I won’t give a bio on Marcus – he’s a brilliant storyteller and doesn’t need me for that. In fact, he’s written about his past, including the challenges of a childhood spent as a self-professed geek who sometimes caught the attention of 6-foot-plus dudes that could only be thwarted by genius. I highly recommend finding him on Medium, where he’s told some of the best tales – he reaches back into his life and makes you feel like you were with him through each experience.
I don’t think I saw him without a smile during the wedding weekend. When we got back home and did the requisite friending on Facebook, I soon realized that this guy, this writer, was the real deal.
He seemed to put out copy as if it was the easiest thing in the world. I’d wake up at 7:30 in New Jersey and be so proud of myself for an early start until I saw that Marcus – three hours behind in Arizona -had already begun. I worked on never-to-be-completed stories as he developed scripts, then cast, filmed, and produced them. I’ve always been a bit of an Eeyore, but suddenly there was this long-distance Tigger, bouncing around and doing everything I said I wanted to achieve.
And then, Marcus hit a slump. For reasons I didn’t yet understand, he was sad, and seemingly unable to shake the demons. A mutual friend let me in on the fact that the happy guy I’d met was, in fact, a much more complicated man with dark shadows that threatened to overtake him. His beloved brother had been killed. He lost his mother way too soon, and “enjoyed” the kinds of fraught relationships with other family members that tend to send us writers to the page or to the bottle.
I can’t say whether Marcus has been on any benders, at least not that kind. But he has shared the traumas of depression, of loss, and of feeling as though there are no good things left to say. There was a time when it seemed that despite being adorable and brilliant, he might not find his way forward to the kind of life his brother and mother would certainly wish for him.
And then, like all good superheroes, he rose back up, even finding the girl. But she lived across the country – and came with three young kids! My inner self, schooled on the art of not taking risks, watched in both amazement and fear as Marcus’ relationship with Natasha (who I’ve never met but kinda adore), grew and grew some more.
He was moving. She was moving. I could barely keep up, but next thing I knew there was a wedding coming! The guy who a few years earlier had lamented his singlehood was now not just going to be a husband, but a father of four, giving his son Jordan a gaggle of giggly girls to love and to adore him.
They married. They moved their new family to Arizona. And Marcus began to chronicle the craziness of his newfound joys – from a near-disaster at White Barn to YouTube cooking videos with the kids. Life seemed to have reached a high point.
But all good superheroes have an equally persistent nemesis, and Marcus’ demons did not go quietly. He actually quit writing during his engagement, and it took more than two months to get back, when his creativity decided it would no longer be imprisoned. And back he roared – he was soon writing, directing, and once again serving as a mentor and role model to his many fans, friends, and partners.
That’s another strength – encouraging everyone around him. Whether as a script doctor, producing partner, or director, he stands by those willing to take the leap. From dusk to dawn, he’ll be on set or online with ideas, motivation, and an insistence on getting the work done.
I’d already pretty much confirmed Marcus’ greatness when word came that he and Natasha were adding on to their family of six. As if part of a movie script, these two incredible families, already bonded, would now share a tiny new soul that connects them at an even deeper level. It should surprise no one that when Finnegan Mario (for his father’s beloved brother) Stricklin entered the world, he was toasted and feted as the son of a superhero should be.
Many of my inspirers have been people who choose. While huge swaths of us mortals wait for the sign, for the right time and circumstances, the brave ones forge ahead. Not just though blue skies or across green fields, but through the mud of disappointment, the valleys where darkness pervades. They may take a moment to wallow, but there is always a next step back onto the path and into the light.
As I work to become one of these people, I give a toast today to the ones, like Marcus, who remind us that superheroes are not just in the movies – they are in our lives and ready to help us uncover our own best selves.