Ken Fox writes about his childhood rival, Michael Turner:

The first time I saw Michael Turner I thought to myself – “That idiot doesn’t know enough to be afraid.”

I was in 6th grade, sitting in the middle of music class rehearsing for a ridiculous school musical based on songs of the fifties. Mike wasn’t in my class, but for this particular debacle the music teacher, Mrs. Couch, decided to blend all the 6th grade classes. Apparently she was a strong believer in the idea that humiliation is better all spread out over a larger group of non-singing, lips barely moving, tone-deaf 12 year olds.

Mike didn’t fit. He didn’t quite get some simple truths that the rest of us just kind of understood from birth. Things like – Don’t sing in grade school – ever. If you for some unGodly reason find that you have no choice but to sing – don’t enjoy it.

Mike didn’t get it. Mike actually volunteered for it. What a freak.

I remember seeing him the first time. All of us had been sitting cramped on the floor for long minutes trying to memorize “chang chang changity (changity?) shee bop, ramma ramma lamma lamma iggity boom de-boom” when Mike calmly stood up, and Miss Couch started playing the piano.

I felt so bad for this poor kid that my face turned red (second hand humiliation).

But his face never got red. He just got this peaceful look on his face, looked up at the ceiling like no one else was in the room and let it all flow out. I don’t remember how good he was. I would have remembered if he had sucked. But that memory clip lost the audio a long time ago. What I do remember is that Michael Turner didn’t get it. He wasn’t afraid like he was supposed to be.

A few years later I got to know that weird kid. See, I was the resident artist in our Junior High School (Glenn Martin Jr. High) located in Crossville Tennessee.

Every school has one. It’s part of the pantheon of puberty. Every Jr. High in the country has the Singer, the Fighter, the Playboy, the Cheerleader, the Slut (usually long Blonde hair), the Geek, the Artist, and the Quarterback. Me? I was the Artist. Mike? He was the 2nd level artist (yeah – there are levels). Anyway – sooner or later our Mead brand Sketchbooks were bound to collaborate on some great unfinished project, and it finally happened.

The time I remember most from the Mike days was the weekend he was stayed at my house. That was when I first started to loathe him with admiration. We penciled for a while – he did it very well. We wrote for a while – he did it very well (the story was about dragons). We played Galaxa at a laundry matt waiting on my mom to pick us up for a while – guess what? yep. He did it very well. It became painfully obvious that whatever we happened to be doing – eating hamburgers and fries, tying our shoes, whistling the A-Team theme song, whatever – Mike did it very well.

Even back at school, when we were flirting with a girl named Paige Parvin he would be all “Mike Turner smooth” while I got all “Ken Fox not-so-smoothe-but-oh-how-I-know-in-my-heart-she-belongs-with-me-because-not-only-is-she-beautiful-and-smart-and-reads-all-the-time-but-she-loves-Barry Manilow too-and-even-though-every-other-guy-loves-ACDC-or-Iron Maiden-I-also-love-the Manilowster-and-memorized-every-lyric-years-ago-proving-we’re-meant-to-be-together.”

He even did Paige Parvin very well (that didn’t sound right).

When you’re a kid, you don’t know things as much as you just sense things. Like testosterone – you may not really “know” about hormones, but sooner or later you will get a “sense” of things going on insode you (see Paige Parvin reference). What I sensed about Mike was that his powers and abilities came from one thing. Yeah – this Kryptonian’s yellow sun boiled down to one variable above all – his ignorance.

Mike never had any idea what he couldn’t do.

At the same age when everyone else in parachute pants and legs warmers had to deal daily with massive limitations and insecurities, Mike Turner seemed buried in blissful security. I’d watch him while he was “very welling” something, and it was like the thought of failing never latched onto him, or entered into his arrogant, confident little mind.

Want proof? We lived in Tennessee – a landlocked rednecked state not known for its beaches and championship skiers. Mike was a championship skier. State Champion if I recall correctly. Florida State Champion. Yeah – you got it. He lived in Tennessee and had the audacity to travel to Florida and win their Barefoot Waterskiing State Championship. Who does that?

I moved away not long after 9th grade.

Years later, a co-worker in my design department brought in

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