Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Greatest Superheroes of All

Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children.

This line struck me as being especially powerful when I first heard it uttered in The Crow. At the time, I was a teenager, who had a less than wonderful relationship with my mother, but I was still struck by the potency of the line.

I heard it again this weekend, when I went to see Silent Hill. I am now a parent, and the line therefore hit me in an entirely different fashion. (And yes, I realize the line originated with William Makepeace Thackeray. But I heard it from these two movies.)

So, let's talk about the greatest of superheroes, shall we? Parents.

In the real world, parents are the primary superheroes for their children. Think back to when you were little. There was nothing that Mommy or Daddy couldn't make better. Mommy and Daddy fit into that great pantheon with Superman, Jesus and the President (not a specific President, but the concept of such), as the people who had the power to fix ANYTHING.

Of course, we eventually grow up, and see our parents for who they are. We understand that Mommy and Daddy are really just Charlie and Ginger. Charlie and Ginger may be wonderful people, who do the best that they can for their children, but they are human, and therefore limited.

As a parent, I want to be the World's Greatest Superhero for my daughter for as long as I can, but just as she will eventually disbelieve in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, someday I know she will look at me and say, "Oh. Daddy is just a person."

But what about the other side of the equation? Something that doesn't get looked at all too often is when superheroes have children. The creators of superheroes have gone to greater depths to make our superhumans human, and as such, we're beginning to see more and more superheroes who get married, or having children. And, much as in the real world, these two are not always linked.

Unsurprisingly, there aren't many superheroic families that resemble the Huxtables or Seavers. When Mommy's day job involves saving the universe, one does not have a normal childhood.

Nearly every case of a second-generation superhero, where the child has followed their parent into being a superhero, has been filled with Parental Issues. Just take a look at the relationship between Jack and Ted Knight in Starman. Or the relationship between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne. And don't even get me started on the twelve-hundred and ninety-seven different versions of Nathan Grey-Summers.

Amazingly, the most functional family in comic books seems to be the one where the peril of raising a child in a world of superheroes is tackled head on. From it's earliest days, Fantastic Four was a book about a family, and so it should be no surprise that Franklin Richards is the child of a superhero who has the closest thing resembling a functional family.

Sure, Mom, Dad and both Uncles are superheroes. No question that sometimes he has to go stay with other people while they're in another dimension. But Reed and Sue's relationship with their son has been a focal point of the book ever since the character was introduced.

All of which goes to show that parents really are the world's greatest superheroes.


Anonymous Nico said...

I was unaware of the "Mother" quote's origin. Off to Wikipedia!

I do remember that line being distinctly in both the movie and the comic and it is obvious why. It is amazingly simple and powerful.

9:50 AM  

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