I’ve kept this piece of paper in a small wind-up musical keepsake box since I was 6 or 7 years old. While the paper has become crumpled and folded over the years, amazingly, the penciled images are still clear: the decapitated heads of Batman and Robin, an angry tank top wielding death genie, a food-crazed rat, and what appears to be a small (dancing) skeletal man.
My childhood friend Jon—whose name was fascinatingly condensed from the birth name Jonathan— was a kid who drew a lot in class and whose mother let him watch PG movies from an early age. I remember him having light brown hair and soft chubby cheeks. He was tan and had lots of dirt on his clothes from playing outside. Jon looked uncannily similar to Arliss, the younger brother in the Disney movie “Old Yeller.” I lived in Tallahassee till age 7 and vaguely remember going to Jon’s house to play a handful of times before my family moved away.
I couldn’t tell you why Jon made the picture for me, but I’ve kept it safe for over 23 years and in rather decent condition since I first received it. Maybe I thought it was going to be worth something someday. Like the early work of an artistic genius. Or maybe I just really enjoyed the boyish image collection of pizza, comics, and skeletons. And admittedly, even as an adult, those things aren’t as off-putting now as they should be. I still enjoy pizza, I like the new Batman movies, and I think anatomical drawings of skeletal structures are really fascinating.
So maybe I’m still that 6 year old in adult form?
If you look closely you can see where Jon The Artist intentionally erased the names of all the characters in the picture: Batman, RoBn, D D Man, and BaD Janey. He has also generously included 6 skulls, including one on the finely detailed genie lamp.
The more I examine the picture, the more I find oddly hilarious perspectives about the drawing. Some might find that concerning and point to the overtly disturbing nature of two children exchanging such violent images with one another. I don’t see it that way.
It’s funny what we find intriguing or intrinsically valuable at different ages of our lives. For me, at age 6, it was this drawing. It meant I had a friend. Today when I look at it, the drawing challenges me to remember a time when being silly, artistically violent, and horribly bad at spelling was an ok thing to be. Maybe those things aren’t such a bad thing to grow out of.
I will keep the paper until it falls apart or it stops making me laugh every time I look at it. I don’t plan to use modern technology to seek out adult Jon and ask him who D D man is, or why he felt compelled to make me the picture in the first place. I will fold it back up and put return it to my shelf where it belongs.