I didn’t know Tiny Tim through the comics by Stanley Link, but from a book my Uncle Bert had, called Tiny Tim and the Mechanical Men. The mechanical men were robots, not the one you see on the book cover above (that was just the entrance into the robots’ abode), but some guys I could have built out of a Crisco can and a few flattened out sheets of tin. Nonetheless, I loved them because Tiny Tim found one that was on the blink, crawled into its head, and started operating it. I was right there with him pulling levers.
During the long, moist, humid, sweltering, cooking hot days of the Columbus, Georgia summers, I’d hang out under the fan and read and reread this little adventure. Thus began my love of small heroes. At least I think my fascination must have started then because I also spent time in the garden concocting fairy hats out of abelia blossoms, plates out of leaves and flatware out of sticks. My grandfather wrote me notes from the fairies and protected them in tiny aspirin tins, which gave away the identity of the fairy writer. I couldn’t quite believe those fairies were real, but it was great to pretend. They danced upon a large, flat rock, and that is where their missives magically appeared the next morning.
Tiny Tim, according to Ron Goulart’s The Encyclopedia of American Comics: From 1897 to the Present began as an orphan (What else? We children writers have to get those pesky parents out of the way somehow) along with his sister Dotty, both only 2 inches high. They were the invention of Stanley Link. Their minute size was inconvenient, so the children quickly grew to 8 inches, and eventually Tiny Tim acquired an amulet from an old gypsy woman that enabled him to be normal-sized and then shrink at will. At this point, Tiny Tim moved from the novelty of finding ways to deal with the normal world–using pencils for stilts, for example–to fighting the forces of evil. Tiny Tim was not alone in his tininess. In a quick perusal of The Encyclopedia of American Comics, I found the Teenie Weenies and the Little People both based on the Brownies. All of these can be investigated on Don Markstein’s Toonopedia. Markstein also notes that Tiny Tim’s size helped children fulfill their fantasies of being small enough to spy on adults. Certainly, hiding was part of the appeal for me. But I also wanted to explore tiny things. If I could only crawl into that tiny crevice in the garden, I would find something amazing.
Fighting the forces of evil is definitely Tiny Tim’s game in Tiny Tim and the Mechanical Men. He takes on the dastardly King Zorex and saves Princess Philomena, all with the help of the disabled robot, whose brain he replaces. Clever, isn’t it? My six-year-old self thought so, and I think that this is part of the reason I write about small heroes. Presently, I’m working on Pigeon People, which features aliens the height of the eponymous bird who are trying to take over Earth with the use of a game. Cort Evans, an almost-twelve-year-old boy, teams up with Tanagraf, the lowest of the low linguist from the planet of Stratt, who is forced by his high commander to do degrading things no self-respecting lover of words should have to do. So, power to the tiny people who fire our imaginations and find homes in the hearts of children. They have found a place in my adult heart as well.