Charlie Culberson’s Marvel comics and Black Panther fandom runs deep. He’s passing it along to his son
BY JERRY CRASNICK
When the blockbuster movie sequel “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’’ debuted in mid-November, Charlie Culberson and his seven-year-old son, Ace, got in the car and headed straight for a multiplex near the family home in suburban Atlanta.
Culberson, a veteran of 10 big-league seasons with the Giants, Rockies, Dodgers, Braves and (most recently) Rangers, is a long-time superhero devotee who seeks out comics stores in his free time on the road. When he’s not perusing the stacks for treasures to add to his collection, he’s encasing his comics in plastic or sending them out to be graded.
During a recent conversation with the MLBPA, Culberson gave the movie a thumbs-up and shared his affinity for the Black Panther series and all things Marvel.
HOW DID YOUR AFFINITY FOR MARVEL START?
As a kid, I loved the whole superhero idea as a way to separate ourselves from the real world. That’s what we wanted to be -- to be able to help people. And then the idea of being able to fly and having powers to use for good, it’s such a cool thing that all of us can relate to. I love Marvel. I love everything about it. And then last year I dove into comic books, which is another interesting hobby that I've gotten into.
DID YOU HAVE A FAVORITE SUPERHERO GROWING UP?
It's always a tough question. I feel like everyone's got their favorite superhero, or favorite team. I always go back to Captain America. He's kind of an easy one to relate to, but they all have some unique qualities. My little boy, Ace, loves Spider-Man, as we all do. Iron Man is awesome. I love Black Panther -- every character is just so fun and unique. But I always go back to Captain America. He's probably my go-to.
IS YOUR LOVE FOR MARVEL AND COMIC BOOKS SOMETHING YOU CAN SHARE WITH YOUR SON?
Yeah, we actually just read a kids’ comic book that my mom gave to him. And there were little short stories in there, and it was pretty fun.
He's a bright little kid. He loves putting Legos together, so we try to get Spider-Man or Marvel Legos that he can play with in his room. Last year, I got this one issue called ‘Amazing Spider-Man,’ issue number 361. And that was the first appearance of Carnage in the Amazing Spider-Man run. Ace goes, ‘Dad, can I have this book?’ And I was thinking to myself, ‘It’s kind of a pricey book.’ I bought most of these books to collect and hold onto and maybe at some point we can flip them for other books. But yeah, he took that book which has a cool logo of Spider-Man and Carnage on the front. He has it in his room right now.
YOU TOOK ACE TO THE BLACK PANTHER MOVIE. DO YOU FIND YOURSELF WATCHING HIM FOR HIS REACTION?
Absolutely. I grew up going to the movies with my parents, and now I can say that my little boy is sitting next to me watching these movies. He's looking to me for reassurance in some parts. But whenever Black Panther comes out, you can just see his eyes light up and he perks up in his seat. It’s fun for me as a dad. Something as simple as going to a movie lets us stop thinking about school for him, or sports or homework. These directors and actors have done a great job in making us fans for life. And it’s another reason to get some candy and a drink and eat a little bit more than we normally do in the house.
DOES ACE HAVE A GO-TO MOVIE SNACK?
Skittles. He definitely goes for the Skittles. Every kid needs some sugar. But he didn’t eat the whole bag, so I was proud of him.
IF YOU COULD HAVE ANYONE SIGN A COMIC, WHOSE AUTOGRAPH WOULD YOU WANT?
Stan Lee is the pinnacle for me of comics and Marvel. I've watched quite a few documentaries on him, and I was able to meet him when I played for the Dodgers in 2016. He was on the field at the time. I wasn't into collecting comics, but I was still a big fan, and I saw him and I'm like, ‘This is my chance to shake his hand to get a picture.’ As far as collecting goes, I think he would be the guy.
WHICH TEAMMATE FROM THE 2022 RANGERS REMINDS YOU MOST OF CAPTAIN AMERICA?
That's a good question. The teammate that I know loves Captain America the most would be Josh Jung. He actually has a shield that he showed to me a couple of spring trainings ago. Eli White could be a good Captain America. He's got the look. He's fast and he’s in good shape. Eli probably has the package for Captain America. You’re welcome, Eli.
SO WE’LL END WITH A CLASSIC SUPERHERO QUESTION: IF YOU COULD HAVE THE ABILITY TO BE INVISIBLE, TO FLY OR HAVE THE STRENGTH OF 100 MEN, WHICH ATTRIBUTE WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
Being invisible isn't for me. I love being around people and I don't want to be invisible to everybody. I want to be able to be present and enjoy company with friends and family, so invisible for me is out of it. Being super strong would be great, but something about flying just seems like it would be the most fun for me. Out of those three, I think flying would be the best.
AS AN ADDED BONUS, YOU WOULD NEVER HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT BALLPARK TRAFFIC AGAIN IF YOU COULD FLY.
That is true. That wouldn’t be a bad idea.