I didn’t really want to write about this. I guess mainly because I like to avoid bad subjects and focus on good ones. After seeing all of the 9-11 coverage and thinking about it, though, an idea popped in my head. No matter how much I wanted to write about other things, I kept thinking back to 9-11.
When I first heard about the planes hitting, I was in my office. It was like a bad movie come to life. I kept feeling like at any moment, there would be a climatic battle, the good guys would win over impossible odds, the credits would roll, and then we’d see everything go back to normal. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.
As the planes hit and the towers collapsed, I was worried about my father and my friend, G. My father worked in New York City at the time and, while he wasn’t near the World Trade Center, we didn’t know if all of New York City was going to be attacked. G, meanwhile, actually worked in the World Trade Center. I couldn’t remember if he was in one of the towers or other buildings. I got on AIM and connected with some ex-co-workers of mine and G’s mom. She hadn’t heard from him.
Then, I heard that the towers collapsed. At first, I thought that the person meant that the top few floors collapsed, not the entire building. As the enormity of what was happening sank in, I began to panic thinking that G had been killed. Finally, we heard from him that he was ok. He got out of the subway, saw the two towers smoking and got as far away as possible. (I found out later that he worked in one of the other WTC buildings.)
Ten years later, I was thinking about the attacks during NHL’s first day of Hebrew school. I was thinking of how I would describe 9-11 to NHL when, suddenly, it hit me: Terrorists are bullies. Bullies in a school setting rule by fear. Whether it is fear of being beaten up, fear of being excluded from social cliques, or fear of being embarrassed in front of your peers, bullies thrive on fear. They attempt to define the rules to position themselves at the top of the social heap at the expense of others. Often, bullies don’t even have the muscle to enforce their threats. However, they rely on fear to magnify their perceived power.
Terrorists are like the grown-up, international versions of bullies. They want the world structured a certain way. It isn’t. They could work within society, but they honestly don’t have enough power to enact the changes they desire. So, instead, they rely on fear. They use fear to magnify their perceived power. They use fear to get people to do what they (the terrorists) want. They use fear to get their way (or else).
Meanwhile, I thought back to my feelings during the events of September 11th. I remember feeling so helpless. There were so many people that needed help and I was powerless to do anything. I remember thinking that, if only I was a comic book-style superhero, I could help out. I could activate my power ring or quickly change into my costume and then fly there at supersonic speeds to rescue people when they needed help the most.
Sadly, I don’t have super-powers so I was forced to sit on the sidelines watching it all go down on TV. There were real superheroes there, though: The first responders. Think about it. If Spider-Man, Batman, or any other superhero saw a building on fire, what would they do? They would hurl themselves into the building without a thought in their head about their own safety. They would do their best and push themselves beyond all normal (and superhuman) limitations until everyone was safe.
On 9-11, firefighters ran up the stairs of the burning twin towers. They ran up holding a hundred pounds of gear and without any thought of their own safety. Yes, many people were killed that sad day, but 20,000 were saved. This is in no small part thanks to the firefighters and other first responders. Toss a cape and mask on them and you had a legion of superheroes saving lives.
Last year, I sat my boys down on the HeroMachine website to let them make their own superheroes. Since it’s been so long, I decided to let them back on to see how they would make their heroes this time. As with the last time, I guided them through the setup. I might have nudged them here or there but the general look and feel of the superheroes was up to them. For example, I might push to make tops and bottoms match in color, but if they decided to change the color palette, I wouldn’t refuse their superheroic demands.
I also purposefully didn’t show them their superheroes from the previous year. I didn’t want them to simply recreate their old heroes. I wanted to see what more recent influences might being to their heroes.
Let’s start with JSL. Last year, he made this hero:
He named his superhero “FireGuy.” So what did he make this year?
Meet Super Agent JSL Buzz Lightyear. Breaking down the name first, the “Super” part comes because, to JSL, a superhero must, obviously, be names super-something. I’m not sure why he thinks that. Most of the superheroes he knows don’t have names that begin with “Super.” “Agent” comes from Agent P, from Phineas and Ferb. We had recently watched the Phineas and Ferb movie so he wanted to be a secret agent. Buzz Lightyear comes from his favorite Toy Story character.
The shield is based on the one that his favorite superhero, Captain America, has. The color scheme incorporates his favorite colors. I’m not sure if there was a particular rhyme or reason behind the rest of the outfit, though.
Next up, was NHL. Last year, he made Disco Man, so named because he had “disco eyes.”
This year, NHL made Toolguy/Mathman/Cordman. Yes, you read that right. This superhero has three names. I tried to get NHL to shorten it, but he was adamant that it needed to be all three and include the slashes.
The name is based off his love of building things, his love of math, and the fact that his superhero has a whip. The head was based loosely on Hulk. For the body, NHL insisted that his superhero was part-robot and so it needed to be grey. In retrospect, I wonder if this comes from Perry the Platyborg from the Phineas and Ferb movie. It was interesting that NHL picked out the same tail that he chose last year. He also chose the same eyes at first, but then changed his mind.
Have your kids used HeroMachine? If so, what kinds of superheroes have they made?
Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day. This is when comic book stores across North America give away select comic books for free. We went last year and the boys had a blast collecting and then reading through the comic books.
This year, will be a bit more complicated. B’s going to meet someone for lunch tomorrow. This means she’ll be out for most of the time that Free Comic Book Day runs. The complication is that I don’t usually drive on Saturdays for religious reasons. My geekiness (“must take boys for free comic books”) is battling my religious side (“must observe Shabbat”). Who will win? To be honest, I still don’t know.
Meanwhile, I’ve been introducing my boys to various superheroes. They love the Avengers (Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Ant Man, Wasp, Thor, Black Panther and Hawkeye), Young Justice (Robin, Superboy, Miss Martian, Kid Flash and Aqualad) and Batman on the TV. They have also been introduced to the Green Lantern. My boys just love superheroes and would love to pour through new comic books. Somehow I’ll have to make this work for them.
My Aloha Friday question for today is: Who is your favorite superhero and why?
Thanks to Kailani at An Island Life for starting this fun for Friday. Please be sure to head over to her blog to say hello and sign the McLinky there if you are participating.