I've been reading DC Comics's series Simon Dark and like the way it's shaping up. I was wary about picking this title up when I first saw it on the stands. I can be squeamish and wasn't sure how gory the series was going to be. But I was swayed by the positive comments of other bloggers, like Rack Raids, and gave it a try.
I was so impressed by my ability to steel myself and get through whatever frights I might encounter in issue #1 that I made the mistake of trying to share my enthusiasm for the title with the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend. I described Simon to her, and how he lived on the streets and served as a neighborhood protector, albeit a violent one. I also made some guesses about Simon's mysterious origins--who he had been as a boy, how he came to be on his own, and how he taught himself to survive.
I was trying to make Simon Dark sound like a gritty horror story. So I felt pretty deflated when the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend responded derisively, "Sounds like a very romantic story to me. People who are hurt like that don't usually wind up helping people."
That is so completely typical. Whenever I try to interest the Girlfriend in my comics I almost always wind up feeling like a fool. The worst is when I try to get her interested in a comic book about a female superhero. The conversation usually goes something like this:
Me: "...doesn't that sound like a great story? Wouldn't you like to read it?"
CLRHG: "Yes, she sounds really strong. Like a warrior character. What kind of costume does she have, though? Don't tell me it's one of those dinky outfits that doesn't provide any protection and has her tits hanging out to here."
Me: "Um, well, okay. (Sigh.) Just...never mind."
So anyway, the point is that the Girlfriend is right and that Simon Dark is not really that dark, even though the character is billed on the cover as "the grotesque guardian of Gotham City."
I was reminded of Simon Dark the other day when I ran across a news story that got linked in many places across the blogosphere. The news story was headlined "'Werewolf boy' - who snarls and bites - on the run from police after escaping Moscow clinic. It was about a child purportedly raised by wolves, with animal-like habits and some gnarly-looking foot claws. The part of the story that really got to me though was this:
Such cases are not uncommon in Russia where there have been regular reports of 'Mowgli' children abandoned by their parents who are cared for by animals.
I got this image in my head of children scampering around Moscow on all fours while jaded city dwellers turned their heads and walked on. It seemed to me like the wolf boy story could be a hoax, but it seemed equally plausible that it could just be another disquieting but emergent condition of city living. I decided to investigate, just in case I needed to prepare myself for coyote- and cougar-children roaming Los Angeles in the near future.
I came across a very well-organized web site called FeralChildren.com. There I discovered that there are different types of feral children. In the terms used by the site, Simon Dark would be considered an isolated child because he lived on his own.
The section on children raised by animals is quite informative. The text points out that many stories of children raised by wild animals lack documentation, and may in fact be folklore. There's also a table that summarizes data from these stories, indicating the child's name, sex, age when found, location, the animal that served as parent, and available source material, including photos.
In addition to wolf adoption, the site lists a few cases of bears and gazelles acting as adoptive parents. The most unusual, I thought, were a case of ostrich parents and a herd of cows that were reported to have served as family. Although the web site seems to have more of a social science bent to it, there is also a section on feral children in literature and the arts. That's where the phrase "Mowgli children" comes from, after all.