While on a family vacation one winter (I think it was 1989) to Arizona, we had stopped at this little gas station somewhere in New Mexico. By that time we had been on the road for a couple of days, Mom, Dad, my sister Emilie and I all crammed into the Astro mini van. I had exhausted all forms of entertainment available, including the new Nintendo Gameboy I had received for an early Christmas present. Moping around that gas station/convenience store, I came across a small rack of comic books, new ones by the look of them. Dad must have noticed, because I heard him yell over to me to go ahead and pick out some to read–that it would keep me occupied. There were several to choose from, but I went instinctually for the Peter Parker: Spider-Man #6 (a Todd McFarlane reboot of the time), as well as a Batman title that was in the 300s I think… (Tim Burton’s movie had just come out that previous summer, and the Dark Knight was in the midst of a renaissance.) I had never read an actual comic book before. It was awesome. It instantly caught hold of my imagination and launched an endless desire to read more. Spider-Man was different in those comics… He wasn’t as cartoonish or as silly. The artwork was the most detailed I had ever seen, and the stories were dark–Spider-Man actually had blood on him. I’m not sure what it was that pulled me into those stories, but Peter Parker, it seemed, had been there my whole life, at least in some form, not too far away–almost like an older brother–he was, of course, always around on Saturday morning with his amazing friends, and I even had a pair of Underoos pajamas that mimicked the red and blue costume. Later on, as a teenager I saw him as a nerd, off in the corner, interested in science, not very good at sports–and boy could I find some identification in a super hero like that.
Nowadays, all these years later, we’re seeing these incarnations of the heroes that have been around for decades, being reworked and refitted for a new generation. And as I get older, I appreciate this, and I realize that fictional heroes have to change, and they have to be retold and molded to fit the times and the cultures that bring them to life. But I also realize, conversely, that the real heroes–the non fictional ones that are sometimes easier to forget–they do not change. The real heroes are always the same… Yesterday, today, and forever.
Originally shared on Facebook on May 7, 2014