Reflecting on childhood superheroes

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By Becca Owsley

Heroes, we can’t help but like them. They can do things that go beyond human expectations.

The onslaught of comic book hero movies hitting theaters this summer makes me wonder why we like these characters and, for that matter, who was my favorite superhero growing up.

Comic book heroes have been around for a while, but does today’s society latch on to them because it is searching for heroes? When my parents were younger, astronauts were going to the moon for the first time, the cowboys on TV didn’t have shady real-life personas and athletes really were athletes without medicinal assistance.

Today, unfortunately, if any supposed “hero” makes his or her way to the public eye the premier is quickly followed by a major crash from the pedestal.

And movie superheroes really don’t do much better. They all seem to have a bit of an anti-hero edge to their heroic endeavors.

But back to my original question, why do we like superheroes?

Maybe it’s because they often come from other planets as Superman did. Or is it because, like Batman and Iron Man, they are ordinary people who find ways to make themselves super? Maybe it’s that an ordinary student can be bitten by spider and suddenly become superhuman.

And let’s not forget “The Greatest American Hero,” or at least, we can’t forget the song. “Believe it or not I’m walking on air/I never thought I could feel so free-ee-ee/flying away on a wing and a prayer/Who could it be?/Believe it or not it’s just me.” Sadly, I didn’t even have to look up the lyrics on that one.

Regardless, I think we all have our favorites. My brother’s were the man of steel and a masked cowboy. Growing up he loved Superman. He might have even had a pair of Superman Underoos. Anybody else remember Underoos?

But I think the Lone Ranger was his all-time favorite. He’s still a big fan of Westerns today. I remember when we took him to see the 1981 film version. He was one excited 4-year-old. Dressed in his cowboy hat and six-shooter on his belt, he sat wide-eyed and excited when the lone crusader turned around with his mask on and the iconic music played in the background.

But for me, my hero drove an invisible jet, had a lasso of truth, could deflect bullets with her golden bracelets and had some killer boots. That’s right, Wonder Woman.

Imagine 6-year-old little Becca spinning like crazy to turn into Wonder Woman just like Lynda Carter did on the show.

This is how it usually went down. I had a specific outfit to wear as her alter ego Diana Prince. It was a plaid skirt with a ruffled blouse, like many outfits I saw her wear on the show. With my hair pulled back and wearing glasses I began my transformation. I would begin to spin and under my outfit I had blue shorts and a red top. I would also wear my mom’s boots which were way too big and hit me above the knees.

Then there were the bracelets: the biggest I could find in my mom’s jewelry box. When my hair came out of the pony tail I would put on either a headband or tiara. Also included in the outfit was one of those 1970s-style gold rope ties that would go around the olive green curtains in the living room, for the lasso.

I should also tell you this all happened while I was still spinning, creating a very dizzy Wonder Woman when it was all complete.

After the transformation was complete I was then ready to hop in my invisible jet and fight the evildoers … often with the Lone Ranger by my side.

So yes, I’m a sucker for a good superhero story as well. I’m excited about “Thor,” “Captain America,” a new X-Men flick this summer and the promise of a Justice League and Avengers film in the future. And let’s not forget a new Lone Ranger movie next year.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever find the true answer of why we like these films, other than the coolness factor, but I like that kids can still dream of knights, cowboys and caped crusaders.

C.S. Lewis may have said it best. “Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”

Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741.