“Daddy, I need to go North.”
So says my 4-year-old daughter, a superhero fan in the making.
Of all the things I thought my daughter would take away from Superman:The Movie, the nomadic voyage of a teenage alien was not among them. She loves the scene where Superman saves Lois on the helicopter – “You’ve got me? Whose got you?” – and she is quite fond of seeing young Kal El placed into the spaceship by his adoring parents before Krypton explodes. But on her second viewing of the film, the preschooler who spends most of her time with princesses and ponies got caught up on the scene where Ma Kent walks into the cornfield to see young Clark readying himself for his journey to manhood.
“Where is he going?”
“North,” I said.
“Will he ever see his Momma again?”
“Why is he going there?”
“To find out who he is.”
“Do I need to find out who I am?”
“Yup. We all do.”
This is heavy stuff. If you’re reading this column,
chances are you take it pretty seriously– as do I.
The next day all she could talk about was heading North to find herself. My wife didn’t know what she was talking about. In one way, my wife (not a comic book fan) will never know what she’s talking about. We all find ourselves, hopefully, but people like me who grew up on superheroes will see it differently. It appears my daughter may follow in the same snow-covered footsteps as the young Kal El.
Clark Kent found himself after a childhood of heartache, alienation and hard work. And when he arrived, he realized he wasn’t at all like anyone else. His name is not Clark. Those are not his parents. We are not his people. Spider-Man found himself in the eyes of the man who killed his Uncle Ben. And then he had to look in the mirror and see those eyes – the guilt within – for the rest of his life. The X-Men find out their true selves at the most obvious and painful time – puberty. Batman learned to be a man in the hardest way: Dead parents, the isolation of extreme wealth, and the fear of becoming a man who can silence those demons by his own hand.
This is heavy stuff. If you’re reading this column, chances are you take it pretty seriously– as do I.
I’m the father of two young children. My soul is filled with superhero myth and morality that is not mere whispers from my youth, but loud declarations of who I am and who I want to be. I see it as my responsibility to pass this onto my children.
If they want it, that is.
And that’s what this column is all about. The good folks at Comics & Gaming Magazine have given me a column to explore what it means to be a father raised in pulp and pixels – gaming, of course, is also important to me – and what it means to raise kids who understand why these things are important. Not since the scary days of Seduction of the Innocent has it been trickier to help kids navigate these waters.
We geeks should be careful what we wish for. Comic books and video games have finally been accepted by the mainstream. The superhero movies we are given – even the mediocre ones – far exceed our wildest childhood imaginations. Quality video games exist for every taste, for men and women, for the hardcore and casual alike.
As the once derided “nerd culture” cuts into the mainstream the people like me – Gen X graduates who always dreamed of such a world – are suffering from an embarrassment of riches.
Perhaps that’s why my editors bought the idea for this column. I want my kids to adore these things just as I do. I’m not ashamed of that. But I want to make sure they know where these heroes came from. Sony didn’t create Spider-Man. Chris Nolan did a great job with Batman, but he didn’t do it first.
One day my kids are going to find out whom they are, and superheroes will be a part of that discovery. As their dad, it’s my job to help them march toward that goal. If you agree, I hope you’ll tune into this space every two weeks to see where we’re going. I look forward to your comments and suggestions.
Until then, we’re headed North.