Wednesday, February 12, 2014

DC vs. Marvel

It is no secret that I love comic books. My brothers and I used to talk our mother into driving us to a seedy used book store, the Book Exchange, off of 45th Street in one of the worst neighborhoods in West Palm Beach once a week to buy a stack of comics.

My favorite is the X-Men. I remember buying my first comic book in 1981, Uncanny X-men #175, at a Circle K near my Aunt Jackie and Uncle Bill’s apartment in Park Place.

Today, the comic book is worth $15.00. Not a fortune, but I could use an extra $15.00. Unfortunately, my issue of Uncanny X-Men #175 is dented by trace marks. I put tracing paper over the cover and drew and redrew Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Colossus in pencil.

Eventually, I stopped tracing and moved on to creating my own pantheon of super-heroes, and from comic books a love of drawing and writing started.

Most mornings over breakfast, Sam and Peter pour over a Lego catalog we picked up from the Lego Store in Phoenix Mall we visited shortly after we arrived in Chennai. The catalog is now in tatters. They fought over the catalog, and now the pages are ripped and wrinkled.

They have been obsessing over Lego Chima for the last six months. If you are unfamiliar with Lego Chima, anthropomorphic animals battle over a power-source called Chi. I have been feeding their passion with stories of tribes I’ve made up, specifically the Undersea Tribes, such as the Dolphin Tribe, the Shark Tribe, and the Octopus Tribe, and have been teasing them with made-up Lego sets that are all in my (and now their) head, such as the Lion Interceptor, the Shark Submarine, and the Dolphin Speedboat. When they ask me what they look like, I try to encourage them to imagine what they would look like and to draw it. That’s what I would’ve done.

They aren’t getting any new Chima legos any time soon. They know that, too, now so they’ve turned their attention to the super-hero legos, and now I get to describe to them how Spiderman’s web-slinging shooters work (you know, there is a reason he sticks out his index finger, pinkie, and thumb whenever he shoots a web) and that Aquaman talks to fish and dolphins and rides a giant seahorse. Sam was incredulous when I told him there was a Hawkman.

“A HAWKMAN?!?” he splurted.

“Yeah! A Hawkman!”

The excitement of super-heroes is infectious.

I am excited to share with my boys (and Clem, too) the things I loved when I was there age or a little older: the X-Men, Super Friends, Star Wars, and Dungeons & Dragons.

When we lived in Falls Church, Elise and I would take everyone for a morning run Saturday mornings. We would push two jogging strollers on the bike path to Starbucks and the farmer’s market, then walk home, stopping at a playground on the way home.

The playground we would stop at became known as the “Lion Park”, because there we would play, “Lion Man vs. Tiger Man”. Lion Man vs. Tiger Man is really just playing super-heroes. Sam’s alter ego (as you know from Halloween 2012) is Lion Man. Peter is Cheetah Man. And I am their arch-nemesis, Tiger Man.

I became hesitant to play the game after the boys showed an unwillingness to “wind down” when I was ready for the game to be over and an inability to know when the game was actually over. In other words, never play this game at home or indoors.

I am excited to go see the new Star Wars movies by Disney with my children when they come out and, eventually, share my collection of comics with them, but I am conflicted, as well.

Star Wars, by its very nature, is violent. It’s got the word “war” in its title. Luke Skywalker’s father cuts off his own son’s hand. The X-Men are a group of mutant teenagers who are ostracized by society because of their differences and must fight other mutants who feel they are superior and want to conquer the human race. Heavy stuff. This is not Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Nor My Little Pony.

I know they are perhaps still too young for this. I am conflicted, because I have trouble even using the word “gun” around them. There is enough violence in this world. I don’t feel the need to introduce it to them at an early age. Violence is so pervasive it will seep into their lives eventually and often in unsuspecting ways. Our babysitter lets them watch Transformers. It wouldn’t have been my first choice. Now, Pete and Sam are running around the house, shooting each other and yelling, “You’re dead! I killed you!” Pete calls himself Starscream. I liked Cheetah Man better.

That being said, my brothers and I used to play “Guns” with the neighborhood kids in our yard. Shortly thereafter, we got our first Laser Tag set. I played violent games as a kid, but I didn’t grow up to be a violent person. But I know not everyone who plays violent games as a kid can say the same thing.

I am just writing this to say I recognize I have a unique challenge of wanting to share my interests with my children while at the same time wanting to shield them from the violent aspects of those fantasies.

The challenge started last night. Sam pointed out to me that Superman can shoot lasers from his eyes, too.

“Those aren’t lasers,” I corrected him. “It’s heat. He has heat vision.”

“He uses it when he gets mad,” Sam told me.

“No. Superman never, ever gets mad. That’s why he’s Superman. He only uses his heat vision when he wants to heat something up. Kind of like the same way we use the microwave.”

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