When I heard the new of the passing of Robin Williams – beyond the sadness, beyond the heartache, I thought of an episode of the Harmontown podcast that featured Williams and Bob Goldthwait. It’s the fifty-first episode of Harmontown and the name of the podcast is “Bikers with No Bikes”. And it’s hilarious, the title will make sense once you listen. For those who aren’t regular listeners to the podcast, Harmontown is performed live in the back of Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles. A place where you never know who might be perusing the shelves for comic books next to you. One of those people might have been Robin Williams while on a visit to Los Angeles. During the course of the conversation Robin Williams mentioned something that I found amazing and which gave me a deeper appreciation for the man. He talked about how he was looking for comic books and mentioned the comics he was reading or has read. To be honest I rewound the podcast to make sure I had them all written down. What I found amazing was that, Robin Williams, an icon in the realms of film and stand-up comedy loved comic books. I was surprised to learn about this added layer to a wonderful man. I wanted to read what Robin Williams had come to appreciate and the comics that Robin Williams mentioned were:
- Heavy Metal
- Multiple Warheads
Some of these might be personal favorites to some but to me, everything on this list outside of Heavy Metal was completely unknown. It wasn’t long until I made a trip to my local comic book store here in Oakland to grab a couple of issues of each one. I started with Planetoid and Transmetropolitan – both dark, gritty, humanistic tales. The protagonists aren’t necessarily heroes. They’re conflicted, they’re not champions of higher ideals, they’re flawed characters who exist in shadows and in light. Life struggles for life in Planetoid, and Transmetropolitan is a portrait of a dystopic future told through the eyes of a jaded writer who rejoins society to resurrect his career.
I wasn’t really sure if comic books were something that interested Robin Williams but the more I looked, the more I researched him, the more I loved him and the more I found that comic books did matter to him. What I also found was that, it wasn’t just comic books that he loved but other things like science fiction. It was a revelation that would make any geek shed a tear especially when you read his AMA Reddit session that he did a year ago (http://www.reddit.com/comments/1n41x1 ). What moved me personally, was to learn that one of his favorite novels was the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov.
The first book, Foundation, has become one of my favorite science fiction novels as an adult. I’m not sure how familiar everyone is with the series but if not, Asimov weaves a beautiful tale of the lifecycle of empires and nations – how they rise and how they fade. Why some nations become empires and why some do not. What happens when an empire or nation crumbles and how some have everything to lose and others have everything to gain from the decay. All through the scope of science fiction. The protagonist Hari Seldon, a mathematician who studies psychohistory foresees the impending dark ages that will be perpetrated by the fall of the Galactic Empire, and sets out to create two Foundations to minimize the duration of the upcoming dark period and so the story begins to unfold.
This is a strange thing to share. A beautiful human being took his own life and to know that depression followed him into the sunset years of his life is heartbreaking. I don’t know if this is a way to honor him, I’m not sure if it is. Perhaps it’s too small of a way to honor such an amazing human being. But in sharing the comic books that he enjoyed, maybe we all can explore these comic books or the Foundation series by Asimov for the first time with our friends and our lovelies (show no fear in the face of your lovelies) or revisit these titles with more experienced minds. Maybe these titles and books can provide a new opportunity to build new relationships or deepen the ones you already have. Connect more with each other. Give more cuddles, even to those that say that Star Trek is better than Star Wars. Forget that some of your friends think Harry Potter is amazing but never read Lord of the Rings and huddle around to discuss Transmetropolitan, Multiple Warheads, Moebius, or Planetoid. Or if you’re so bold start a Foundation book club. For now I’ll pick up where I left off on Planetoid and Transmetropolitan and from there venture into Multiple Warheads. And somewhere in the future I’ll come back here and tell you what I find along the way. They’re great recommendations from a great man – “a spark of madness” now gone.
Justin Tripp is a professional writer without a body of work who used to live in Cleveland but now lives in Oakland, California. A hermit’s hermit, he often visits the gorillas who live and play in the mist that enshrouds the Oakland Hills. Justin hopes that one day he can join his fellow Harmonians in Harmontown once it is established as a colony on the moon.