ways, and cripples innocent people for no reward other than to prove that "anyone can lose their mind after one really bad day". I don't know about you, but I know which one I'd rather read about.
Often times the heroes would just be a foil for the writer to have some fun with a psychopath. I mean how dull would a Spider-Man comic be without a character like Doc Ock? Or the Fantastic Four without Dr. Doom? Or Watchmen without the great big alien squid thing? (Gee Note: OK I know I've ranted about this before but, believe me, I understand that a lot of the graphic novel has to be ditched due to time constraints if you're going to actually make a Watchmen movie. And so therefore if "Tales of the Black Freighter" and the news-stand guy don't make the cut then fine. But not only is the squid thing pivotal to the storyline but it's also a kick ass visual. To replace it with a tired and clichéd atom bomb type of deal is a complete travesty in my opinion. It doesn't mean I won't go and see the movie. Just that my expectations of it being potentially the best film of the 00's have been significantly lowered. End of desperate sounding, whiny voiced, fanboy moaning.)
The reason I bring all this up is that the very first super villain I fell in love with was none other Dr. Curt Connors. AKA The Lizard. The Lizard has everything I adore about a good super villain. A noble and wise man, he is enlisted in to the army as a field surgeon where he saves the lives of countless G.I.s before losing an arm in an explosion. Honourably discharged due to his disability, he begins researching reptilian DNA in an effort to discover the secrets of limb regeneration. Driven by two parts desire to make a difference and one part ego, Connors develops a serum and like any good scientist, uses himself as a test subject. (Gee Note: My favourite scientists are the ones that are crazy enough to experiment on themselves. Guys like Barry Marshall, who in 1982 drank a witches brew of bacteria to prove that it was Helicobacter Pylori Bacterium that caused stomach ulcers and not, as it was thought at the time, stress. Marshall and his partner Robin Warren deservedly won both a Nobel Prize and a pretty severe tummy ache because of it.) Alas all did not go according to plan and the good doctor's serum transformed the mild mannered likeable chap in to a berserk, slobbering, half man half lizard mutant.
Pretty much like the one that was reported by 17 year old Christopher Davis in South Carolina, June 29th, 1988.
Allow me to explain. At approximately 2 am that morning Davis was on his way home from work, travelling on a road that runs alongside the Scape Ore swamp near Bishopville, when he had to pull over to fix a flat tire. He was just finishing up placing the flat in to his trunk when he heard a noise coming from a nearby field. Upon turning round to see what was causing such a ruckus he was amazed to see a 7 foot tall bipedal lizard with glowing red eyes charging towards him. Understandably freaked out Davis jumped in to his car, slammed his foot to the floor, a tore off down the road as quickly as the good folk at Toyota automotive engineering could muster.
Alas it wasn't quick enough as, according to Davis, while speeding along the creature leapt on to the roof of his car with a loud thud. A large three fingered claw started to reach over the windscreen while a second limb grabbed the drivers door. In a desperate attempt to save himself Davis swerved the car, forcing the creature to fall off. Davis didn't look back and sped all the way home.
A couple of days later Lee County Sheriff Liston Truesdale interviewed Davis about the incident. Believing it to be nothing more than a teenage prank Truesdale slowly became convinced that Davis was telling the truth. To that end Truesdale arranged for a lie detector test which Davis passed with flying colours.
Davis supplied the Sheriff with this drawing of the creature:
(Gee Note: It turns out that, erm, Christopher Davis isn't much of an artist.)
Soon Truesdale became besieged with other reports of a Lizard Man terrorizing the area around Scape Ore swamp. Construction worker George Hollomon Jr. reported seeing a beast that matched Davis's description of the creature near the Scape Ore Swamp Bridge while collecting water from an artisan well. The creature rounded on Hollomon causing him to flee the scene. Again Hollomon passed a lie detector test, and his brother claims Hollomon was genuinely disturbed by the event for months after. Later a young couple by the names of Brian Edward and Michelle Nunnery were interviewed by officers after they claimed to have nearly hit "some big animal on two legs" while driving down Cedar Creek "Gum Springs" Road.
And then a hoaxer came out of the woodwork.
Meet Kenneth Orr, an airman stationed at Shaw Air Force Base. Orr went to the police and claimed that he encountered the Lizard Man on Highway 15. Being a conscientious lover of nature, Orr promptly shot and wounded the Lizard Man , providing blood and scales as evidence.
Sadly the story was untrue, Orr recanted it two days later and was charged with filing a false police report. For many locals this one incident explained the events of that summer, the stories of a "Lizard Man" were nothing more than the work of a prank loving Air Force Sergeant.
But then that wouldn't explain what happened to Colonel Robert Cooper of the Army Corps of Engineers. On his way back home from a wedding rehearsal during the early 90's Colonel Cooper spotted what he described as a half-man half-dinosaur running alongside his car while driving past Scape Ore swamp. Cooper decided against placing a formal report on file due to the fact that it would not be kept private. Which is understandable. On the verge of promotion to General, Cooper probably felt that going around saying "I done seen a Dino-Man!" wouldn't help his career much.
Indeed seeing as Orr claimed to have nothing to do with the initial sightings and insisted that his one hoax was the fake scales and blood, it also wouldn't explain the footprints found by Truesdale in the swamp area while investigating the claims of Davis and others. The prints had three toes, and measured 14 inches long by 7 inches wide. Truesdale took them to various Wildlife experts who's opinions divided between "fake" and "real, but I don't know what the hell it is".
So here we have the Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp. An undiscovered monster? Or a hoax? Well the truth is there's something about this tale that intrigues me, and while hard evidence is thin on the ground I'm not so sure it can be dismissed quite out of hand. And, honestly, I'm not even sure why I feel that way. There's just something about it, how the descriptions match, how the reports are from reliable people, how sightings continue to trickle in to this day, the negative lie detector tests, etc. I don't know, it just sounds more "genuine" than a lot of "weird beastie" stories.
And maybe, just maybe, there's a honest-to-goodness real life Curt Connors out there somewhere.