Monday, August 6, 2012

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#201) -- Why Super Heroes?

What is it about writing super hero stories that appeals to you?

I love super heroes. I have ever since I first saw the trash can Iron Man beat up on the bad guys. I have since I first read about Superman stopping asteroids from hitting the earth (as opposed to meteorites).

But even as I grew up and realized their adventures were a little hokey and campy from time to time (or more often than that), I couldn't help but still love them. They exemplified the image of the sacrificial martyr putting himself or herself on the line for the greater good, the person willing to die in order to save others. I couldn't help but love that.

For the next part of this post, I quote from my foreword to the Cyber Age Adventures short story collection A Private Little Corner of the Universe.

"But I grew up. I got jaded. I got cynical.

"The happy world of the Avengers and the Legion of Super-Heroes faded into the bleak landscapes of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Raymond Carver, Ernest Hemmingway, and Flannery O’Conner. Their characters smacked of realness to me. I knew people like them. I didn’t like them, but I did know them. They lived in my neighborhood and frankly got on my last nerve as regularly as taking a breath.

"But somewhere inside me was that child who got tired of all the bleakness and pain and reality and wanted to see the bright colors
streak across the sky again. At times, I’d have given anything for the freedom to be a kid again and empty my action figures onto the bed.

"Thanks to the modern wonder of the Internet and discussion lists, I eventually met Frank Fradella and discovered Cyber Age Adventures. I saw in Cyber Age an opportunity to do something a little different, something that excited both the boy who longed for heroes and the man who knew they were fallible.

"So I turned in a story about a woman who left her husband and kids when she developed super powers because she couldn’t face what those powers had made her. More stories followed, stories about heroes who had the one “flaw” we all have—they were human. For all their powers and drive and heroic tendencies, they were merely mortals in the guise of gods. And they often learned that the hard way."

So why do I love to write and read super hero stories? Because I think they're still one of the best settings we have to tell stories about people making complex decisions that can tell us about ourselves. (All while beating up bad guys and stopping asteroids, of course.)