Last week we saw the passing of Florence Henderson, Ron Glass, and Fidel Castro. This is a collection of three different names I never thought I’d be talking about together, but this has been an odd year to say the very least. What might be more odd? They all have a comic book connection.
Florence Henderson was best known for her role as Mrs. Brady in The Brady Bunch. Though the Bradys were almost exclusively a TV family at the time, the now-defunct Dell Comics put out not one but two comic books about the continuing antics of the Brady family.
She was also the first woman to host The Tonight Show, albeit as a guest host. That has much less to do with comics, but it’s important. And if you haven’t seen The Paul Lynde Halloween Special from back in 1976, I know it’s out of season but do yourself a favor and find a copy. Or better yet, click here .
Ron Glass is primarily known for two roles. One of which was his character on the TV show Barney Miller. That TV show also got the comic book treatment back in the 70s. This time it was only one issue and it was put out by the also-defunct Gold Key Comics.
The role he’s better known for by science fiction aficionados is the role of Shepherd Book on Joss Whedon’s short lived TV series Firefly and movie Serenity. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly lives on in comic book form at Dark Horse Comics. They even did a Shepherd Book focused miniseries that’s been collected as a trade, Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale. If you’re a fan of the series and haven’t picked that up yet, now’s a perfectly good time.
Neither Florence Henderson or Ron Glass come close to approaching the amount of time and energy that the comics industry has put into depicting Fidel Castro. From satirical magazines like Mad to being depicted in comics from the big two, to biographical comics, Fidel Castro has been everywhere. He was even depicted in the 80s DC Comics event Invasion that helped set up Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol and will be adapted to the small screen in a crossover for DC’s CW programs.
One of the most important depictions of Fidel Castro in comic book form is Cuba: My Revolution by Inverna Lockpez and Dean Haspiel with Jose Villarrubia. The story is based on true events experienced by Inverna Lockpez as a 17-year old when Fidel Castro came to power and what unfolded over the next few years.
I had picked up this book from Dean Haspiel at a signing he was doing at Carmine Street Comics a few years ago and I absolutely loved it. I’ve always been attracted to Dean’s artwork, and to be perfectly honest I hadn’t read much about day to day life in Cuba before that. I dual majored in history and political science for my undergrad, but I never really read about day to day life in Cuba in this way before. Inverna Lockpez and Dean Haspiel bring to life the horrors that took place in Cuba after the revolution in ways few people have before.
Though we rarely see Castro depicted in the graphic novel, his influence casts a shadow over everyone and everything. As the reader, we slowly watch the unraveling of everyday life in Cuba. We’re shown businesses getting taken over by the government slowly at first then rapidly. We see the citizens have their money taken away in part to make escape from Cuba nearly impossible. We watch a charismatic leader rise to power who commands audiences of hundreds of thousands of people. We witness the rise of professional protesters pushing Castro’s agenda as dissidents go from being harassed to being put in camps or killed. And all from the point of view of a young woman who was filled with hope for the future. It’s an incredibly powerful and heartbreaking story.
After hearing about Castro’s passing I found my copy of Cuba: My Revolution and began skimming through it. I ended up rereading it in its entirety in one sitting. If you haven’t heard of this graphic novel or simply haven’t gotten around to picking it up yet, now is the time. You may even be taken aback by some of the eerie similarities we are seeing today in American politics compared with the early days of Castro’s revolution. I don’t mean to say that in a way to diminish the countless lives lost and ruined under Castro. That doesn’t mean we should ignore history and allow it to once again repeat itself.
We lost three people that were no doubt celebrities and were no doubt incredibly talented and trailblazing individuals. Some more than others, for better or worse.
And in just a few more weeks we won’t be able to blame 2016 for these celebrity deaths. I’m about ready for 2017. How about you?