by Erica J Heflin
When I was very little, my parents were divorced.
Though that may sound like an odd opening to a commentary on fandom, it’s undoubtedly at the root of my developing interests. I was three, my parents were divorced, and my mother – who had primary custody – worked long hours to keep us afloat. I don’t remember very much about those early years, except for sitting in front of a television and watching my favorite cartoons.
Oh, and my bedroom was decorated with pastel heart wallpaper.
But back to the cartoons. Like most little girls my age, I was of the Rainbow Bright and Strawberry Shortcake Crowd. I more obsessively followed a series that few people recall – Rose Petal’s Place. They were all standard girls’ cartoons, with characters that were brightly colored and figures that were scented. Most of figures even came with long luxurious hair that you could brush. But frankly, that got boring after a bit.
There was one other cartoon that I watched at the time. This one had its requisite female character, but she was a far cry from the type in standard girls’ cartoons. She was Cheetara and the show was the ThunderCats.
Do I even need to explain how much cooler their figures were?
So I watched the ThunderCats obsessively, as I did with my other favorite cartoons. I sat probably a foot away from the tv, and I stared at it for hours. I’m sure a babysitter was around, sitting on the couch somewhere, but I have no recollection of her. It was just me and my cartoons. They were the escape that I needed.
I didn’t let them go easily.
I played ThunderCats with other children from time-to-time, but I wasn’t living in the best of neighborhoods and rarely got out to see if there were other kids around. It didn’t bother me much, either. I had a better time living in my head.
In my head I was Cheetera, and I kicked ass.
My mother wasn’t always as thrilled with my extremely indulgent imagination. As Cheetera, I was prone to great explosions of speed. I’d be lost in my own little world and take off, completely forgetting that my mother would have to chase me as a result. I was fast when I was little, too. My mother often had to rely on the help of strangers to put an end to my mad dash.
That was the beginning. My ability to fully plunge myself into other worlds, through books, stories, novels, comics, and games has never waned. My mother never suggested that it should, though I’m sure she was pleased that I became a bit more mindful of my surroundings as I grew older.
As I matured, the escapist nature of these experiences was pushed aside for a passionate love of storytelling. That’s the part that I hold on to, to this day.
And I still have my Cheetara figure.