My daughter wrote a memoir for her English class. It brought me to tears. I am posting it below. This girl is a rock and an inspiration. She has been and will always be my hero. Please keep in mind this memoir was written by a 17-year-old. As a side note, there are five of us in our little family and three out of the five have autoimmune disease.
Memoir-A love Letter to Superheroes
There was a time in my life when I didn’t like superheroes. If you know me, that’d be a hilarious statement for me to make. She didn’t like superheroes? How preposterous. She sleeps every night with her Marvel blanket that her mom made her for her 16th birthday. Posters and portraits and pictures for her favorite heroes decorate the walls. A Deadpool calendar sits playfully by her door, each month’s picture showing him in many different funny scenes. Figurines and books sit on cluttered art desks, where an unfinished Iron Man art project rests. If anyone could be called a fan, it would be me.
Seven-year-old me wasn’t. She shook with anger when her family pulled her into the theater to watch Iron Man for the first time in 2008, when Horton Hears a Who, the movie she wanted to see, was playing in the room next door. I often think of this moment and smile ruefully at how foolish I was. Eventually, that anger transformed to delight, and here I sit today, a treasure trove of knowledge about all superhero things.
As I grew up, I had to watch my parents divorce, suffer through abject poverty, see my parents rekindle their marriage, then have my mom become so sick that she’s now disabled. It was a rollercoaster of emotion that I had to sort through at such a young age. My brothers didn’t fare well either, each getting sick or falling in a crevice of sadness. Coupled with more damaging events, I realized the world was not a kind place, and the strength to get through it was difficult to find.
My mother was, and is still, a fierce woman who doesn’t let her disability keep her from fighting for her kids. She cleans the house, cries over her kids’ pain, and lives each day trying to repair family’s woe. My dad, a quiet man, lives each day working to the bone to provide for his family, hands shaky, but eyes steeled against ceasing his work. They have always reminded me of how strong normal people could be, but that didn’t stop me from romanticizing the idea of superheroes in a really hard time in my life.
Superheroes represent an innate image of hope. Flipping through the pages of a comic book, you could find many scenes of heroes sacrificing their happiness for the greater good. They’d give their whole lives to make sure everyone else didn’t suffer. I grabbed onto this idea after seeing a few superhero movies. I thought it was amazing what the world was like. If there was ever unhappiness, a hero from above would descend and make everything better. A spotlight in the sky, a call for help reaching sensitive ears, or a simple phone call were all that it took to instantly get one of those super beings to make everything better. I would often make little stories of myself becoming a hero and helping those in need. My afternoons were filled with stories and blurbs of “pows” and “bams.”
There was a time I was jealous of superheroes. I suppose I still am. There’s one story I remember that caused my fragile body to shake. Captain America, Marvel’s golden boy, was a sickly kid like me in his youth. Then, miraculously, through science decades ahead of ours, he was transformed into a strong superhero with no illness to his name. It was a sickly-sweet joy to watch, as I loved the movie and the comic, but I remembered that nothing like this existed in real life. This dropped my stomach to my feet. If he could become healthy, why couldn’t I?
Many might call me silly for having such ridiculous thoughts. “Get your head out of the clouds!” they might say. “Superheroes don’t exist. Just live with the body you have and worry about your own future!” To that I say, we should never be complicit with pain. It’s normal to try and escape from the pain. I know that wishing I was cured won’t help, but at least I can have fun in the idea.
I was immersed in the idea of having all my physical issues solved like they were in the movies. Maybe, even, my mom could be fixed, too. She’d be healthy, able to run and laugh like every other mom out there. Her hips wouldn’t be so broken, and her eyes wouldn’t be full of pain all the time. Despite the sad reality, when I bring this up with her, she’d laugh, and we’d talk about superheroes and enjoy each other’s company.
Being a fan of superheroes as a young girl wasn’t cool, either. Back in the early 2010s, being a fan of heroes as a girl was looked down upon. My best friend and I, who met in 4th grade, spent years riding the bus together and making up our own stories. We created whole universes, stories, and plotlines of the heroes we’d made saving the world. We’d get weird looks from the kids on the bus. Boys would be flabbergasted if I ever admitted to my love of heroes. Then came the questions, the unceasingly annoying questions. These boys who seemingly guarded the gates of liking anything that they liked, would corner me and probe me on my interests.
“What’s the Silver Surfer’s real name?”
“Do you know who Stan Lee is?”
“Why do you like Marvel anyway?”
“Is Batman DC or Marvel?”
Of course, I didn’t know everything, but after it happened so much, I stopped responding. Eventually, I just shamelessly loved superheroes without letting the other guys put me on Jeopardy whenever I showed my interests.
Funnily enough, most of those boys probably didn’t know Spider-man has a hyphen in his name.
Though I really loved superheroes, I was even more interested in the people who made them. Issue after issue, these people created characters and plotlines that all intersected and wove together to create amazing stories. This was something that influenced my writing. Larger than life characters, who were humans with real flaws, would be influenced by the stories in comics and their movies.
I love writing fantasy, and I never shied away from creating a character who was powerful, but still had flaws like the comics did. There was a time, as a twelve-year-old, where I created a character who could control water, but was deathly afraid of oceans and lakes. It was a fun story to write and I often think of it when I get writer’s block.
Stan Lee, may God rest his soul, has been a role model for me for as long as I liked Marvel. His life story of becoming a Marvel employee and revolutionizing the stories was inspirational. Stan Lee never shied away from putting minorities and disabled people in his comics, which inspired people with those labels. He was a big deal in the company for years, and even became a fan favorite, cameoing in dozens of Marvel movies and shows.
Jack Kirby and Joe Simon were also two role models of mine who were a part of Marvel. The two of them worked together on Captain America, releasing the first issue in 1941, right at the cusp of Worl War II. The issue showed Captain America punching Hitler in the face. At such a scary time for these two men, who were Jewish themselves, they bravely wrote a comic about American pride, showing a symbol of hope by punching a dictator in the face. Comic books aren’t just about entertainment: they send messages of positivity and happiness to those who need it.
Never take anyone seriously who says comics and superheroes are only for babies and children. Those are the same adults who watch hours of football or lifetime movies, which isn’t any different than being a fan of heroes. There’s nothing wrong with liking any of those things, but comics have taught me so many lessons that football and lifetime movies never could.
Superheroes have taught me about morality, mercy, inspiration, and loss. Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, suffers from PTSD and depression in the Marvel movies. He’s just a man with a lot of money, surrounded by super beings, and he shows vulnerability in his mental ailments. Peter Parker was just a genius kid who only wanted to help his city and the people who couldn’t help themselves. Doctor Strange taught me about loss when he came to grips with the destruction of his hands, and instead saved our reality. Thor taught me about loyalty and familial love, because even when his brother betrayed him repeatedly, he forgave and loved him anyway.
Maybe one day I will grow out of my love for heroes. One day I’ll be able to have more adult interests, but not right now. Marvel and DC shaped my childhood. There were so many moments of joy because of them.
So, what is the point of all this? Why am I talking so extensively about something that most people wouldn’t care about?
I want to convey that when we as humans find something we love, we must cherish it. Don’t be shamed by others for what shaped you as a person. It’s not “silly,” and it’s not “stupid.” It doesn’t matter what you love. It could be makeup, it could be cars, or it could be Disney movies. There are lessons and happiness to be found in everything.
There was peace found in the lessons comics taught me. There was escapism from pain, and a whole world for me to submerge into. My writing was affected, and it strengthened me as a person. It wasn’t just entertainment. Our likes are never that simple. They define who we are and give us happiness.
Superheroes give me hope in times when my family is sick. We watch them together as a family and make our own theories. I see them as a beacon of hope and representation to people who need someone to look up to, where there’s acceptance for all your differences. That’s important to little girls like me who needed guidance at bleak stages in her life.
There will be moments where we’ll forget our own origin stories. Like superheroes taught me, many get lost along the way. We’ll feel bad about ourselves and feel ashamed when people make fun of the things we like.
Remember to always stay true to yourself. Let yourself fall into your passions.
In the words of Stan Lee, “To all of you, I say, Excelsior!”
–S. F. Dragon Hunter