Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Dynamic Duo of Max Power & A.C. Justice

Many summer camps I've heard of have some form or another of what's called a Color War. No, it's not a race thing, it's a big event where you divide all the campers and staff into two (or some times more) color-themed teams and then set them against each other in various contests of skill, athletic and otherwise. It's essentially Blackest Night but sans rings and with less zombies.

At Camp Frank A. Day, our Color War came twice a summer, once at the end of each one-month session. Some camps will switch up the teams every year, but the more intense Wars come from the places where the same people are on the same teams year after year with the new additions purportedly balancing out the remainder on either side. This made for year-long taunting and a sort of crazy pride due the deep-seeded rivalry that went above and beyond a camp activity.

When Color War came around, you quite literally did not speak to your friends on the other team for over 24 hours, as you were busy writing songs, rallying the troops and dressing up in crazy outfits; if you dropped a bystander in the midst of the 8 AM cheer-off between our Green and Grey factions in the flagpole area of our little piece of paradise in the middle of the woods, I can only imagine they'd be somewhat in awe of and terrified by the military precision and unbridled noise.

I had very much a love/hate relationship with Color War, as I dug the pride and creativity it inspired, but the spirit of competition got a little too intense for me sometimes, not to mention I became less and less of a fan of the early and long hours as I got older (I'll hold off the story about spending the night before a 6 AM wake-up pep talk at a bar in Leicester singing Def Leppard karaoke because you never know who might be reading).

However, I have to say that Color War did in some way help me come into my own as I grew up, as camp was really where I discovered myself as a leader, and this event was where I really gained confidence as de facto head cheerleader and speech-maker of the Green team once I hit 18 or so.

Of course me being me, Color War also brought out the side of me that loved to take a trip down to Salvation Army, grab whatever green crap was on sale, and throw together some ridiculous outfits (that was actually pretty much every side of me). I wore green sports jackets, tracksuits, skirts and whatever else I could get my hands on. Mostly though, I stuck to what I do best: super heroes.

One year I was sitting around with some other counselors and we were planning a lecture for the kids or something about sportsmanship and by accident I said "brad" instead of "bad." Rather than just leave this alone, me and my buddies slowly began developing the character of Brad Sportsmanship, a cheeseball do-gooder who just wanted everybody to get out there, play fair and have fun. Naturally when Color War came around that year, I brought Brad to life, complete with tights, cape, domino mask and a leap off the top of one of the buildings on the rim of the flagpole pavillion.

Another year (the same one as the aforementioned "Pour Some Sugar on Me" incident), me and three other guys got in our heads to go with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a theme. We tracked down some TMNT t-shirts for cheap, went with all green masks instead of multi-colored, approximated the weapons as best we could without injuring anybody, then tore into the first Green team meeting of the War in my (ironically silver) Honda Civic, Turtles theme song blaring.

(I was of course Rafael, as I feel he is the avatar of intelligent but cool people, as opposed to Michaelangelo being for slackers, Donatello being for nerds, and Leonardo being for kiss-ass jerks, but we can expand on that another time)

And then one year me and my amigo Alex Verdaguer did this:

Allow me to relate the origin of how Max Power (him, the one with the big arms) and A.C. Justice (me, the one with the...normal-sized arms) came to be.

I'm gonna say it was the summer of 2001, so by this point I was well and deeply back into comics hardcore. I had my day off every Wednesday, so I'd drive back to Newton, hit up Newbury Comics, and do my best to keep on top of the new books. This usually meant having to bring them back to camp with me if I wanted to read them, where they suffered the ravages of being in the middle of woods and eight 14-year-olds wanting to read them, but so it goes.

Some of my buddies humored my growing obsession by chatting comics with me, and since it was camp (where creativity and complete lack of shame are both in wonderfully high supply) this led to us creating our own costumed alter egos. We created our own little Justice League of East Brookfield (the burg where our camp was) and I even sketched up what I thought we'd look at (sadly those are back in Boston, but I'm going to seek them out over Christmas). We took a humorous bent to the whole thing and had some real fun.

I was A.C. Justice, the Batman figure of the group mostly because I wanted to incorporate my ridiculous Edge & Christian sunglasses into my costume. My pal Alex, also my co-captain on our high school wrestling team, became the Superman with a half-shirt, Max Power. Eli Freedman, the aspiring Rabbi of our crew, took on the role of Jacob Thunder, and began carrying around an untied tetherball with the Star of David painted on that he called his "Thunderball." Steve Sarsons, our very British friend, settled on "The All-American" Mike Smith for his alter ego, patterned a bit on Captain America but with his only super power being the ability to do a half-convincing American accent. Brian Coccaro crafted the Marcus Von Jacqued identity, with the weird hook being that he was a Swedish bodybuilder who liked to wear shades and tight fluorescent tops or something. Our junior-most member Mike (and I can't believe I was blanking on his last name) was legitimately a star runner for his high school, so he was the resident speedster, Bolt Javelin, "able to travel at slightly above the speed of an average person." Finally, I forget Matt Corley's codename, but he was essentially Green Arrow, with the caveat that he wasn't that great with a bow (he and I were the camp's archery instructors, having actually gotten certified to be so, and neither of us could hit the target).

Our superheroic IDs had a little time in the sun, but didn't get much use until Alex and I decided to drag ours out as seen in the pic above. Steve joined us as well, wrapping an American flag around his green gear, but sadly I don't have a photo handy. Eli and Brian, who were on Gray, were totally bummed out that they didn't think of doing something similar, but didn't want to steal our ideas.

Anyways, as you can see, the ladies loved us and we were the height of cool. Just another day at the office.

Y'know, I miss camp frequently once the summer hits (except for the hours...and the work) for many reasons, mostly people, but the freedom to freely dress up like a deranged cross between Ric Flair, Impulse, and an Initiative guy from Buffy is definitely up there.


Rickey said...

The tall girl to the right in that picture with the ribbon tied around her leg wants SOOOO badly to be hanging out with you. It's like Jessica Jones in Amazing Fantasy #15. AMIRITE?!

Peter said...

great post Ben, sadly, I was already gone by 2001 and missed one of the rare events that my have helped me to enjoy color war. I miss it too, but like you said mostly for the people and the atmosphere. I love the way that there are things we all did at camp and when spoken about them later in life people may only respond with a puzzled look. My "OH, it was a camp thing!" reasoning never seems to explain a thing. Unless of course there is one other withing the group who also went to overnight camp. There is definitely a mutual understanding amongst us that may be lost on the rest of the world, and I feel sorry for them. Hope things are well. take care
Your favorite JC

Matt said...

If I remember correctly, my codename was Chase Masterson and the gimmick was that I was ineffective and not all that super. I don't know if that's Green Arrow-like though, since I was never a DC man.

I also seem to remember that the origins of the whole thing came from work week. If I remember correctly it was Verdeguer's first year and riffing off of a Simpson's episode (, Alex somehow got introduced to people as Max Power. The Justice League of Brookfield built out from there as we all wanted alter egos.

Ben Morse said...

Corley, your steel trap memory saves us again.

Yes, the Max Power thing absolutely sprang out of us trying to convince people that was Alex's name and everything else sprang from us thinking it sounded like a super hero name.

Also, you were totally Chase Masterson and that was indeed your gimmick. The Green Arrow thing was more the look I sketched for you than anything else, but I'm not sure you have ever even seen those.

Mike's last name was McBride! Right?

Matt said...

It appears I do indeed remember correctly. And yes, it was McBride!

Ben Morse said...

Was Jessica Jones actually in Amazing Fantasy #15 or are you fucking with me, Rickey? I know she had that retroactive shit in Alias, but are you talking about something else?

Rickey said...

They've retconnd it so a girl in that actual issue has now been identified as Jessica, though she was formerly just a random, no-name on-looker.

So what I meant was, she looks like Jessica Jones: all off to the side and wanting to party with Peter Parker. A "Peter Party" if you will.

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