I’d like to wish all my readers a very wonderful Fathers’ Day. All of us have had the pleasure of being a son or a daughter, and the luckiest of us all (at least to my way of thinking) have also gotten to experience being a father or a mother. Being a father is a role one gradually grows into; I don’t think it is possible to fully anticipate what that role will entail until one has already found oneself fully wrapped in fatherly robes. By the time my first son Levi came along in 2003, I had known for quite some time that I wanted children very badly. But it wasn’t until Levi had progressed through crawling and walking and feeding himself, and then been joined by his younger brother Asher, giving me two little men to keep track of, that I felt like fatherhood wasn’t just a Halloween costume that I had awkwardly dressed myself in — it was ME.
Luckiest of all fathers are those dads who are able to take advantage of opportunities to teach whatever they know best to their sons or daughters. Godzilla was a pretty fortunate dad, at least in his first series of movies (in his second series, he is more a a tragic dad, not unlike his colleague, King Kong, who never gets to enjoy his offspring). Imprisoned on Monster Island, he was able to take ample time off from his day job of mashing Tokyo into dust and spend long, lingering afternoons teaching Minya how to fight bully monsters and how to turn his radioactive smoke rings into blasts of fire. Watching him in Son of Godzilla and Godzilla’s Revenge, we see that he is patient and loving, but stern when he needs to be — when Minya simply does not get the whole “shoot radioactive fire” thing, Godzilla does not hesitate to stomp on his tail to push him onto the right track.
Not all fathers and sons or daughters are so fortunate. Some are like King Kong and Son of Kong, who never got to know each other. The elder Kong was kidnapped, stolen from his family home of Skull Island, and then cut down in an alien city half a world away from the only home he’d ever known. His little white-furred son was left to fend on his own (we never learned what had happened to Mom). But their genetic link proved to be strong, as little Kong ended up showing all the nobility and bravery that his bigger and stronger Pop had displayed in his struggles with Tyrannosaurus, Pterodon, and the U.S. Army Air Force. As Carl Denhem said of little Kong with a mixture of guilt-laced regret and pride, “Wow! What a scrapper! Just like his old man!”
And then there is a different sort of father-son relationship: the mentoring relationship, which may be shared by two individuals who do not have any formal family ties at all. Such was the relationship between stop-motion animation pioneer Willis O’Brien and his great protege, Ray Harryhausen. And looking at the photograph above of Ray and his favorite model of Mighty Joe Young, one of his first professional animation assignments, who can deny that a father-son relationship does not develop between a man and his artistic creation? Ray devoted almost two years of his early career to granting life and a very robust personality to Mighty Joe Young, the wonderful evidence of which can been seen by anyone who possesses a television set and a DVD player (or Netflix account). Isn’t this this essence of fatherhood?
Just this past week, I finished my first middle grades novel, The Runaways of Mount MonstraCity, the first novel I wrote with the interests and preferences of my three sons in mind. I’ll blog more about this book this coming week. It has been a special pleasure to combine two types of fatherhood in this way, shaping one type of offspring (my word-based offspring) based on feedback from my flesh-and-blood offspring.
I hope all you other fathers out there in Internet Land are able to take as much pleasure in your offspring as I am blessed to take in mine.