Tag Archives: Superhero

He’s the Best at What He Does… and What He Does Ain’t Pretty! [snikt!]

The Wolverine opens this July!

I am so hopeful that this movie is good and atones for the mess that was the first Wolverine movie! The movie draws on material from the classic 1982 4-issue miniseries that is in my opinion the greatest Wolverine story ever. Frank Miller and Chris Claremont, two comic legends, first describe what will become a centerpiece of the character: Logan’s struggle against his bestial nature. Wolverine: mindless animal or noble samurai? This is the story that started it all.

The miniseries stands among the best comic story arcs ever- for any character- so that’s something to be optimistic about. However, Hollywood has already fumbled more storylines and characters than we can count (Fantastic Four’s Dr. Doom? Wolverine’s Deadpool?) I’ve ranted about this before

Please don’t screw this up- bub!

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Filed under Geek 101

Avengers Assemble- for Roger

A friend passed away last night. His passing was sudden and shocking. Today I’ve been thinking about him and our friendship.

In truth, I did not know Roger that long. We had many mutual friends and I had seen him at community theater events over the last few years. We became formal friends about a year and a half ago. The catalyst for our friendship was a mutual admiration of Marvel Comics’ greatest superhero- Captain America. Admittedly, Cap is not Marvel’s biggest selling or most popular hero. Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine- these are Marvel’s most recognizable heroes. Comic book fans that have Cap as their #1 are somewhat scarce- so it made perfect sense that Roger and I would have a lot in common.

Now- let me give Roger his due. He had serious geek cred. We were both at the Cap midnight movie premier in July 2012 and Roger beat me in a Cap-trivia question. His prize- a bagged and boarded copy of the Captain America movie comic. Roger also displayed his heroic character that night as right before the movie started he leaned over and gave the comic to my then-12-year-old son- who Roger had never met before. It made sense that Captain America was Roger’s favorite.

 But what is it that attracts a grown man to superheroes?

There are a number of activities that we begin as children and continue through adulthood. For guys, sports is a ready example. Whether an athlete as a youth or watching others as an adult, sports and the American male figure are common partners. A fanaticism for sports is readily accepted in society. You’ve got to really go pretty deep into that subculture- way beyond fantasy football or team paraphernalia to get looked at as strange by society. For those lucky enough to have some talent for music, a lifelong engagement with their craft is expected and acceptable.

But SUPERHEROES? C’mon- grow up, kid!

I am saddened that I did not have enough conversations with Roger to be able to say definitively why superheroes still clicked with a man approaching his 50’s. We’d had plenty of full-on geek discussions but never got to that primal core of being that defines us. At least, not explicitly stated. I think I’ve got a clue as to why superheroes still resonated with Roger. It’s the same reason why they resonate with me. It’s the reason why our friendship was very easy.

Superheroes have the common language of that which calls us to greatness. They play on that part of our psyche that sees what we could be, not what we are. Superheroes are for all of the people that dream of being greater than they are. Superheroes are for the optimists.

If you believe, like I do, that the most majestic part of our imperfect humanity lies in our finest moments, not our most coarse, then superheroes might make sense to you as well. If the idea of nobility- not as a question of ancestry, but as a defining piece of character- makes sense to you, you might be a superhero fan. The people that believe in right and wrong- and doing right, because that is how you stamp out the wrong- those might be superhero people.

I wish I’d known Roger longer. I wish that I’d made more opportunities to hang out with him. We had some great times- like watching 12 hours of superhero movies to set just the right tone for a midnight premier of The Avengers. (Roger was the fanboy-heckling member of our crew described towards the end of this blog.) Good memories- just not enough of them. But I knew Roger enough to see those heroic facets of character in him. For me, it makes total sense that Roger was a superhero guy.

I couldn’t picture him as anything else.

-For Roger Yager, a friend and fellow fan of all things heroic. Thanks for the memories. Excelsior!

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Filed under Essays

Superhero Guy vs. Dad Guy

I’m a superhero guy. This is a distinct type of the creature “guy”. There are many other types and sometimes you’ll even see hybrids. The others are probably familiar to you: sports guy, car guy, outdoors guy, business guy, music guy, barfly guy, creepy guy, etc. I don’t knock any other type and actually share some minor characteristics with some of the others. Thirteen years ago I gained another type: Dad guy. But I’ve always been a superhero guy at heart.

If you’ve read other stuff on my blog, you may know that reading is my thing. Early in my reading career, I realized that I could consume my favorite authors’ works much faster than they could create more. Enter the comic book. I discovered them early on and fell in love with them right away. Captain America was, and still is, my all time favorite. (Not too hard to figure out- Steve Rogers, a 4-F runt with heroic character, is transformed by the Super Soldier serum to become the physical hero to match his noble spirit. I was usually one of the smallest kids in the class but full of heroic imagination. If there was ever a character that I truly wanted to be, Cap was it!)

Growing up in Syracuse in the 70’s and 80’s, there was one place to go to for comics: Dream Days. Run by Mike, an aging John Lennon lookalike, Dream Days was the place for comic book lovers. Mike was everything positive that pop culture says about the 60’s: optimistic, community-minded, and welcoming. When my brother Matt was in the hospital for a pretty serious surgical procedure as a young boy, Mike showed up at the hospital with a massive stack of comics for Matt to read while convalescing. I think Mike’s instructions were to read them, enjoy them, bring back what he didn’t want, and get better! Mike seemed to live at the store and the positive experiences talking to him there probably cemented my love of comics.

If my brothers and I had been good or particularly well-deserving of a treat we could sometimes convince our parents to take us to Dream Days. (This was not easy for a lower-middle class family with 4 children. I appreciate that more now than I ever could as a kid.) The only downside to a trip to Dream Days was that our parents were willing to spend about a tenth of the time in the store that we wanted. Walking in, you’d quickly peruse the new comics before poking around the back issues, graphic novels, or anything else you could get your hands on. When given the time warning, you’d quickly circle back to the new rack (unless you discovered some gem in the back issue bins for which you’d need to begin bargaining with Mom or Dad). Carefully picking the handful of comics that you were budgeted you’d then watch as Mike rang up the books on an archaic cash register, slide them into a yellow glossy plastic bag (separate bags for each brother- thanks Mike!) then back to the car for the ride home. Never was there a quieter trip with 4 boys than the return leg home after a stop at Dream Days.

Although I stopped collecting comics as  young adult, I never lost my love of the genre. In recent years I’ve found digital versions of many of my old favorites. I eagerly anticipate the next superhero movie. (Just a few months until The Avengers!) I look forward to dissecting with Matt the triumphs and missteps of the latest adaptations. Still a superhero guy at heart.

As the father of three boys- ages 13, 5 and 3 in February 2012- I’ve been thrilled every time one of them showed an interest in anything heroic. The fact that Hollywood has gotten pretty good at telling good comic book stories has helped. It’s just exciting to share something with your boys that you’ve always loved. Arguably, it’s one of the greatest joys of fatherhood for me so far.

Noodle, the 5 year old, has definitely embraced the superhero motif. Noodle loves Batman, Iron Man, and Captain America. (Clearly he is an intelligent young man with impeccable taste!) It was very quickly after he first got hooked on superheroes- more than a year ago- that my two roles collided. Superhero guy versus Dad guy.

If you’re a Dad, this may be familiar to you. If not, and parenthood is in your future, prepare yourself. These two types have slightly different world views. Superhero guy believes in the incredible, the mythical, the things that inspire us to surpass the limitations that we think constrain us. Dad guy is protective, a teacher, concerned with shaping his children to become good adults. These two types are not mortal enemies- like Cap and the Red Skull- but have different priorities.

These priorities were in conflict when Noodle decided that he was going to learn to fly. It started simply enough. Drawn into the movies and cartoons, he started mimicking the kicks, punches, and heroic poses of his favorite characters. Flying was just a new aspect of his play.

Like any fledgling hero, Noodle started out cautiously. His flight began by launching himself off the ottoman. He had seen enough cartoons and movies to know that, in order to fly forward, he’d have to immediately turn parallel to the ground. So his launches were very immediately followed by belly-flopper style landings on the floor of the den. I credit his persistence because, although he wasn’t seeming to gain much altitude after each initial leap, he continued putting more and more effort into his launches, resulting in harder and harder crashes.

Finally, Dad guy’s partner/nemesis- Mom girl- pointed out that Noodle was in danger of hurting himself. The task of putting a stop to the yet-unsuccessful flying lessons was assigned to Dad guy. Ugh.

This actually caused some hesitation in me. Dad guy understood that it was important to explain to Noodle that he could not, in fact, fly. He was a little squirt and not really hitting the floor that hard but it was only a matter of time before a landing hurt him. But the last thing that superhero guy wanted to do was to drag Noodle into the mundane world. A dilemma.

In the end, Dad guy did his duty. I solemnly informed Noodle that he could not, in fact, fly. But superhero guy kept the spark alive in Noodle’s heart. I just whispered to him that maybe flying wasn’t his power. Why stifle his hopes for greatness? (Besides, the world needs Blue Lightning!)

Red Marvel and Blue Lightning

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Filed under Essays