It’s a day late, but I’m sure my dad wouldn’t have minded. He was very forgiving when it came to his little girl. Yesterday marked the sixth Father’s Day I spent without my dad, and it was as hard as ever. But I take a lot of solace in memories of him, and among them is the important role his influence had on my pop culture education.
My dad and I spent many an afternoon sharing a bowl of Cheez-Its and watching kung fu movies. As always, I was drawn to the glamorous young women in gorgeous costumes — who could hold their own in a rumble with the rival kung fu school! And there will always be something iconic for me about crazy old men in trees and the nefarious sifu who meditated on beds of nails. My dad was a sifu, a kung fu teacher, himself (among my memorbilia of him are two spears and a photograph of him breaking a cinderblock with his fist) but, alas, I never learned much beyond ma from him, to my everlasting regret.
Kung fu fiction is called wuxia in China and includes prose, movies, and comics. I saw a few wuxia graphic novels in Shanghai when I was there three years ago, but I didn’t by them, also to my regret. If anyone knows of good kung fu comics available in the U.S., please recommend them to me here!
Happy (belated) Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Share what you love with your daughters, even if you think they won’t like it because it’s not tea parties and princesses. They love all the attention and time they can get from their dads. I know I did.
Yes, of course I know now that his name is Sven and he’s not Mexican, but when I was seven, I wouldn’t have questioned anything my cousin Greg told me about Voltron. He was the one who introduced me to it in the first place and was my ambassador to shape-changing robots, evil fish-headed Kings and courageous princesses.
Eventually, my older cousin Marisol claimed the role of Princess Allura, Greg came around to the idea that being daredevil Lance was better than being Sven, and I took the role of Princess Romelle, who didn’t pilot a lion but did lead a rebellion against Prince Lotor — plus, she had horses. So it all worked out.
Those old Voltron cartoons are silly and simple to me now (though still hold a lot of nostalgic appeal), but they inspired my cousins and me, in our make-believe games, to re-enact and invent stories involving teamwork and bravery — and a little melodrama. Voltron has since become a comic published by Devil’s Due, but, honestly, I don’t think anything can compare to the Voltron stories my cousins and I made up in our family rooms and backyards.
And my cousin Greg? He’s the one who became the real pilot. He’s a captain in the Air Force and currently serving in Iraq, where he’s helping to train the Iraqi Army. This Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now is dedicated to him.