Just finished watching the new Batman Begins trailer. I grew up reading comic books. At 32 I will still pick one up when given the chance. How can stories of people in tights saving the world still capture my attention and imagination?
The big secret; its not about the tights. Granted, the ideas of justice and great powers are what attracted me as a ten year-old. The ideas of flying, kicking ass, shooting beams out of hands and eyes are exciting and perfect for an adolescent mind.
Though I probably did not realize it when I was ten, it was the alter-egos that captured me. The people behind the mask are what drew me in and keep me reading, even today.
At ten I was just starting the bizarre journey towards adolescence. Within the panels of those comics I found people with secret greatness. Nobody knew clumsy Clark was also the celebrated man in blue with a red cape. No one suspected awkward zit-ridden Peter was the arachnid that swung yards above the streets of New York. At ten I dreamt there was secret greatness inside of me too.
Adolescent hofzinser was Clark and Peter and hoped that he might also have some Super and Spider hidden inside of him. (extra points for talking about myself in the 3rd person?)
My 7th grade crush, Jessica, would never fall in love with Clark, Peter or me. She fell for the good-looking cool boys. I was a lot of things at ten, none of which were good-looking or cool. I use to dream of flying in and rescuing her from certain peril. Once I took her to a safe place above the chaos and injustice of the world she would lift off my mask and say, "I love you" as we kissed atop the water tower.
I chuckle now because I really had dreams like that. What did they really mean? I hoped that someone would see past The Mask and find The Me. I hoped that someone would discover that I was more than I first appear. The easy-to-look-over kid was actually a witty, smart, funny and artistic hero if you just dug deep enough... if you just waited till he came out from the phone booth.
So why will I still run to the movies to see these characters brought to life? Why will I still, on occasion, pick up a collection of X-Men comics as I buy the latest Ben Franklin Biography?
For one, the characters in those pages are old friends. I grew up with them and they with me. More importantly, the world has found out my secret alter ego and things have reversed.
Before I was Peter and those that got close saw the Spider. Those that got close got to see my talents, wit and humor. Now people see the Spider first. I parade the confident software executive out for the public. Only a select few get to meet the Peter Parker now. Only the most trusted get to see the shy, artistic, goofy and clumsy kid under the mask.
I know that my future wife, my future Lois Lane, might be drawn to the confident success-object at first but will fall in love with my secret identity. She won't say, "I love you" until she lifts off the mask and sees me. After all was said and done, Lois fell in love with the clumsy socially challenged Clark. My future partner will protect my secret identity from the rest of the world. She will covet, cherish and love the shy insecure kid that is still there, behind the mask.