Panther and the Bull

A lot of you may not know this, but I pretty much created The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, except that I called them The Panthers. It was a team of martial-arts superheroes that sometimes drove around in giant mech/robots. The leader was all in red, while his allies wore other primary colors, like blue and green. And just like Rangers, they even wore helmets! If only the receptionist at DC Comics headquarters had bothered to take me seriously, when I was nine, DC would now own the rights to Power Rangers!

I kid, of course. The remarkable similarities between Power Rangers and Panthers just goes to show how easily people can stumble upon the exact same idea, which sometimes scares me, because I never want to be accused of plagiarism. If, in the near future, someone releases a fantasy novel about a pair of naked heroes, I’d hate for people to think I stole the idea. I think this explains the flood of vampire romance novels following Twilight, since, as that book was becoming popular, older, unpublished works with the same concept came to light.

Now if you’ve read my biography, you know I grew up in my father’s restaurant, and that all of my first stories were written/drawn on the back of pink order tickets. But my dad never cared for my literary/artistic ambitions. All that mattered to him was selling pizza. Flash forward thirty years, and the restaurant he so cherished is becoming haunted. It’s dilapidated, cobwebbed and full of creepy paintings; it smells like old people; and you can sometimes hear the ghosts of dead customers (OK, maybe not). At times, I give my father money to keep it running. To make matters worse, he and my mom are being evicted from their home. For twenty years, they lived in a stately, two-story mini-mansion, the pride of the Greek community, their hard earned reward for neglecting their duty as parents. Now, after a number of poor financial decisions, Bank of America is kicking them into my brother’s tiny duplex, which wouldn’t be such a bummer if my father wasn’t in his mid-80’s. It’s unlikely he’ll be moving into a better place in his lifetime . . . unless, of course, I hit it big with one of my books. So, for the past couple of months, I have been digging through the past like Dr. Jones, separating the junk from the treasure, and what do I find? The lost works of yours truly, of my first ever heroes, the Red Panther.

On the surface, Panther and the Bull is a simple story, two superheroes teaming up against a Hulk/Minotaur type villain. But I was dealing with a lot of shit at the time. Since my parents were far too busy to realize I existed, and my brother just wanted to go out drinking and looking for one-night stands, I was utterly alone, but for a pizza cook named Dean. For reasons I cannot fathom, this stranger from Illinois, someone who lived in his van and who, I later learned, was also a cocaine addict, was everything my father wasn’t. He listened to my stories and problems; he read to me and encouraged me and helped out with homework; he even took me to the movies and the arcade. I am a better father because of him. But he could not play the role forever. I begged him to stay, telling him that he was “my lifeline,” the only person in my life that cared, but he had to move back to Peking, regardless. I was devastated. It was like losing my best friend and father all at once.

The only way I’ve ever known to deal with grief is through story, and that story was Panther and the Bull. 

[If you enjoy the story below, don’t forget to SHARE ON FACEBOOK!]

Look closely and you can see the Country Pizza Inn text on the back!
Dean was Blue Panther. He had a mustache and glasses.
Grappling hook belt aka Batman!
SMOKE BOMB! As a kid, spelling was never a priority.
“Wake up! Are you okay, Red Panther?”
Undiable = Unkillable?

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