Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Favorite Superheroes

With a summer full of summer blockbuster movies based on popular comic book heroes, there seems to a renaissance of interest in superheroes. As a child growing up in the 70's and 80's, superheroes were quite popular. Although I was not an avid comic book reader, I did read them occasionally and I enjoyed the superhero television shows, movies and toys of that era. I've enjoyed introducing my children to my favorite superheroes of my youth. Of course, I also got a kick out of the "Diversity Day" episode of one of my favorite shows, The Office, when the employees of Dunder-Mifflin are asked to define a "hero" by the facilitator, Mr. Brown. Here is the exchange...
Mr. Brown: At Diversity Today, we believe it's very easy to be a hero. All you need are honesty, empathy, respect, and open-mindedness.
Dwight Schrute: Ah, excuse me? I'm sorry, but that's not all it takes to be a hero.
Mr. Brown: Great, well, what is a hero to you?
Dwight Schrute: A hero kills people. People that wish him harm. A hero is part human and part supernatural. A hero is born out of a childhood trauma, or out of a disaster, that must be avenged.
Mr. Brown: Uh, you're thinking of a superhero.
Dwight Schrute: We all have a hero in our heart.
With that lead-in, here are my top five favorite superheroes, with a childhood connection for each. (For a more comprehensive list of popular superheroes, check out Empire Online's "The Fifty Greatest Comic Book Characters" found here).

5. The Fantastic Four

A group of four that gained their powers after being exposed to some cosmic rays, the members of The Fantastic Four are Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards), a brilliant scientist that can stretch his body to unbelievable shapes and lengths; The Invisible Woman (Sue Storm), Richard's wife who can disappear and resist force fields; The Human Torch (Johnny Storm), who can turn his body into a gigantic flame and fly; and The Thing (Ben Grimm), a kindly giant who is made of rocks and has unbelievable strength.

When I was little I had this money bank that was in the shape of The Thing's head. It was plastic and about the size of a volleyball. It was really cool.

4. Superman

Superman is widely considered the most popular comic book hero ever. Born on the planet Krypton, Superman escaped that planet's destruction as a baby when his father rocketed him to earth. Raised in the loving Kent family on Earth, Clark Kent grows up to become a reporter at the Daily Planet, where he falls in love with Lois Lane. When not writing articles, he saves the world from crime by being able to pretty much do anything. He's fast, can fly and is stronger than anybody else.

The Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve came out the year that I was in kindergarten. I had the lunchbox and thermos with the Superman logo that I took to school each day. I even had a Superman trash basket for my bedroom that I've held onto throughout the years and it currently resides in my boy's bedroom.

3. The Incredible Hulk

One of the most misunderstood and reluctant superheroes there is, The Hulk is certainly one of my favorites. After exposure to some gamma rays in a test gone wrong, scientist Bruce Banner's internal DNA morphs to the point that every time he gets really angry, he turns into a gigantic green beast with incredible strength. Although he simply wants to be left alone, Banner and his alter ego, The Hulk, must continually battle the military and others that are trying to capture him. Like many children of the 70's, I fell in love with the television series that starred Bill Bixby as Banner and Lou Ferrigno as The Hulk.

In one of my best Halloween costumes ever, my mom painted me green and put some balloons under my green sweatshirt and purples pants for my "muscles" and a mild mannered seven-year-old turned into the menacing Hulk.

2. Batman

The Dark Knight is one of the most beloved comic book heroes in history. Although Batman doesn't really possess any super powers, he ably fights crime in Gotham city. As a young child, Bruce Wayne witnesses the murder of his parents and vows to fight crime for the rest of his life as Batman. Battling arch enemies like The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, and Catwoman, Batman is joined by his sidekick Robin. I grew up watching the campy and enjoyable Batman television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. There was nothing like seeing Bruce Wayne go behind the bookshelf and down the pole in order to transform into Batman.

While visiting an auto show in my hometown as a young child, I got to see one of the Batmobiles that had been used in the television series. Definitely a highlight for me and I couldn't believe that I had seen the real Batmobile!

1. Spiderman

And last, but certainly not least, is my favorite superhero, Spiderman. After a normal and average teenager, Peter Parker, is bitten by a radioactive spider, he gets super powers like being able to climb walls, a sixth sense for detecting trouble and the ability to shoot webs from his wrists. Spidey has a sense of humor and calmly battles criminals like the Green Goblin, Doc Ock and Venom. Another superhero with his own live action T.V. show in the 70's, I also watched the Spiderman cartoon -- "Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can..."

On a personal note, I think another reason Spiderman is my favorite superhero is that he was also my older brother's favorite. Sadly, Chip passed away as a child. My parents demonstrated his love for Spiderman by placing an image of Spidey on Chip's headstone.

I think introducing my love of Spiderman to my children is one way to keep my brother's memory alive. And when I think of Spiderman, I usually think of Chip and that makes me happy.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

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