The Infamous Captain UnderpantsGrowing up I always wanted to be a superhero. Forget baseball player or fireman, or for that one weird kid in my kindergarten class who ate glue and picked his nose, garbage man. No, I wanted to be larger than life. So when nobody was around I'd haul out my secret uniform from under my bed - a pair of my father's tighty-whities, an Underdog t-shirt and a towel for a cape. Then I'd sneak down into the basement to fight crime where, for some reason, the washing machine set to spin cycle seemed to facilitate the flying process.
Usually I did battle with a series of menacing foes, from Mosquito Face who could drain a boy's blood in mere seconds, to the more sinister Hamburglar, a villain transferred from McDonald's and who I placed more enmity towards than the Ayatollah.
As far as secret identities go, mine was safe, save for a run in with my father who came home from work one day unexpectedly, shouted my name and, when there was no answer, started looking for me all over the house. Finally, when he opened the door and saw his only son, his pride and joy, in a full squat like he was about to take a dump, wearing his worn out underpants and a cape, he burst into laughter.
"What the hell are you doing boy," he asked, not really wanting an explanation, part relived I was wearing his underwear and not torturing animals with a screwdriver. "I'm flying," I replied. He looked at me and got very serious. "Be careful out there, son, and don't forget to come back for lunch."
Eventually I outgrew flying. Mainly because I grew and grew and grew. By the sixth grade I was 5'5" and 240 pounds - a pint-sized Suge Knight in a pair of tight-ass Lee Rider gaberdine pants. I was the fat cracker who dressed extra dapper. But I never outgrew wanting to be a superhero. Instead of flying, I submerged myself in the art-form, spending most my days tracing Superman vs. Ali comics.
Then I got my hands on a book called "Subway Art." It was a journal of early NYC graf by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant. And in an instant those comic books I had been tracing became irrelevant to me. Traveling to Newark or Trenton or NYC and seeing those pages come to life filled me a sense of excitement, but also of dread. How could I be one of those guys? They were the real superheroes. It was like having an anvil dropped on my head-all this new knowledge to soak in and learn. It hit me hard.
There was, and still is, this seductive visual lure to graf, both seemingly knowable and cryptic at the same time. Where every wall is like a puzzle and you have to decode the handstyles. Forget about the Marvel Comics cannon of heroes. My guys were COPE 2, DONDI, FUTURA, and T-KID...and they were untouchable. To find a wall with their work was like finding evidence of a great urban Rosetta Stone where I could trace my fingers along the concrete and feel what it must've been like to throw up their tag in the dead of night. It was the key that unlocked the door to everything: Hip-Hop, street culture, graphic art, design. It all stemmed from the throw-up, the concrete canvas and, at its heart, these midnight superheroes whose real Fortress of Solitude was the Boogie Down.
While my work was feeble by comparison - a suburban fatty standing on the shoulders of giants trying to fly once again - I nonetheless tried to leave my mark. My first tag was scrawled on my desk in sixth grade art class. It said "Ecko" after a nickname my mom gave me before I was born. I was such a herb. But regardless, like squatting on top of that washing machine, I felt like I was a part of something bigger than me. I couldn't articulate that, but I knew that scrawling my sorry-ass tag gave me and my na??ve sense of being an artist at that age a purpose. It was like hearing Ultramagnetic for the first time. It was foreign, but I was home.
I've spent the rest of my life chasing that feeling. Everything I do stems from my desire to touch on the emotions I first had when I fell in love with this stuff. Yet as hard as I tried, I always felt removed. But with this game, I get to be right back on the street. And so do you. It's a love letter to real life superheroes who fly every night. While I may not have the can in my hand, I get to tap that nerve and see a little bit of what it's like through their eyes. And so will you. Enjoy!