RIP Leonard Nimoy


Long ago, before the geeks inherited the Earth, before “Big Bang Theory” ruled the airwaves and superhero movies ruled at the box office, before everyone and his brother had a Dr Who t-shirt, “nerd” was not a label we wore with comfort, let alone bragged about.  Being a nerd meant being ostracized, teased and bullied.  Back then, your love for science fiction or comic books was something you kept to yourself, until, through some secret signal or other, you connected with a fellow traveler, thereafter to spend your lunches in the school cafeteria together, gleefully — if quietly — comparing notes on favorite Bradbury or Asimov stories, debating whether the Flash could outrun Quicksilver, or trying to figure out the science (if any) behind warp speed and photon torpedoes.

If there was an icon for us in those days, it was undeniably Mr. Spock, the ultimate outsider, the only one of his kind on a crowded ship where everyone else fit in.  Like us, he was defined by his otherness. His brain worked differently from his peers, which gave him satisfaction and a sense of identity but also loneliness and pain.   Where we stuck out as different with our thick glasses or braces or bad skin or never-quite stylish clothes, for him it was those pointed ears; at once cool and unsettling, weird and mesmerizing, they set him apart from everyone else, which could be a good and bad thing, often at once.  And that’s why we “grokked” Spock.  We may not have come from the planet Vulcan, but we knew what it was to be alien.  In the end we were vindicated as Spock’s logical mind often saved the ship, or whole worlds, and intelligence was revealed not as a liability but in fact a superpower.  (And just for good measure, he was the strongest guy on the ship, even if his pacifism kept all that power in check.)

Under the makeup and ears was Leonard Nimoy, an actor of considerable intellect and ability who worked hard to preserve his character’s dignity and saw it pay off as he and Spock grew into cultural icons.  Fifty years later, with Star Trek such an integral part of popular culture, it’s easy to forget what a hugely courageous act it was to put on those ears for the first time.  Like any actor, Mr. Nimoy must have wanted to be respected for his work, and to get more work, but both respect and future employment were on the line if the gamble failed, if no one would see beyond that odd makeup to the soul of the character.  Today even Academy Award winners line up to shave their heads, paint their faces and apply fake noses, brows, ears and hair for superhero and science fiction films, but Nimoy took up the challenge in an age where most celluloid science fiction involved zippered, rubber monster suits, giant insects and wobbly flying saucers. There were no guarantees he’d come out on the other end of Star Trek with any kind of career at all.  It was to his great credit that he saw the potential in the character and was willing to put so much on the line to bring it to life.  Everyone making millions today off of nerd-friendly movies and TV owes him a Vulcan salute.

Of course, there was a lot more to Nimoy than Spock. He was a talented poet and photographer and directed non-Trek films like Three Men and A Baby and The Good Mother, for starters.  But it’s a testament to the talent and sincerity he poured into Star Trek that, for once, it doesn’t seem disrespectful to link a real person to a fictional character.  For many, thanks to Nimoy, Spock was as real as anyone they knew.  Which, on the downside, kind of makes this a double loss.

The last reel of Wrath of Khan, still and probably always the best of the Trek films, is filled with three-hanky moments as  Spock sacrifices himself for the ship, says goodbye to his best friend and is given a “burial in space,” but the moment that always hits me hardest is when McCoy calls up to Kirk, still on the bridge, and tells him he’d better come running.  Until now, Kirk has been so wrapped up in his battle with Khan that he hasn’t even noticed Spock’s left the bridge, but as soon as he hears that cryptic plea from McCoy, he knows what’s happened.  He looks over to the science station to see Spock’s empty chair and the truth hits him like a punch to the gut. That image of the empty chair is more powerful in its understatement than all the gory makeup or teary dialog that follows.  Today the chair is empty again, but unlike in the movies, and with due respect to Mr. Nimoy’s nominal successor in the role, that’s the way it’s going to stay.

Rest in peace, Mr Nimoy, and godspeed on your new voyage.

spocks chair


Carmine Infantino

It’s likely the first images I ever saw of Batman were created by Carmine Infantino.  Sometimes I try to remember my first exposure to the character and I’ve just about decided it wasn’t through the comics, the TV show or cartoons, but through the merchandising.  By the time I was old enough to toddle around, the live-action TV show was winding down, but the tidal wave of related toys, lunchboxes, trading cards and sundry other gee-gaws it had inspired was, if not still cresting, then leaving the shores thoroughly littered with bat-this-and-that’s as it receded.  And a lot of that material featured imagery created by Mr Infantino, who passed away this week at 87.

When he was roped into re-vamping Batman in 1964, Infantino had already played a key role in launching comics’ “Silver Age,” having re-introduced The Flash with a deceptively simple-looking costume that broke with “cape-and-shorts” tradition and actually looked like something a guy could comfortably run in.  His fluid designs, nimble figures, space-age skylines and dynamic layouts were about as far as you could get from the stiff, flat, lantern-jawed take on Batman that Bob Kane’s ghosts had been churning out for decades, and considering the Caped Crusader’s sales were in the toilet, just the shot in the arm he needed.

It’s probably hard for modern Bat-fans to appreciate how huge a deal the shift in art styles was back in 1964.  Batman has attracted so many stellar artists for so long that it’s easy to forget he was locked in one art style for an incredibly long period, and that that style could most charitably be described as “primitive.”  Infantino’s comparatively realistic and far more contemporary style — known then and now as  “New Look” Batman — was such a jolt it sent fans into two camps; those more than ready for a change and those who thought Batman, like Dick Tracy, could only be drawn properly by his creator (a debate that played out in the pages of fan magazine “Bat-Mania” which, if you’re off a mind, can be downloaded for free here).  It was in that same forum that fans would soon learn Batman’s “creator” had in fact not drawn the strip in years, and may not even have been the “creator” at all, but that’s another story.

The point is, Infantino helped give the character the boost he needed to reverse his sales slump and get him back on the map with readers, which in turn led to the TV show, followed by a cartoon series that used Infantino’s designs, and all that groovy bat-gear.

As I get older, it gets ever harder for images to stick in my mind, but certain ones from early childhood remain as vivid now as they were the first time I saw them: Oddjob throwing his bowler hat, the Beatles in their Yellow Submarine, Steve Austin running in slow-motion, and comic images like the one below, created as a pin-up by Carmine Infantino and recycled endlessly on posters, album covers, statues and the cover to one of the most-prized books in my collection, “Batman From the 30s to the 70s,” not to mentioned being, along with the covers to Action Comics #1 and Spider-Man #1, one of the most imitated, parodied and plain old ripped-off comic book images of all time:

Then there was the “arms akimbo” pose that was used on tons of merchandise, including a version that was embossed on the bottom of everyone’s favorite die-cast vehicle toy, the Corgi Batmobile:

Infantino’s pin-ups of Batman villains the Joker, the Penguin and the Riddler were, likewise, the definitive images of those characters for a generation:

None of which is to imply that Infantino’s career began and ended with Batman.  He was one of the few talents to be around almost from the beginning and stick with it for decades, starting in the “Golden Age” of the 40s by introducing the Black Canary, evolving his style through the 50s with work on fantasy, sci-fi, adventure and Western strips and in 1956, as noted, ushering in a second era of superhero dominance with the re-imagined Flash.  As the 60s gave way to the 70s, he took the unusual post of “cover editor,” drawing roughs for the covers of almost all of DC’s titles and establishing a “house style” to be followed by such luminaries as Nick Cardy, Neal Adams and Murphy Anderson.  In the early 70s, with DC more or less on the ropes as Marvel Comics dominated the field, Infantino became the first artist ever to serve as Publisher of a major comics line, hiring on a new generation of artistic talents and creating an atmosphere of creative freedom that eventually wooed even Jack Kirby away from Marvel.  In short, he created “my” DC, the comics I started with and which inspired a lifelong interest.  More recently, reprints of his Silver Age work on The Flash and Adam Strange have made a comics fan of my son, Jason.

Of course the down side to being a constantly evolving artist is that sometimes you evolve too far for your audience, and as Infantino’s art became more and more stylized and quirky, he left a lot of readers behind, including yours truly.  By the late 70s and early 80s, I started actively avoiding his work on titles like Star Wars because it was just too angular and cartoony for my tastes.  Back on The Flash again in the 80s, he drew what seemed to me an utterly interminable storyline called “The Trial of The Flash,” which between lasting literally for years and featuring that ever-more oddball art style pretty much led to the character being killed off in 1986’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”

And so he became a sort of poster boy for the cycle that defines all truly innovative artists with an individual style and a desire to keep growing;  you start off with folks calling you an  “exciting young talent,” progress if you’re lucky to “genius” and “giant in the field” and end up with “meh, I liked your old stuff better.”  But oh, that old stuff!

I was lucky enough to meet Mr Infantino at a late 90s convention and got him to sign, among other things, a poster of that “rooftop” image, which was pretty awesome.  He seemed like a nice guy, if a bit tired, but then I’m guessing he had that image shoved in front of him about a zillion times over the years.  To him, it was old news, one of countless jobs he cranked out in a long career, if for some reason just more popular than a lot of the others.  But to me, it was one of the most powerful images of childhood, one that unlocked a whole universe of imagery and adventures and a lifetime love of comics.

I’ve often thought it must be awesome to connect, really connect with an audience on a meaningful level, whether through a portrayal, a song, an artwork or whatever.  I hope Mr Infantino knew that he made that kind of connection with a lot of readers.  Either way, he’ll live on through his work, and that’s not a bad legacy to have.


RIP Andy Griffith

It took me a while to get into Andy Griffith.

By the time I was old enough to stay up for prime time viewing, The Andy Griffith Show had already morphed into the tepid Ken Berry spin-off, Mayberry RFD. I never quite warmed to the “Perry Mason by way of Cracker Barrel” routine of Matlock. Oddly, my introduction to Mr Griffith probably came with Salvage 1, a kooky show (but not a comedy!) about a salvage expert who builds a space ship out of junk parts and manages to get it to the moon and back.  And while I liked that show(!), he didn’t especially stand out for me.  Anyway, as a kid I was all about the futuristic adventure of Star Trek and glamorous globe-trotting with James Bond; down-home, “country” shows were all Hee-Haw junk in my book.

It wasn’t until high school and syndication that I was able to watch The Andy Griffith Show, but by then I’d changed enough to enjoy it, because by then I was old enough to understand the appeal of nostalgia.

Yes, I know you can’t feel nostalgia for a place you didn’t live and a time you were too young to remember (if you were alive at all), but the beauty of Mayberry was that it could have been any small town, and for millions of viewers it was theirs.  For me it was the small Virginia town where I spent my earliest years, and which — after a passage of years and miles — my hazy memories had rendered as idealized and near-mythical as the backlot sets of Mayberry.


The real appeal of the show for me, though, was in the relationships between the characters, especially the father-son dynamic of Andy and Opie, which was touching and real without — at least for my money — tipping over to maudlin.

Andy Taylor was, for me, a lot like Ward Cleaver; a good dad who made his share of mistakes, and often ended up with egg on his face, but whose heart was in the right place.  By the 70s,  sit-coms woudl shift their focus away from the parents to the kids; the stars of the shows were precocious pre-teens, and the dads — to the extent they got any screen time at all — just showed up to play straight man and act hopelessly befuddled by pretty much everything.  This is a trend that continues to the present, with no end of cable shows on Disney and what-not starring nominal “kids” who live essentially as little grown-ups, with parents who are mainly absent and when they do show up, an annoyance.  (Delivering two lessons modern generations have embraced all too readily: One, Never involve your parents in your life because they just don’t get it, and Two, perpetuate childhood as long as you can, because “grown up” is worse than dead).  For me, those older shows proved there’s lots of comedy potential in parent-child relations without making the parents into cardboard caricatures, or kids into smart-mouthed trouble-makers (though they were around then, too. See “Dennis the Menace”).   Andy and Ward often wandered in over their heads when it came to being dads (who doesn’t?) but they were never played as buffoons.

Ironically, one of the scenes I remember best from the Andy Griffith Show was actually about the folly of excessive nostalgia.  Andy, Opie and Aunt Bea are sitting on the front porch one summer night and the exchange goes more or less like this:

ANDY: “Opie, when I was a boy on a hot day like this, the ice man would drive his wagon through town and we kids would all run along behind it, trying to snatch off a hunk of ice to chew on.  Of course we’d usually get a piece of straw in there with it, but it still tasted great.  You know, something’s gone out of life since then…”

BEA: “Yes…Typhoid!”

The message — if any — being that it’s easy to overlook the down side of the “good old days,” and to forget that, after all, back then we were all working towards and dreaming about our future…which is now.  Better to enjoy the day at hand than pine for the one that’s gone.

Or something.  But it’s still hard not to yearn for a time when life was slower and simpler, when the “social network” centered on the annual town picnic and  “friending” someone involved actually meeting them, when all it took to keep the peace was a sherrif and a deputy with only one bullet between them (and that one kept in a shirt pocket), when the only resident of the jail was “the town drunk” and being drunk was pretty much harmless, when families talked to each other over dinner every night and then moved out onto the front porch to talk some more.

Yes, it’s hard not to pine for those things even if you never actually experienced them.  Maybe especially if you didn’t.  Even though we know Mayberry wasn’t real, we feel it should have been, so we massage our own memories until our home towns are Mayberry, when none of them really were.  As newsman Maxwell Scott says in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

And so as he embodied the protector of Mayberry and its values, we can mourn the loss of Andy Griffith, the actor.  But since he was only ever an idealized symbol in the first place, we needn’t say goodbye to Andy Taylor.  He’ll live on in reruns, as will Mayberry itself, not so much a real town, in Griffith’s words, as “a state of mind.” Meanwhile as a dad, I’ll keep trying to give my kids what I had; a great childhood that, looking back as adults, they’ll remember being even better than it was.


Remembering Richard

On Sept. 17, I lost a longtime co-worker,  mentor and friend to cancer.  His name was Richard Brumfield.

Richard was a complicated guy, and just to make it even more complicated, he was also a simple guy.  A Marine veteran who spent 23 years in the Corps’ COMCAM division, filming combat in Vietnam and later Beirut, Richard would nonetheless never have struck you as the “military type.”  He certainly wasn’t what you’d call spit-and-polish or gung-ho, though his training did tend to come out in the way he’d call our clients “sir” and “ma’am,” in that way military men and police officers tend to do, even in retirement.


Pretty much from the day he joined our staff, we picked on Richard as the “old man” of the outfit, though he couldn’t have been much older when he started than I am today.  It probably had more to do with his demeanor; he could certainly come off as a “keep your frisbee off my lawn”-type crusty curmudgeon.  Anyone who spent any time around him, however, knew it was all bluster; he was a total marshmallow under that prickly exterior.  I never knew him to give less than 100% to any job, or to turn down a request for help from a co-worker no matter how much it might have inconvenienced him or how late it meant sticking around.  Every year he put together a special video for local high school graduates who were dealing with cancer and I’m positive he never wrote up a bill for any of his work.   And rumor has it, though I’m not supposed to know, that even as he was dealing with constant pain and the long ordeal of chemotherapy and radiation, he took time out to write a letter to the president of the university praising his coworkers here in the department.

Richard dropped out of high school before he joined the Marines, but you’d be hard pressed to find a guy better-informed on almost every subject.  Working at a university, we did video projects for doctors and professors from all disciplines, and as we interacted with them, he’d always ask insightful questions that got the experts talking and thinking, and put them totally at ease (since the one sure way to an academician’s heart is to express interest in his or her field).  Often his questions led to a more fully realized film, but more than that it relaxed the “talent” to the point where they turned in a better performance, because now it was no longer about “how do I look” and “that camera is scaring me”…now it was an opportunity to share their interest with a wider audience; they could concentrate on what they were saying and not how awkward it felt to be saying it to a cold, unblinking, mechanical eye.  It was a process I watched unfold a thousand times, and I never quite decided whether he was really that interested in so many things, or if it was just the shrewd strategy of a gifted director.  Either way, it was always impressive to witness.

Working with a guy for twelve years and spending time with him in the office, on the road or at conferences, you get a lot of opportunities to chat.  Once you’re done with the mad dash of setting up for a shoot, there’s often a lot of waiting around for things to happen, so you talk about whatever you can think of just to pass the time.  Consequently I know that Richard was a troublemaker as a kid, and once drove a motorcycle through the halls of his school (which may have contributed to that early departure).  I know he taught film at UCLA, despite — again — his own lack of a degree and a less-than-welcoming reception from the decidedly anti-war crowd enrolled there when he arrived in the late 60s, looking every inch the Marine.   I know he had a knowledge of and appreciation for vintage films and film stars, which made for many interesting conversations and — when I wasn’t careful — something of an education.   He had hilarious stories of working with Henry Winkler (a snob) Robin Williams (a druggie) and Geraldo Rivera (a narcissistic phoney…surprise!).  The star who most impressed him was Judy Garland, whom he once got to met, briefly, and of whom he was clearly in awe.  He had an encyclopedic knowledge of camera and editing techniques, and — again belying the “old fart” label — a keen interest in where video was headed in the digital age.  It never ceased to amaze me how he seemed to know about every new development in video before anyone else heard about it, especially given how much time he spent playing poker on the internet.  When did he find time to learn all that stuff?

I also know, of course, that he loved his family, and doted on his grandkids.  And that he was scared, in the last year or so, of what was ahead for him, and them.   He kept it together for their sake, but I knew he was freaking out underneath it all, as who wouldn’t?  In spite of ever-increasing pain levels and diminishing mobility, he kept dragging himself into work as long as humanly possible, and I think it broke his heart to finally give it up.

During Richard’s illness, I learned an interesting thing or two about the government’s official stance on Agent Orange, the Vietnam-era defoliant blamed for so many illnesses over the decades.  As a veteran, all Richard had to do to collect V.A. benefits (or to start the ball rolling, anyway) was to prove (1) that he served in Vietnam during the conflict and (2) that he had cancer.  With those two facts established, the government will rubber-stamp your request in the certainty it was Agent Orange that did you in.  Of course, if you happen to be a Vietnamese citizen with cancer, or with a child with birth defects, the official answer is, “There’s no proof Agent Orange causes any of that.”

There was another take-away from the whole sorry affair, and that is that everyone should be intimately involved with their own health care.  Don’t assume your doctor knows all; if you have a test, ask for the results, and if you’re not getting answers that make sense to you, get a second opinion.

It’s a very strange thing, working closely with someone for so long and then realizing one day they’re gone.  Every day I come across a file he crammed in some unlikely place, or a folder or label with his handwriting on it.  I’m torn between the desire to reorganize things the way I always wanted them to be anyway, and the reluctance to alter the few things left that reflect his influence.  At this point, his phone’s pretty much stopped ringing, and soon the day will come when people stop asking me about him, or sharing condolences.   And someday, if I’m here long enough, it’ll be hard to even remember what it was like when he was here.  It’s a natural process, but it’s still somehow offensive to imagine in the early stages.

Speaking of condolences, that was the one part of this whole thing that most caught me off-guard.  I was not prepared to have people seek me out to tell me how sorry they were; after all, I’m not family.  I found it very touching that people would think of how it was all affecting me, although ironically I think it didn’t really hit me that hard until they did so.

Richard’s funeral service was both low-key and impressive, featuring as it did a Marine Guard to act as pall-bearers, play Taps and present the colors.  Since he wasn’t really the religious type, it was held at the graveside, with what appeared to be a “rent-a-preacher” delivering a respectful if generic eulogy; I got the distinct impression the minister’s familiarity with Richard was fleeting at best.  Similarly, I was hoping for more from his obituary, and found the one or two mentions on the web (at USMC sites) even more cursory.  Surely a guy as storied and well-traveled as Richard deserved something more involved, or even profound?  Which I guess is what drove me to start this post, though it occurs to me I’ve achieved only the “wordy” part.


I guess the only thing to add is that Richard was a sort of father-figure to a lot of the student workers here, some of whom were separated from their families by whole continents.  They seemed drawn to him for some reason, and sought out his advice.  It occurs to me he played a “mentor” role to me, as well, having been the one to sweet-talk management into transferring me to the video department when I was disillusioned with my previous position.  This despite a lack of any real experience in videography on my part.  Thus he joins a line of teachers and mentors who’ve influenced my life and career, and for that alone deserves mention here.  Not that it was an entirely altruistic move on his part, mind you; before that, he was a one-man department, and he needed the help.

More than that, I’m pretty sure he was lonely in that office, physically separated from the rest of the staff by a long(ish) hallway.  Lately I can sympathize with that feeling, as it’s certainly been a lot quieter in the last few months.   In fact I’ve been struck by just how large a space it is, though of course the office is exactly the same size today as it ever was.  It’s just that a very large presence has left it.

Rest in peace, Richard, and Semper Fi.

RIP: Old School Heroes

culpI was upset this week to learn of the death of Robert Culp, one of my favorite TV actors.  I probably first encountered him on “Columbo,” being one of a handful of actors whose strong performances kept him coming back again and again to match wits with Peter Falk as a series of brilliant — but ultimately overconfident — killers.

It wasn’t until “The Greatest American Hero,” however, that I became a fan, thanks to Culp’s terrific turn as FBI agent Bill Maxwell, the crusty, Conservative, Commie-hating  crimebuster who took schoolteacher Ralph Hinkley under his wing and tried to turn him into his own secret weapon against the underworld.  With his cocky swagger and biting sarcasm, Maxwell seemed to reflect Culp’s own persona to a degree, and he quickly evolved into one of those supporting characters who ends up stealing the show.  Later I made it a point to seek out “I Spy,” the show he’ll probably be best remembered for thanks to its cultural significance in the context of race relations (okay, and for being a good show).

Anyway, Culp’s death comes just a week or so after that of Peter Graves, who I grew up watching on “Mission: Impossible” as the unflappable “born leader” prototype Jim Phelps.  With his prematurely white hair, solid jaw and squinty eyes (not to mention that amazing, authoritative voice), Graves exemplified for me the old-school hero type who seem to have vanished from the cultural scene in recent years; what for lack of a better term I’ll call “The Grown-Up.”

graves2Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that movie and TV heroes used to have a certain gravitas to them born of maturity.  They were psychologically stable, morally centered and utterly capable.  As characters, there was usually some mystery to their past, but you could intuit (and were sometimes told) that they had a past in the military (usually the Korean War), that they had worked their way up the ladder as beat cops or foot soldiers, that there were adventures and romances and tragedies in their earlier years that made them into the men they were.  Through force of personality as much as any conferred rank, they were leaders of men, commanding the respect of those under them.  They were grown-ups.

We used to like our heroes to be grown up.  I remember reading about how Jeffrey Hunter landed the role of Christ in the big-budget epic “King of Kings,” only to have certain critics, noting Hunter’s baby face, rename the flic “I Was A Teenage Jesus.”  It was a liability then to look too young, but now of course the reverse is true.  The perfect age in Hollywood now is around 20, it seems, and the longer you can sustain that look, the longer you’re going to work.

Mission: Impossible is a good example.  For the DePalma film in the 90s, Jim Phelps is marginalized (and ultimately, disgracefully, villainized) in favor of his youthful protege Ethan Hunt, played by that perpetual teenager Tom Cruise.  In the early scenes of the film, Hunt’s teammates are wiped out, but not before we see they’re all kids like Cruise (Emilio Estevez was in there and I forget who else), making the Impossible Mission Force look more like the Breakfast Club.

Star Trek is another example.  In the original show, James T. Kirk was already the youngest man to captain a starship at 34 years of age, but in modern terms that would make him a comparative Methuselah, so he’s re-imagined as a boy wonder who earns the center seat in his mid-20s, essentially as a graduation present for making it through the Academy.  In the 60’s, there was that effort to balance the desire for a youthful, handsome leading man with the need to give him some gravitas; Kirk had served in Starfleet for at least eleven years already working up the ranks, and along the way earned an impressive collection of citations and medals.  For today’s crowd, however, all that matters is youth and talent; start citing your past accomplishments and people will eye you suspiciously as they calculate how many years you must have behind you.

Maybe this is just another grumpy old man rant, but I do wonder what kids today find admirable in their fictional heroes.  For me — and I don’t think I was alone — a big part of it was that air of maturity.  Guys like Kirk and Phelps and yes, even Bill Maxwell in his way…guys like Steve McGarrett and Steve Austin were men, not boys.  They bore the weight of responsibility, they were confident in their beliefs, they saw their duty and did it.   I always figured that’s what happened when you grew up; you turned into a guy like that.

Now of course I look back on those same performances and think, “He’s younger there than I am now!” …and yet I still think they’re grown up and I’m not.  So it’s not just a question of age.  Personality, then?  Just individual charisma?  Or is that no one is really that grown up, ever, but some guys are better at faking it?

At any rate, it’s disturbing to reach an age where your childhood heroes start dropping like flies, not due to excess and folly like Errol Flynn, or tragic violence like George Reeves, but to the one foe no one can beat; time itself.  It’s kind of depressing to realize all your old heroes are of an age where they’ll be checking out sooner than later.  Just from a narcissistic point of view, it forces you to realize you’re getting on yourself.