I read a lot of comic books as a kid. From DC’s thick necked stereotypical “Ill save you” types like Superman and Green lantern; to Stan Lee’s angst dripping, emotionally insecure Spiderman and his persecuted Xmen, I read them all. I’m forty three years old now, a husband of twenty years practice and a father of two amazing boys…
I still read comics.
I haven’t grown out of them… I’ve grown into them.
Superheroes are the “gold standard” I draw on to measure the value of my decisions. They persistently and selflessly do the right thing while adhering to an unwritten, but rigid code all of us would love to emulate, but only true heroes can.
The code handicaps them with the most frustrating of limitations–despite the wanton anarchy of their enemies, superheroes above all others MUST follow the rules. Bad guys can endanger innocents. They can kill. They can maim. They can allow bridges to collapse on school buses and nuns… But my beloved good guys can’t.
So why don’t heroes just wipe out their respective obviously evil antagonists? Imagine how much easier life would be for Batman if he simply ran the Joker over with his batmobile? And the same goes for the rest of them. If they have the power to defeat these world domination freaks, they logically have the ability to permanently destroy them too. A well placed super punch or energy blast would instantly make the world safer. The heroes COULD do it, but as difficult as it is to fathom in our culture of selfish indulgence, they choose not to. That’s not allowed in the code.
Their restraint is amazing considering the turbulence of their emotional state. Holding all that pain in is itself a heroic deed. Spiderman alone could have booked a week on Oprah to air his problems. The audience would have gone through crates of tissues, nodding sympathetically between sniffles as he recanted his orphaned childhood, the subsequent loss of his adopted father figure, and the curse of his powers forced upon him by evil Corporate America (which of course he’d file a suit against). After the case settled, Mr. Parker would supplement his hefty settlement with a book contract and movie rights that’d provide an opulent lifestyle for himself, and his redheaded danger prone lady.
All the heroes COULD do that… but they don’t. Crying about the unfairness of life’s deal is not allowed in the code.
What’s more, to a man (and woman) every last one of my heroes would in a heartbeat give up their powers in order to lead ordinary lives. That above all else is the most precious of their lessons.
Now more than ever they are a beacon of comfort for me.
I believe in the nobility of superheroes, and those amongst us they have inspired. Whenever I am at a crossroads, whether professionally, or in my personal life, I draw upon their strength for guidance by asking myself “What would Green Lantern do?”
I haven’t been let down yet.