So there’s this book called The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived.
Who are the ten most influential people who never lived in your opinion?
1. Captain James Tiberius Kirk
Not to be confused with the man who played him. My childhood was suffused with Kirk and Star Trek, well before the Star Trek phenomenon took over the world (to my eternal dismay).
Kirk was a hero, a leader of men and women, and a champion of limitless human potential. My first real introduction to Star Trek was through books, not television. Science fiction writer James Blish turned each episode into a short story in a series of books in the seventies. I devoured them. I still own every one. And one cannot talk of Captain Kirk in the context of inspirational imaginary characters without pointing out that Kirk himself was allegedly inspired by yet another imaginary character: Horatio Hornblower.
2. Johnny Sokko
My favourite TV show when I was six
I grew up in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. When I was six years old we had access to all of three television channels. Saturday mornings at eight one of those channels played a show called “Johnny Sokko and his Giant Robot,” about a boy who discovers a wristband that allows him to control a giant robot with which to fight evil. Can you imagine? Your very own giant robot with which to fight evil! I can honestly say that were it not for this show I would never have been inspired later in life to build my own giant robot with which to, um, fight evil and, ah… never mind.
3. Hawkeye Pierce
“Let’s go join the nurses,” suggests MASH surgeon Trapper John to fellow surgeon Hawkeye, who replies: “Yeah… make them into one big nurse.”
No one ever laughed at Hawkeye’s jokes, but that didn’t stop him from cracking them. Humour allowed Hawkeye to cope amid the insanity of war. He got away with a lot because he was the best at what he did, and he had the coolest nickname on this list.
4. The Man With No Name
Clint Eastwood’s cooler than thou cowboy in Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti western trilogy may in fact have had a name: an undertaker in a Fistful of Dollars calls him Joe, and he is referred to in the credits by that name. It has been suggested that the appeal of The Man With No Name is that he can do things that none of the rest of us can. I know I certainly wouldn’t mind a piece of the poise that “Joe” exhibits on screen . (Although as cool as The Man With No Name is in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, it’s really Eli Wallach’s character Tuco who steals the show.)
Merlin advised Kings, shaping world events from the shadows. Though he appeared to age normally, he experienced life backwards, from death to birth instead of the other way around (try wrapping your head around that one). My knowledge of Merlin is mostly gleaned from the novels of Mary Stewart and T.H. White, as well as the brilliant portrayal of Merlin by actor Nicol Williamson in John Boorman’s superlative film Excalibur.
6. Bugs Bunny
Rivaled only by Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name for sheer, unadulterated cool, but arguably more human, and infinitely funnier. To an adversary who happens to be a bull: “What a nin-cow-poop! What a gulli-bull!” But the real appeal of Bugs Bunny to me is the meta-cartooning genius so often displayed by his creators: Bugs Bunny as cartoonist/God messing with a thoroughly irritated Daffy Duck, just to cite one classic example.
7. Gully Foyle
In Alfred Bester’s seminal science fiction classic The Stars My Destination (or perhaps more properly Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright, the original title of the novel) Gully Foyle illustrates the heights any of us might achieve if only we were properly motivated. There’s a lot of great science fiction being written today, but damn I miss the sheer frenetic vitality of books like this.
The tiger, not the philosopher. Hobbes is Calvin’s best friend, there when Calvin needs him and more than willing to go along with Calvin’s every crazy scheme. Who doesn’t need a Hobbes in their life? Words fail me.
A certain wizard
I hung on just about every word in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring’s chiefly to find out more about Gandalf. Who was he, really? What was he? Where did he come from? We never really find out, though I suppose there might have been more information on him in the Silmarillion… alas, I never could wade my way through that one.
In my teens and twenties I read just about everything written by James Michener. His book The Drifters inspired me to spend the better part of a year in France and Europe. Another book of Michener’s, The Source, prompted me to question my every assumption concerning religion. And in that book it was The Psalm of the Hoopoe Bird, the story of Hoopoe, the ancient Israeli engineer who so resembled the Hoopoe Bird , that touched me the most.