Personally, I think it’s pretty cool. My older son never went through any phases intensely. He enjoyed cars for a bit, puzzles, little stuffed animals and figurines he carted around. Nothing last too long, and his interests were wide. But I’ve come to realize the superheroes aren’t going away any time soon.
What I love about my son’s current obsession is his intelligence with his questions. He batters me all day long, with a different character taking precedent on different days. I must admit, I was never into superheroes, and dimly remember making fun of my poor brother with a sneer, calling him “ridiculous.” Of course, I was also the only girl on the block who detested dolls and Barbies. Give me a good book even at 5 and that’s all I needed. God, I would have been even more socially awkward if the Kindle or Nook was on the scene. But I digress.
Batman was the first. My son was fascinated with the Joker and his evil laugh, and Batman’s ability to face evil without a flinch. The Batmobile is super cool too. He demanded to know everything that Batman could and couldn’t do, including flying, exact amount of super strength, how he became Batman, and what gadgets were used in which situation. Thank God I knew a lot about Batman so a bit of brushing up was all I needed.
We moved on to Superman. Again, saw all the movies, knew about his past, so mom was well prepared. We hit Spiderman, Ironman, and the Incredible Hulk. The Fantastic Four nearly killed me – I knew nothing about it, and then McDonalds gave out little figures of The Thing and I was doomed. He collected three of them, made them utter the words “Clobber Time!” and asked me about the Thing’s past and what he did.
Enter the Internet.
I began researching superheroes. I delved into how they became who they were, and what type of power they possessed. My son was smart and asked these type of questions.
“Can the Hulk beat the Thing in a battle? Because, Mommy, you told me they both had inhuman strength and one yells ‘Hulk Smash!’ and the other yells ‘Clobber Time.”
Crap. I had no clue. Finally discovered the Hulk had slightly more power than the Thing from a library book.
Then it was…
“Mommy, Kid Flash can fly so, so, so fast! But you said Superman was faster than a speeding bullet and the ultimate in fastness. So who wins?”
Crap. Couldn’t really find the answer but all stats said Superman ruled so I went with Superman.
“Mommy, you said only Superman can really, really fly, but Batman, Spiderman, Ironman and the Hulk can fly too. ”
“Well, honey, Superman is the only one who can fly without any other costumes. Spiderman uses webs, Batman uses his cape and gadgets, Ironman uses his powerful uniform, and the Hulk jumps so high it really looks like he’s flying.”
My smug look said it all. I was such a COOL mom. I actually answered and discussed my child’s hobbies. Then..
“Ok. Mommy, what does the Silver Surfer do?”
CRAP. I went back to the computer. Silver what?
My son’s fascination got me to thinking about some important points about Superheroes. Most were regular human beings who had something terrible happen to them. They dealt with parental death, and bullying, isolation, and feeling lonely. Some important event changed who they were and they didn’t have a choice in the matter. They took their circumstances and rose above it. They received special powers but used them for good, not bad. They fight evil, but they are never done, because the bad guys keep coming back…and coming back…and coming back. They get up every morning and do the same thing and probably wonder late at night if they really made much of a difference. But they get up the next morning and do it anyway.
These are our stories. Our stories in day to day life. On television reality shows. In our books. When I am writing a new novel, my characters are the most important part of the story – the meat that holds it all together. We all have a superhero inside of us – some are just more flashy than others. Some will use it for good, and others for bad. Take your new character and delve deep. Look at the special powers that make your hero or heroine extra special. Sketch out the evil in the story – which can be internal or an actual villain. Dig below the surface. Have them make mistakes – lots of mistakes. My favorite part about superheroes are the obstacles they face, and that they all occasionally make a blunder. That makes the story so much richer.
My favorite part of reading a book is when I grasp the pages and get so frustrated with the character I want to shake him or her. Because that’s real. If they’re both right the entire book, well, I’m going to read another book. Character growth equals investment by the reader.
As for my son, he is teaching me every day. Something new. Something wonderful. Something heroic.
Here’s to the heroes.