Why Do I Love Superheroes?

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a little obsessed with comic books and comic book movies in general. They’re a pretty big part of my life, and they always have been. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I know more about the worlds of Marvel and DC comics than I know about current events, driving, where things are, math, science, politics, history, and the vast majority of the things we were taught in school. Every day I question how I ever managed to graduate high school. But I digress. I know logically why I became obsessed with superheroes and comic books in the first place, but I’m a much more cynical and unnecessarily critical person now. I find myself complaining more often than not, rather than just enjoying the genre and characters that defined my childhood. So I guess what I want to do is remind myself why I love these characters so much and also figure out why I still get so excited by each new announcement and trailer. Because obviously I don’t like all the movies and shows they’ve made, and I complain all the time, but I still get irrationally excited. And I’m gonna tell some anecdotes about my love of superheroes. That’s the post. That’s what I’m gonna do.

My dad was a huge comic book fan growing up, and he would ride his bike to the comic book store every month with his Uncle Allen and pick up the newest issues of Captain America and Wolverine. And then they would go home and spend hours in front of the TV, reading comics, drawing and drinking Pepsi. My dad was always more of a Marvel guy when he was a kid, except for some Batman comics here and there, but for the most part his three main guys were Captain America, Daredevil and Wolverine. Which makes perfect sense. How can you not love Daredevil?

Superheroes became a very important part of my father’s life through his bond with his Uncle. So when I was born he shared his love of comic books with me. I have no specific memory of the first piece of superhero media that I interacted with. They were always just kind of there. By the time I became cognizant I already had some superhero shirts and action figures that I wouldn’t be able to choke on.

I also have a very specific and weird memory of my dad and I driving out to what seemed to be the middle of nowhere and receiving a package of Marvel Super Hero Squad figurines from one of my dad’s work friends and then driving away. I’m not really aware of directions and where things are now, so I’m sure it was perfectly normal and we just met his work friend at a nearby house. But at the time it seemed like some sort of weird drug deal. Except I didn’t know what drug deals were then, so I’m not sure what I would have compared it too.

Of course there were limits on what movies I could and couldn’t see. I know I saw The Incredibles in theaters, and my dad says it’s the first movie I ever saw. I would have been two years old at the time, and I was so small then that he had to hold down on the seat to make sure I didn’t go flying into the air. I definitely saw Batman Begins when it came out, because that year in Kindergarten we were supposed to write stories about something going on in our lives, and I wrote and illustrated a full recap of the movie Batman Begins and read it in front of the whole class. I’m sure this is part of is why I didn’t end up watching The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises until 2018. But I was on board for the MCU from the very beginning. I’ve seen every MCU movie in theaters except for Iron Man 2. And again, kids probably shouldn’t watch all these
movies, and it definitely explains a lot about me that I did.

Around 2008 when I watched Iron Man and the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies for the first time, I decided that I hated the color red and all superheroes with the color red in their costumes. I can’t really decipher the logic of why that made sense to me back then, but the logic of weirdo five year olds seldom does. I think I just didn’t like the design of either of those costumes. And fair enough. The Sam Raimi Spider-Man costume is way too ridgey.

So when the trailers for Captain America: The First Avenger came out, I drew a line in the sand. I was like “I hate this character because his costume is red and I’m not gonna like the movie!” Of course I already owned multiple Captain America action figures at this point, but wouldn’t listen to reason. It’s also funny to me that the red costume thing was my reasoning, because there’s so little red on his costume! What a ridiculous stance to take! At this point my dad was buying me all the toys from all the new movies, so I already had a Thor helmet and foam hammer. I remember he gave me a Captain America mask and shield, and instead of saying “Thanks! These are really cool!” I said “Fine. I’ll wear them into the theater so you can do your FaceBook posts, but I’m not going to like the movie.” What a melodramatic kid I was. The time finally came for us to watch Captain America: The First Avenger, and I walked in all grumpy and upset. But two hours and four minutes later I walked out of that theater a changed man. I proudly donned my Captain America mask and saluted everyone in the theater as I marched toward the door. I was eight years old and I couldn’t have explained half of the things that I’d just seen, but I was convinced it was the best movie that had ever been made. Thor and Iron Man were both perfectly fine, but neither of them could hold a candle to Captain America. Captain America was the man! He was the world’s biggest badass, and I was his biggest fan.

The First Avenger came out in 2011, which is also around the time that I read two comic books that made me fall in love with comics as a genre in a big, big way. I’d read comics before then, but Daredevil #7 By Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera and The All New Batman: The Brave and the Bold #7 by Sholly Fisch and Rick Burchett made it all click for me. They’re both very different comics. The Daredevil issue is a beautifully drawn one in done story about Matt Murdock(A catholic lawyer who was blinded as a child by a large amount of toxic chemicals that enhanced his remaining senses so he can use them as a substitute for sight and fight crime as the masked vigilante Daredevil AKA the coolest and most interesting superhero ever) going on a trip with a group of troubled kids at a school for the blind. Before they can arrive at their destination, the bus crashes in the middle of a snowstorm, and Matt has to find a way to rescue these children, despite the snowstorm which is sending his senses into a frenzy. It’s a great issue and it won the Eisner award, which is like the Oscar’s of comic books. It makes sense that this would get to me. Now, the Batman issue is different. The series All New Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a revamped title for a long running tie-in comic to the animated TV series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold. At that point I had never seen an episode, and I still haven’t. But the cover stuck out to me, and I asked my dad to get it. It’s a fun story that takes place during Batman’s early years, where he has to team up with the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, to rescue a kidnapped girl from some criminals. It’s probably not good. It’s written for children. But for whatever reason, these two issues stuck with me. And they both have great covers, to be fair. I would include the covers here, but my computer isn’t letting me display two images at once, and I don’t have the energy to tinker.

I mentioned earlier that my dad used to draw when he was with his Uncle. He disagrees with me on this, but I personally think my dad is an excellent artist, and as I grew up I got more fun drawings of the two of us impersonating different superheroes every year. I’ve tried many times to draw something as cool and cartoony as the stuff he does, but I’ve never been successful. By the time The First Avenger came out, my dad had started running, and I started biking alongside him for some of his longer outdoor adventures. I biked because running sucks. I ran a few races with him when I was younger and I always hated it. For at least four or five years I biked with my dad, and the two of us would spend hours talking about comic books. So in addition to all of the useless comic book knowledge I’ve picked up on my own, I also know quite a bit about comic books that I’ve never actually read, specifically anything that happened to Captain America or the X-Men in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. We still have these conversations while he runs, except now I’m 200 miles away doing homework in Duluth, and he has me on speaker. I’ve always been a pretty loud person though, so it’s not like much has changed.

I will leave you with a story that sums up my love of superheroes so perfectly that I couldn’t say it better if I told you the story myself. Obviously that phrase does not work in any way for what I’m trying to do here because I am telling you the story myself. But nothing needs to make sense, does it?

When Avengers: Endgame came out I was involved in a high school production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and I was unable to see the movie on Thursday or Friday, because I had shows that night. This made me completely miserable, but I was able to wait until Saturday morning to watch this amazing culmination of storytelling that I had been waiting for for what seemed like a hundred years. I went with my friend Ella, who had already seen it but was eager to see my reactions. And I loved it. I loved every second of it. Towards the end of the movie though, there is a moment before the big final battle, where Thanos and Captain America are fighting. Cap hasn’t picked up Thor’s hammer yet, and all the resurrected heroes have not yet appeared on the battlefield. In one very visceral looking moment, Thanos slams Captain America against the ground so hard. And my mind immediately went “Holy shit. Captain America is about to die.”

I don’t typically cry when I watch movies. I teared up a little bit at the end of We Bought A Zoo. I cried for quite some time while watching About Time, and I cried at the end of Wonder Woman 1984. I can’t really explain the last one, but I know both moments were brought on by heartfelt scenes of fathers and sons. I didn’t see either of these movies until much later though, and I was not used to crying during movies. My friend Ella, likewise, had never seen me cry before. But when the thought of Captain America dying slipped into my mind, my entire childhood flashed before my eyes. And Chris Evans’ Captain America was an incredibly important part of my childhood. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of my all-time favorite movies. So I began to sob uncontrollably. I’ve checked and double-checked since then to make sure that I had the timing right. At this moment there were forty-five minutes left in the movie. And I did not stop crying until we left the theater. Every badass and surprising moment made me cry even more. Captain America picking up the hammer. Sam Wilson saying “On your left” to tell Cap it was all going to be okay. The portals opening up and the battlefield flooding with heroes. Captain America saying “Avengers assemble!” All the little mid-battle quips and references to eleven years of movies that had come to mean so much to me, and because the movies were so embedded in my DNA, I was now being rewarded for all the meaningless knowledge that I’d accumulated. And the beautiful ending in which Steve Rogers finally reunited with Peggy Carter after years of fighting to have a purpose in a time that he never belonged in. I was so euphorically happy.

That night I had another performance of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and I did not entirely consider the toll that forty-five minutes of crying would take on my body. So as the play progressed, I found myself feeling more faint and light-headed, until it was time to take our bows and I went to leave the stage, completely forgetting, after five years of doing theater, that bows were a thing I needed to do. I almost passed out about three separate times. So the moral of the story, and of this whole thing, is that superheroes are cool, theater is fun, and fainting is bad. Don’t do it. I’ll talk more about theater a different time. But yeah. Not sure if this is anything at all, but I turned twenty yesterday and I’ve been thinking a lot about this stuff. And a couple weeks ago Ryan Reynolds announced that Hugh Jackman would be in Deadpool 3, and I was confused as to why that simple fact made me so unbelievably happy. So. Superheroes!!!

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