My superhero role model.

This article is for Lena Kim, a friend, who felt my Transformers Prime blog last week read too much like a professional review. I asked her what did she want me to write about and she replied superheroes. This impressed me, not only because I apparently have at least two “fans” who read my blogs (HUGE shoutout to Amy’s Mom too!), but that I am now taking requests.

I could say a lot about superheroes, from the slightly ridiculous to an in-depth analysis on their enduring appeal. But today, I simply want to say I love superheroes. As a child, I was given a Flash Gordon costume. It was based on the animated show “The New Adventures of Flash Gordon” that was produced by Filmation and ran between 1979 and 1982.

I remember Flash himself filled out the costume more impressively than my child-like frame could and he had a ray gun not a sword.  I am claiming creative licence with the weapons and have no idea why I am not holding the sword in this picture. My costume even had a cape, which Flash lacked in the cartoon.

Unfortunately, I grew out of it rather quickly and still resent whichever parent threw it out. But even at that young age, I wanted to be a superhero. The fun and adventure was intoxicating. The fact that these heroes had spaceships or magical talking steeds had me green with envy. I wanted my own steed; a black tiger that I would call “shadow” who could teleport through dimensional portals that he could open by roaring. In my mind, he would be able to talk too and would take the form of a stuffed toy as a disguise. What can I say, I was imaginative even then.

Now, I’d be lying if I claimed that my tastes have become any more sophisticated with age. Rather, I have looked for any excuse to parade around in public making a spectacle of myself. I don’t wear t-shirts in public, as that is a bit too geeky, rather I parade around the gym in superhero attire. It is still a mystery to me why I am still single because dressed like this, I feel just like Superman himself. All sexy and badass. Maybe it is the missing cape?

The funny thing is Superman, as a hero, has never appealed to me. I get he is an alien orphan, and protects humanity but he has it all. Super strength, the power of flight, a well paid job (with pension) and the feisty Lois Lane on his arm. His only weakness is various forms of  Kryptonite. Simply put, he is too perfect.

What about Batman? Well he has the money and the Batcave. I want a Batcave. I want the cars in their parking spaces, I want the high tech computer and huge screen. I’d also have an Xbox One X and Ps4 Pro hooked up to have all-night gaming sessions. Along with a fridge and meals on wheels, keeping me watered and fed. And a lock, to keep other humans out. But to be Batman himself, No. Bruce Wayne is too dark and psychologically damaged to be appealing to me.

How about Captain America or Daredevil? Hot men in hot costumes? Well, I think I have more of a man crush on both of these fellas. I want to be with them rather than be them. As symbols of masculinity, their bodies are in prime condition and both possess strict moral codes, that limit any physical violence they may inflict on criminals. Mmm. Man candy though….

Ok, so I could go on for days, so let’s cut to the chase. For me, Tony Stark is my favourite superhero. Not Ironman, Tony Stark. He is rich like Batman and uses technology in a positive manner, like the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman in the 1970s did. He is a total narcissist with a destructive personality, which I can closely relate to. He has amazing armour suits, which (in the first two movies at least) are just on the right side of believable. The Mk1 to Mk6 had limits on power output and structural integrity. Along with an Artificial Intelligence, J.A.R.V.I.S. aiding him in his adventures. Who doesn’t love a companion A.I. and who wouldn’t want to be this guy!

But strip him of all that tech (a la Ironman 3) and we see him battle his own demons and do what needs to be done, despite all his human flaws. That is what makes him my superhero. He is willing to fail and try again. A vital life lesson, many young people miss as we live in a world where failure is feared and conformity to authority rewarded.

To illustrate why Tony is a hero, look at his journey. In the first movie, he is confronted by the reality of being an arms merchant of death. He is a total ass when it comes to using and abusing women. He has no regard for those around him. Regardless, he puts on his armour and fights for those who can’t fight for themselves. He risks his life and company in the process and uses his intellect rather than brute force to defeat Ironmonger. Of course he “outs” himself as Ironman at the end of the movie, lacking the self discipline of any of the other heroes I’ve talked about so far. In the second movie he isolated himself rather than ask for help and nearly died on numerous occasions. Again, very human and relatable. In ‘The Avengers’ he risks his life to re-direct the nuclear missile heading for New York and is the only Avenger to be shown suffering from post traumatic stress disorder as a result. He goes on to create an evil A.I (Ultron) that threatens the world and acts as a mentor figure for a teenage Peter Parker. He is continuously messing up on a monumental scale and overall is a terrible role model.

So why do Pepper and Roady and most of us stick by him? I would assert that he is still the center of the Marvel Cinematic Universe because he is the most “human” hero out there. We can all relate to him on some level. Indeed, even Robert Downey Jr, who plays the role of Stark must build on his own fall from grace and battle with alcohol and drugs to inform his performance.

At the end of the day, we all wear armour to protect ourselves form the world and in my own case, to keep me safe from the world. Very few people could penetrate my defenses. I had no repulsers of jet power to escape and hide. It took real courage on my part, to lower my guard and let life in. And that is when the real  adventure began for me.

I now believe that I am my own superhero and I don’t need any costume or super powers to advertise that fact. I know who I am, I have taken that journey and most of you reading this blog will have taken your own journeys. Leaving the wrong job, asking the cute guy or girl out, risking money on a crazy business plan, giving time to people who need it. We forget in our rush to cope with life that being a hero is really just about learning to be kind to be ourselves. The biggest breakthrough for me has been the ability to say I like myself when I look in the mirror. Flaws and all. I am aware of the mistakes I have made, but now and I am beginning to take stock of my victories too and in this way, choosing to be my own hero. It is liberating and terrifying at the same time but I am so proud of the man I get to be. That is why I fight, that is why I get out of bed every day and that is why I continue to strive to me more than I am now.

I invite you to do the same.