I’ve learned more about Marvel superheroes in the last few weeks than I have in my entire life. This is what happens when your child becomes entranced. He stumbled upon the basics over the last few years. Hulk. Captain America. Spider-man. And, it’s been almost impossible to ignore The Avengers hype over the last couple years, too. A few things have bolstered his education in superhero mania this year, including one of his teachers who has a healthy infatuation, a Wii Lego Marvel video game, and a complete encyclopedia of all Marvel characters ever created. The volume weighs more than he does. He still hasn’t seen a single superhero film, but these three things have been enough to ensnare his imagination. His teacher has a friend who owns a comic shop, and since every Friday is Adventure Friday, one of their trips was to the comic shop a few blocks away from his school. Such a cool idea. I managed to stop in there myself with my son one night, and, yeah, I could have easily lost a good three hours there without noticing.
The LEGO video game is a simple one, and he loves destroying everything in his path. The strategy is one that he understands, the simple step-by-step puzzles and missions with check-points. His favorite part has become unlocking those new characters, half of whom, I have never heard. Blob? Black Bolt? HERBIE? “Captain Britain is my favorite today, daddy,” he says to me.
“Who the hell is Captain Britain,” I say inside my head. I’m no slouch. I spent a fair amount of time on superheroes before all the movies made them popular again. The Fantastic Four. Spiderman. X-Men. I loved that stuff as a kid. But when he asks for guidance about some of these more obscure characters, I can’t even answer the simplest of questions, like, “Is he a good guy or a bad guy.”
And the funny thing is, sometimes it’s both, which he can’t quite wrap his head around yet.
The encyclopedia came home from the library the day before it closed. Like I said, it’s a hefty volume, and he spends hours carefully turning the pages. While he’s started to read, there’s no way he can comprehend the large paragraphs of prose about Electro and Mantis just yet. But the artwork is stunning, and the stories, which are my favorite, provide detailed descriptions about each character’s origination, contact with other characters, and popular story lines.
Who knew that professional, superhuman, female wrestler Sharon Ventura would accept Thing’s invitation to join the Fantastic Four, only to be exposed to cosmic rays herself, and become She-Thing. Or, that there is a wheelchair-bound superhero named Wiz Kid, who has the ability to technoform machinery with his mind. Or that Howard the Duck was a Marvel character. That one really caught me off guard. All I recall is the cheesy 80s movie with Lea Thompson and Tim Robbins. Through all of it though, his focus reminds me of myself. For me, it was all things baseball. Cards. Stats. Stories. I had volume after volume of book about Cooperstown and All-Time Records. I had thousands of cards themselves. And I studied them, just like my son studies his Marvel favorites, which change each day. I don’t even have to ask, as he has prepared the speech on his way down the stairs in the morning.
“Daddy?” he whispers so he doesn’t wake anyone else up. “Do you want to know who my favorite superhero is today?”
“I sure do, buddy. Tell me all about it.”