For those of you raised in the church, there was no shortage of well-intentioned and, often, surprisingly well-produced content involving kindly, wise, biblically literate, not-necessarily-human mentors who served as your very first heroes. We did a little digging and came up with five of our favorites.
1. Psalty the Singing Songbook
Psalty used his encyclopedic knowledge of hymnody to soothe the fears of his youthful choir, whose parents had no problem shipping their children off on global concert tours under the care of an anthropomorphic hymnbook. According to Psalty’s throughly detailed website, he and his family (his wife, Psaltina; daughters, Melody and Harmony; and son, Rhythm — also, often accompanied by a churchmouse named Charity and a superhero salamander named Solomon) all live in Happyville, but Psalty embarks on an annual pilgrimage to a “Winter Worship Workshop in the mountains.” Because, though he’s a dedicated family man, Psalty cultivates a spirit of adventure. No wonder he was our hero.
2. John Avery Whittaker
Focus on the Family’s Adventures In Odyssey radio program largely centered around John Avery Whittaker, who wore many hats. He was primarily known as the kindly old owner of a local ice cream parlor, but his resume makes Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World seem about as fascinating as a styrofoam cup. Whit has been an international spy, an archeologist, an encyclopedia publisher, an inventor, a World War II signalman, a pilot, an ancient languages translator and a rogue agent. He invented a sort of time machine in “The Imagination Station,” which at one point was even shown to be capable of whisking people into the afterlife. In short, if this guy wasn’t one of your childhood heroes, you did not have a happy childhood.
3. Colby the Computer
Colby called himself a computer back when computers were a novelty. They were large and, if you watched Colby, were talking, singing Bible trivia whizzes who wore roller skates. Yes, Colby was more of a robot than a computer, but Colby’s legions of young fans were probably more comfortable telling their parents they were hanging out with a computer than with a giant robot. Unlike Psalty, Colby’s backstory remains shrouded in mystery. Who is he? Where did he come from? What inventor gave him life, or is Colby part of the moment of singularity, in which machines become self-aware on their own accord? And, if so, did the children around him have any idea what they were dealing with?
4. Dr. Jake Cooper
Dr. Jake Cooper was the patriarch of the titular family in Frank Peretti’s Cooper Kids Adventure Series, and he was the world’s coolest dad. Picture Indiana Jones with two kids, whom he would throw into harm’s way at any opportunity. This family of archeologists globehopped from unspeakable terror to unspeakable terror, dealing with some truly horrifying, life-altering and childhood-scarring characters. They thwarted the apocalypse. They killed off the last of Goliath’s ancestors. They were trapped in a sunken submarine, hypnotized by poisonous slugs and offered as a sacrifice to giant snakes. A lesser man might have left his children in care of a babysitter for such horrors, but Dr. Cooper figured there was no sense in babying his children through life. He brought them into the heat of every adventure he had and, true to his notion, they never seemed any worse for it.
Like many of your childhood heroes, McGee’s true nature remains a subject of debate. The focus of the McGee and Me video series was Nick, a relatively normal boy whose adventures generally had some biblically sound moral. He and his friends braved tornadoes, sneaked into horror movies and, memorably, ransacked the house of a frightening-but-friendly old Native American. The only difference between you and Nick was that you didn’t have an animated pal who would pop up, Jiminy Cricket style, to offer advice and comedic relief. Whether McGee was a product of Nick’s imagination or Nick had harnessed the power of breathing life into his drawings, the show never made clear.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's senior editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.