Why is Superman everybody's favorite superhero?
Sure, he can catch bullets in his teeth, make time reverse itself by flying really fast, and he looks good in tights, but other than that, what's the big deal with the Man of Steel?
My problem with Superman is that it's just way to easy to root for someone with superpowers. It's like being a Yankees fan; sure, they're a great team, but there's no fun in pulling for the people that win every time.
Superman can just stand under Earth's yellow sun and have more power in his left earlobe than the rest of us put together. Keep him away from the kryptonite and he could arm-wrestle with God. And probably win, too.
Saying you're pulling for Superman to win in a fight is kind of like hoping that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are going to earn a bunch (that's b as in billions) of dollars from the oil and defense industries. Sorry, people, it was a fait accompli. (Incidentally, does Cheney remind anyone else of Lex Luthor with a bit more hair?)
That's why I go in for superheroes like the Punisher. You see, before the Punisher was a superhero, he was just a regular guy with a wife and a child. But then he had his patented Superhero Formative Event? (his wife and child were brutally killed, don't you know) and devoted his life to fighting crime.
That's it. No special powers from an alien planet's sun, no special ring to let you do what you want, no ability to control and speak with sea creatures. Not even a cape or the power of flight. Just a guy who got pissed off at the way of the world and decided to change it.
Batman, my favorite superhero, is much the same. He also had a Superhero Formative Event?, though his came at a much earlier age and cost him both his parents. On the plus side, however, he wound up with about 18.4 gazillion dollars when they bought it.
But you've got to give Bruce Wayne credit. He could have wound up like every other trust fund punk, jet setting around the world on his dead parents' dime, erasing his sorrows with Manhattans and arm candy before dying the death of someone wealthy enough to have a personal physician on hand to witness it.
That life didn't sit well with Bruce, though, who wound up studying all he could n criminology, psychology, martial arts, how to look good in shadow-toned clothing. It took him a while, but he became the world's best crime fighter. Again, no special powers, no spidey sense, no telekinetic ability. Merely a regular person who trained his mind and body to the ultimate level and put his untold riches to good use. (That's what I'd do if I were a billionaire. What a life n playboy philanthropist by day, butt-kicker of scumbag criminals by night.)
That's the kind of hero I'm impressed by. Not someone who graces the rest of us with his or her glorious presence and otherworldly powers, but the kind of guy (or gal n I'm equal opportunity when it comes to superheroes) who's no different from the rest of us except in determination and strength of will. A real scrapper, if you will, someone who isn't afraid of an unbeatable opponent or an insurmountable task despite the knowledge that he or it will probably kick their butt. (That rather sounds like me mulling over graduate school, especially when considering my grades as an undergrad.)
For instance, that's why a political candidate like Howard Dean appeals to me so much. He's a liberal New England governor who was critical of our war with Iraq, for crying out loud, so he's probably got less than a snowball's chance of winning the Democratic nomination, let alone of beating Dubya next fall.
But he stands up for what he believes in, fully cognizant of the fact that he could get booed off the national stage because of our country's tendency toward stifling debate and displaying plastic flags. And he's going after the highest office in the land (our own domestic version of regime change?) despite a glut of Democratic candidates far more recognizable than himself. He sees the dangerous direction our country is going in under the leadership of Bush et al, and is mad enough to try and change it.
That's a man, right there.
I hold no illusions that I have the strength of character (or a clean enough record, for that matter) to become president, but I can still try to emulate real people like Dean, or fictional role models like Jed Bartlet, Bruce Wayne or our man Jack Bauer.
So maybe I'll stop worrying about biting off more than I can chew, and set off on some seemingly impossible task or go after an unachievable goal. To hell with the odds.
Justin Reedy covers county government for the News Daily. His column appears on Thursdays. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 281 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.