For my 50th post on my blog, I thought I’d write about the two most significant people in my life – my parents. Fitting cos they are coming to visit in a couple days. Yesterday I took my dog Taylor to the groomers to get dressed up ready to look good for them, seeing them for the first time in over six months. He’s just as excited as I am. When I think of my folks, I think of “The Man of Steel” movie, released a couple months ago. Superman is the hero against all whom others are measured. He was the first. He is still the greatest. American dream on a mythic scale, the story of the ultimate immigrant.
I’m a self admitted nerd.
While I loved sports, I was devoid of any athletic ability, uncoordinated as a boy could possibly be. I had my years of being an ungainly, chubby kid. Partly because I could not play, I had my heroes in sports, notably baseball players I read about when I was a little kid – Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Stan Musial and Lou Gehrig (though I was not a Cardinals or Yankees fan). When I was a teenager, I looked up to football players – Joe Montana, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Chris Zorich, Rocket Ismael, i.e. mostly guys from the San Francisco 49ers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish – and more contemporary baseball players – George Brett, Robin Yount, Cal Ripken (whom I would meet years later, every bit the gentleman and hero I envisioned him to be), Cecil Cooper, Fred Lynn, Orel Hershiser, Kirk Gibson, and Fernando Valenzuela.
And I loved comic books. I was a big fan of the X-Men, Captain America, Iron Man, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, and a host of others. Above all of them, however, the three heroes I grew up with and identified with was Superman, Batman and Spider-Man.
Because The Dark Knight franchise has been so successful, amongst my friends the last ten years, I’ve been most identified with The Batman, cos I talked about him so much. I identified with him, because in many ways, he was a tortured and sad soul; and, while this would surprise most, I’d gone through many of my own moments of deep and profound sadness and depression.
Jim Gordon: I never cared who you were…
Batman: And you were right.
Jim Gordon: …but shouldn’t the people know the hero whot saved them?
Batman: A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended. [takes off in the Bat]
Jim Gordon: Bruce Wayne?
The Batman said that anyone could be a hero. I truly believe there is a hero in all of us. And that’s why more than anyone, it’s Spider-Man that I ended up identifying with when I was a young boy, specifically Peter Parker, because I was Peter Parker and I wanted to be Spider-Man, cos if Peter could, I could. I loved math and science (which I still do). I wore horn-rimmed glasses (though I am a big fan of them now) and pocket protectors, cos well, I needed my pockets protected. I loved school supply shopping; I loved school supplies. I had to have the Crayola 64, perfectly sharpened pencils, crisp pages in my notebooks, and the perfect Trapper Keeper. I wrote a 49 page paper about the solar system for my 5th grade science project, winning first place; and helped my brother that same year with his 4th grade science project about mitosis, helping him win second place (which I was extremely unhappy about – I, er I mean he, deserved first). For obvious reasons, I was picked on a lot. Having an unusual first and last name (both of which I love now) made the first day of school and any day when roll was called a particularly rough day. When I was a young boy, I was Peter Parker to a tee. What Aunt May said in the second Spider-Man (my favorite of the four movies) always gets me, as does when New York’s citizens on the train see Spidey unmasked after his butt-whoopin’ at the hands of Doc Ock, exclaim, “he’s just a boy; he’s not any older than my son… he’s just like us…”
“Everybody loves a hero. People line up for them, cheer them on, scream their names. And years later, they’ll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them how to hold on a second longer. I believe there’s a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.“
While I was Peter Parker, I also identified with Superman cos he was alone and many times lonely, always feeling like an outsider, which would also come as a big surprise to those who would know me now. As an immigrant, as someone who did not know how to speak English, as someone who got made fun of and picked on quite a bit when he was younger, and as someone who was not as physically as tough as either of my younger brothers, it would be a long time before I felt like I belonged. What carried me and what I really did come to love was that Superman always tried to do the right thing, the good thing; he had a good heart, and he wanted to make the world a better place. He was both an idea and an ideal. As I grew older I wanted very much to do the right thing and be a good person. Who doesn’t? Christopher Reeve (a hero both on, and even moreso, offscreen, in my opinion the one and only Superman, though Henry Cavill did an excellent job) said “I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Of course, that brings my thoughts full circle to my parents.
All my favourite scenes in the Man of Steel involve the ones with Clark and one of, or both, his parents. His adoptive parents on Earth exemplified those heroic qualities, that in raising an otherworldly son, persevering against a world that would look to exploit him, protecting him and instilling values in him until he was ready to take on, and protect that world. Those qualities, in so many ways remind me of my own parents, raising my siblings and I, the ultimate role models in my life. As has been the case so much of late, those scenes bring me back to feelings of my parents – my appreciation, as well as my love, for them, but even more so, my appreciation of their love for me and my siblings.
Jonathan Kent: You just have to decide what kind of a man you want to grow up to be, Clark; because whoever that man is, good character or bad, he’s… He’s gonna change the world.
Clark Kent at 13: Can’t I just keep pretending I’m your son?
Jonathan Kent: You are my son. But somewhere out there you have another father too, who gave you another name. And he sent you here for a reason, Clark. And even if it takes you the rest of your life you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is.
Talk about preparing his adoptive son for the destiny that Clark’s biological father had preordained for him, while still wholeheartedly loving him! That scene gives me chills every time.
Jor-El: You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.
After writing this, now I want to watch the original Superman, The Movie, with Christopher Reeve, and follow that up with Man of Steel, but the NINERS are about to take on Carolina for the chance to meet the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. Gotta get my game face on.