Saturday, April 3, 2010

I Was The Most Popular Kid At School Today

A few days ago, my wife and I were picking my sons up from school and I happened to be wearing a Marvel t-shirt. It featured the faces of 16 different super heroes on it. Captain America, Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor, and several Inhumans were just a few. As confident as I have become in expressing my love for comic book heroes in public, I may never have worn the t-shirt around a large assembly of children had I known what their reaction would be.

“Super Hero Squad!” several of them shouted excitedly. Then I was suddenly being poked and prodded in the chest and stomach by the numerous small index fingers of children I did not know.

At first, in the back of my mind there was the mild panic of unwanted attention. It was the feeling of a boy whose mother sent him out in public in a sailor outfit while the first kid to notice just pointed it out to everybody else at full volume. As I regained my senses, I realized this was not a bully situation. I was much bigger than all these kids and could easily kick their butts. A new concern set in. I realized I was the adult wearing a child’s themed t-shirt who all the other parents were staring at as their children felt compelled to touch me.

Oh my God, I’m a creep, I thought to myself.

The best recovery I could make was to take the bottom of my shirt and stretch it out so that any pointed fingers would just touch cotton and no pudgy flesh beneath. Then, I tried to be polite and nice while not being too over-obliging. I had to act a little put-off and annoyed without being a jerk. I had to just give a passing “okay” instead of a, “Yes, that’s Silver Surfer, and who is this?”

Eventually, my own son came up and held my hand, ready to go. The most important thing about this was that it proved to the other parents who might not have known or recognized me that I was, in fact, there to pick up my own child. With my credibility still intact, I distanced myself from the fingers and got out of there while I could.

Once in the car, the worry about how much of a weirdo I looked like subsided and I found myself genuinely excited. Not for the wrong reasons, but because this was proof that these children are obviously better super-hero educated than I gave them credit for. Sure, they knew Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk, you know, the easy guys. The surprising thing was that they also knew characters like Falcon and Silver Surfer. I was impressed to say the least. It gave me hope. I suddenly had more faith in the leaders of tomorrow.

I attribute this knowledge to the Super Hero Squad. That is, after all, what the first few kids who saw my shirt shouted out. For any that may not know, the Super Hero Squad started out as small, kid-like Marvel action figures with oversized hands and feet. I used the figures to develop my sons’ interest in Marvel comics when I first discovered them several years ago. They have quite a collection at this point. The figures soon spawned a comic book and now have a television show on Cartoon Network.

There is one small problem. The story line of the characters is a bit off. The Super Hero Squad is a group of good guys, resembling The Avengers, but it’s a hodge-podge collection at best. The backgrounds of each character are barely explained and, when they are, it usually differs from the original comics. I’ve never been a stickler for adherence to original story lines, but the depth of the characters really suffers from the kid-friendly adaptation. I suppose, however, that generating interest from new fans is a good start. They can correct the story later on down the road as they grow up.

I feel that’s where my boys come in. They have a responsibility at this point to make sure their peers are being fed accurate information. I have endowed them with the ability to know the true origin of each Marvel hero. I haven’t denied them access to my copy of the Marvel Encyclopedia once. Thus, when a friend of theirs has it wrong, they need to make sure they educate them.

As a wise man once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

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