There are many easily assumed archetypes that are associated with the comic book community. From being socially awkward, fashionably inept & getting excited about subjects nobody else in the room can relate to, the thought of being classified as a geek or a nerd can be quite intimidating.
But, it isn’t hard to see that the influence of comic book culture has been vastly expanding over the years, & the truth is that there really isn’t as much of a difference between us all as conventional wisdom once thought. I would like to share some insight on how comics have impacted some of my real life heroes.
November 2, 2001, our nation still reels from the tragedy that occurred only a few short months prior, 9/11. An older, yet current reigning heavyweight champion is set to defend his title against a youthful, giant of a top contender with all the promise & prospects a fighter could hope for. As Randy Couture made his entrance down the ramp & through the pyrotechnics, decked out in the patriotic red, white & blue, Joe Rogan made the comment, “That right there is Captain America. That guy is my hero.” A moniker that stuck ever since became a symbol that inspired many to keep fighting despite the odds.
Couture went on to defend his title that night against Pedro Rizzo, later being immortalized in the UFC hall of fame & is touted as one of the figureheads that brought mixed martial arts to the mainstream. To be quite honest, he was one of the very reasons why I got into the sport, myself! Some of my closest friends today came from the MMA community & in return a few even led me back to actively collecting comics after falling out of the hobby for years. Additionally, there are many competitive mixed martial artists that adorn comic book themed nicknames & some were even inspired to compete by their favorite stories or characters.
Comics have also been a heavy influence in the gym of a different nature. Renowned lifter, C.T. Fletcher has held world records for the bench press, strict curl and is famous for his inspirational battle back from life saving heart surgery, eventually leading to a complete transplant. One of his many nicknames is “The Superman from Compton” and on the walls of his gym are comic themed murals including the Hulk and an artist's rendering of C.T. with the famous initial clad diamond on his chest with a matching cape as he takes flight.
C.T.'s story couldn’t have been brought to my attention at a better time as I was nearly crippled by a car collision while on a routine jog almost 8 years ago. Though I eventually got back on my feet, I knew I would never be able to compete in mixed martial arts again & was devastated. The inspiring message of “The Superman from Compton” got me to stop feeling sorry for myself & I’ve been back to the gym ever since! In more recent geek news, C.T. will be coming out with his own comic book soon, entitled The Soul Man, the art alone from sample teasers posted on his Instagram page looks worth the read! I can’t wait to get a copy myself!
I cannot talk about my passion for comics and their influence beyond the pages without mentioning the late Luke Sandoe. Tipping the scales at over 300 lbs off the bodybuilding stage & slinging inhuman amounts of weight for an insane amount of reps, this titan among men was really a giant teddy bear & literally the biggest nerd I ever heard of.
His love for comics was what first inspired him to hit the weights in his late teens & almost immediately recognized that he was a natural. Luke especially excelled at deadlifts & grew an impressive neck & shoulders that earned him the nickname “The Juggernaut” because of his similar build to the Avatar of Cyttorak! One of his favorite stories of all time was “The Boys" written by Garth Ennis with art by Darick Robertson. So, when he was en route from England to the 2019 Tampa Pro, where he battled the legendary Dexter “The Blade” Jackson to a very close 2nd place finish, you know that the Amazon Prime series adaptation was on loop.
The most beautiful & yet tragic aspect of him was his life long struggle with anxiety & depression, which resulted in him having just as big of a heart as he did the rest of his physique. No matter what he was doing off stage, he would never be far from his phone as he would be responding to comic and bodybuilding geeks from all around the world. Up until his passing, he could never understand why he was such a loved personality in the communities he was a treasured part of. But, because of his personal battles, took it upon himself to let others know that they weren’t alone & immensely valued.
Following the events that took him too early from us, his closest friends and family were showered with well wishes and support from people who had never met him in person, yet felt as if they had lost a family member of their own. I never got to truly thank him while he was here & no one can ever fill the boots of the Juggernaut. But, my aim is to spend the rest of my days walking in those gargantuan footsteps, carrying the message of possibility & inclusiveness in the gym & comic communities.
It truly doesn’t matter what your primary passion is or what your overall goals are in life. In comics, there is a story or character, a real life figure, a friend, a family, just waiting for you to discover them. Should you ever be so inclined to find the time, I would love to tell you a tale or two about the legends I hold dear. Pick your poison, I got plenty!