How do superheroes spend their free time? Most comic book heroes lead dual lives. Their secret identity protects their public persona. Heroes’ typical lives range from billionaire playboys to pauper journalists. Regardless, heroes routinely find themselves a front row seat to disaster or mayhem. Meanwhile, average citizens gawk at their valiant crusaders while never knowing who really fights.
I hate Superman. *phew* Yes, I said it. His fantastic stories in cartoons, comics, and movies interest me. However, I can’t relate to the Man of Steel, no matter how hard I want to like him. I don’t fly, but this ability would help avoid rush-hour traffic. Heat vision would be a fun way to warm apple cider and hot chocolate. I’d be too self-conscious about using freezing breath, so I’d have to carry a toothbrush. Green-glowing rocks give Superman pause; I stutter in front of crowds. The Son of Krypton crushes boulders in his bare hands while bullets bounce off his chest. I use a cane to collect my mail. Nope, I can’t pretend to understand a hero like Superman.
In Face Value Comics, our middle-school heroes have a vast array of opposition. They struggle with homework assignments, making new friends, and romantic interest. Add some bizarre aliens with sharp teeth, and now they fight a dehumanized bully. Extrapolate the long hours spent with professional educators and therapists into time with Dr. Moebius. He personifies a darker, extremist interest into understanding how children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) behave. Our characters don’t need really weird super villains, because life presents enough confusing and scary challenges. Michael’s friends aren’t imbued with magical gifts or phenomenal wealth- just a strong desire to be understood. This quality makes them heroes against a great, old prejudice against anyone who seems different.
At the end of the day, our heroes wipe off the sweat of adventuring and have homework due tomorrow. Their families may be as alien to them as the evolved talking sea-horses they met. It’s a fantasy world, but challenges and opposition are as real in 2072 AD as today. Will mankind better communicate our individual and shared suffering? In my mind, perseverance to real threats makes someone a hero and role-model. Our main protagonist, Michael, has an ASD. He wants friends to help him solve problems, not laser-beam eyeballs or telekinesis. Michael and many other kids need and want acceptance. Children seem to know more about Superman’s personal struggles against a monthly comic villain better than their best friend’s grief or loss. Let’s teach children compassion, emotional regulation, and empathy for people and pets. Next, we can prioritize a wish list of comic book talents after the real battle against misunderstanding has been won.
© Face Value Comics 2013