14 January 2009

Thanking Larry Hama

If you were to track down former classmates of mine (and I, for one, have little interest in doing so), they would very likely recall me as having an expansive vocabulary.  I was often accused of reading the dictionary for fun.  Confession: I did, at least indirectly.  I got into comic books because Marvel Comics published titles based on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and Transformers.  I was literate, and my mom encouraged me to expand my vocabulary, but I was six years old.  How much exposure was I likely to really have to non-pedestrian words?

Enter: Larry Hama.  Hama served his country in Viet Nam and had pursued a career in writing.  His military experience was largely responsible for his hiring to oversee Hasbro's complete renovation of the G.I. Joe brand.  He named many of the characters for them, scripted the basic premise and was tapped by Marvel Comics to pen the comic title.  He also named many of the Transformers, since Hasbro's adaptation of them coincided with their Joe relaunch.

The G.I. Joe cartoon was often guilty of being little more than a glorified toy commercial that pandered to six year old boys like me, but Hama's comic title took itself seriously.  Where possible, Hama referenced real-life military protocols and his equipment was often real, or at least designed to approximate real weaponry.  Whereas the cartoon characters shot laser guns at one another and no one ever bled or died, Hama's troops fired real ammo, were frequently injured and often died.

I was absorbed by the comic, and found it infinitely superior to the cartoon.  I was not content to simply read or even re-read the issues I owned.  I would often trudge out the family's dictionary and look up words Hama used for code names, or even just in dialogue.  I found out, at six or seven years old, for instance, that a dirge is a mournful song.  Once I looked up "mournful," I understood these were sad songs sung at funerals and memorial services.  Now, I not only knew something I didn't know before, but I was smugly satisfied that few other six-year-olds thought of it as anything other than a Decepticon.

Today, whilst perusing Facebook, I began typing in random names of authors, actors and recording artists of whom I am a fan.  Lo and behold, I found Mr. Hama.  I figured the least I could do was thank the man for his role in expanding my vocabulary, so I did.  I was excited to read a response from him 91 minutes later, and it reads:
You're more than welcome. I am always surprised and puzzled by the notion that somebody on the Internet might be pretending to be me. It seems ludicrous on the face of it.
Larry Hama
Maybe Mr. Hama doesn't know just how special he is.

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