One of my favorite comic books of all time is Amazing Spider-Man #200. I received it within my first year of reading comics and couldn’t believe my luck that it was longer than the average comic! In this issue, Spider-Man confronts the burglar who had killed his alter ego’s Uncle Ben shortly after Peter Parker gained his spider-like powers. From there, Peter learned that, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
I’ve read and re-read that comic book so many times that it looks rather tattered. More than 35 years later, it maintains a special place in my heart. As I looked over my comic book collection, I realized that I own very few #200 issues. I have Spectacular Spider-Man #200, a spin-off that started about 13 years after the original. I have reprints of Fantastic Four #200 and Avengers #200 and Captain America #200 and Uncanny X-Men #200. The reality in today’s comic book landscape is that very few series last that long anymore.
The fact that I’ve lasted 200 columns is, frankly, a bit surprising to me. After I hit #100 a couple of years ago, I had a good head of steam going, with ideas for future columns all over the place. In the last year, I’ve slowed down a bit. In searching for constantly new, original ideas, I find myself treading over previously covered ground from time to time, especially concerning sports. Still, I’ve made it, and a new idea has sprung up which may reinvigorate this hack. More on that later!
Coming up with new ideas is difficult for any entertainment outlet. When I searched up television shows that lasted at least 200 episodes, I was surprised by some on the list. This list only included scripted shows that aired in prime time, so no soap operas, reality shows, or game shows were included.
Coming in at #1 was Gunsmoke with 635 episodes! That’s pretty amazing, especially considering it was on the air for 20 years. The next closest competitor has been The Simpsons, a show that’s around 500 and counting, though it’s been on the air since 1989, a much longer period of time than the leader.
I still remember watching the 200th episode of Cheers when it first aired. It stood out because it wasn’t really an episode so much as a retrospective and included interviews with the cast. Considering what a fan I was, I couldn’t recall the 200th showing of Friends, but I discovered they didn’t make a big deal about it like other shows do. My all-time favorite show, Seinfeld, only lasted 180 episodes, but got out while they were ahead of the game. Friends was dragging along by that point.
I’ve done a little reflecting as I reached this milestone. I actually went back and looked at each of my columns and 160,000 or so words to see it I’ve been overly focused on any area over the past few years. Here are some tabulations: columns about specific people, 26; about sports, 34; about school, 40; about parenting, 9; about entertainment, 17. I suppose that’s not too bad. It’s no shock that the top two are passions of mine, but that’s still only one-fifth of my columns about one topic.
This writing endeavor of mine has been fulfilling in so many ways. I’ve gotten to meet and know many more people because of this. In fact, while attending a graduation party, one reader said she recognized me as that “little guy” who writes for the paper. I’ve even had people who live out of state and are back in town recognize me before I could introduce myself. I guess it’s a good thing if my visage hasn’t changed much from that picture that appears beside this column every week!
So what’s next? Well, I’ve had an idea bubbling around my head for some time now. It used to be that in weekly magazines, authors would write serialized chapters of a story. Readers would come back every week to find out what happened next. This was sometimes used as a snare to get readers to buy that author’s new book.
I don’t have a new book ready, but I’d like to attempt some fictional writing. I haven’t seemed to have time in recent years to do that, but if I focus my column time on creative writing, it could be fun and rewarding. Plus, by doing this in the summer, I have a wee bit more time to craft this work.
The idea that’s been bouncing around for the past year or so is a fantasy story. I have images of my main character bouncing back and forth from our very real world to a different dimension, one with a strange origin. Here’s the kicker to this experiment: I haven’t written one word yet! I have some notes I’ve jotted down, but no clear plan and certainly no ending settled upon.
So beginning next week, I ask your indulgence as I tread down this new and adventurous path. How long will this last? I have no idea, and I suppose it’s possible something will come up that I feel a strong urge to write about and interrupt the story.
Thank you again for your continued readership and support. Thank you for your feedback, be it positive or negative; every comment helps make me a better writer. If I can make it another 100 columns, I’ll see you right here on May 24, 2018!
Word of the Week: This week’s word is honorificabilitudinitatibus, the longest word in a Shakespeare play, which means the state of being able to receive honors, as in, “The columnist figured he’d better have the longevity of Mark Bernard before becoming honorificabilitudinitatibus.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!