Captain Neon and Argon the Assassin: The Story Behind the Story

Under the reddish glow of a neon ceiling at the Barley Mill Pub back in 1984, Mike McMenamin penned the first installment of the story “The Adventures of Captain Neon.” No stranger to the glorious subtleties of illumination, inspiration struck when Mike considered the pulsing glow of a newly filled neon tube.

In a classic tale of good versus evil, “The Adventures of Captain Neon” chronicles the exploits of Captain Neon and his nemesis Argon the Assassin, “a red glow versus a blue glow, both electrical in nature.” Multiple chapters unspooled over the years; the story languished for long periods only to resurface as new McMenamins locations were folded into the setting. Edgefield is recognizable as “the old manor,” as is the cozy, firelit shack to its east, which we know as the Little Red Shed. Partway through the series, Argon is imprisoned in the Crystal Ballroom’s smiling jester, then (spoiler alert) escapes and appears later at the Blue Moon. Even Cassidy’s, a favorite downtown hangout of many a McMenamins employee, makes an appearance.

Neon lights inside the Barley Mill Pub

Neon and Argon were born in the luminescence of the Barley Mill and a few beers, but their legacy lingers at a low hum throughout McMenamins, punctuated by an electric crackle from time to time. When our first brewery opened at Hillsdale Pub in 1985, it was dubbed Captain Neon’s Fermentation Chamber, and it is safe to say that over the years Neon and Argon have inspired beers, burgers and an attitude.

Fun facts about neon and argon:
• Neon shows up in tones from red to orange in electrified lighting. The character Captain Neon is red in “The Adventures of Captain Neon.”
• Argon ranges from violet to pale lavender blue in lighting. The character Argon the Assassin shows up as blue light in the story.
• Both are noble gasses (remember your high school chemistry?).
• You can play with the colors in lighting by mixing in mercury and other elements, painting the tubes or adding glass shards.
• The color and intensity in neon lights changes over time. When the gas is fresh, a pulse effect is created in the tube.
• Argon mixed with mercury creates Mike McMenamin’s favorite shade of blue.
• Neon (and argon) lights can be found at numerous McMenamins including Barley Mill Pub, Blue Moon, Hillsdale Pub & Brewery, and Tavern & Pool and more.

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