Heroes are important to a child. Heroes teach us important lessons in life as we marvel at their feats of strength, daring, and character. Heroes should inspire one to achieve even in the face of adversity. Courageous and true, their light should never fade in our hearts and minds. So without further adoo, here is a list of those who influenced me through my early childhood.
I was introduced to Spidey later on in childhood at the age of ten. At first I loved reading about Spider-Man swinging through the high rise canyons of New York, fighting Doctor Octopus and the HobGoblin, but as time went on I found plain old Peter Parker more interesting. Here was a character I could identify with. What better hero for a nerdy kid with glasses, than another nerdy kid with glasses. I may not know what it's like to throw around Mac trucks like softballs, but I sure as hell know what it's like to not be able to get a date.
I so wanted to be Peter Parker when I grew up. As sad as it sounds I freely admit that Peter has had an influence on me to this day. Maybe that's not so sad, come to think of it. After all, I could think of a lot worse people to admire through life.
What American kid growing up in the 80's DIDN'T love Hulk Hogan. Riding a Harley Davidson, waving the American flag, telling kids to say their prayers, work hard, and take their vitamins. Hulkster was an American hero, and he was everywhere. Who could forget the "Hulk Hogan Rock 'N' Wrestling cartoon. Or the "Hulkimania" shirts and bandanas. Hogan was pure 80's cool, mixed in with pure 80's cheese and he took America by storm. Without his Face persona, it could be argued, the WWF wuold have had a much harder time going national like it did. In fact, writing this I still can hear his "Real American" theme song and even hear him saying, "Whacha gonna do, brother! When these 24 inch pythons, and all the worlds Hulkimaniacs, run wild ON YOU!
Whacha gonna do, indeed.
He was the Master of the Universe. He was the gay prince who held aloft his magic sword to cry out, "I HAVE THE POWER!" and became a macho macho man. But the homoerotic imagery, implied or not, was lost on me for nearly twenty years. All that mattered then was how much ass He-Man could kick, and he could kick alot of ass. Noone could compete with He-Man. Not Skeletor, not King Hisss, not even Dolph Lundgren could tarnish his awesomeness. Long live Prince Adam. Long live He-Man!
Superman could fly. Of course he could also change the course of mighty rivers, and bend steel in his bare hands. He was bulletproof, fireproof, and had awesome heat vision, but he could FLY! That alone made me wrap towels around my neck and take flying leaps off of the back of my mom's couch. Of course, I didn't read a single Superman comic back in those days. My outlet for the adventures fo the Last Son of Krypton came in two ways.
First was the Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve.
Superman 2 was my favorite one of them growing up. Superman going toe to toe against the evil General Zod, the man hating she-beast Ursa, and the dunce Non. They tore Metropolis up in that movie, and to think that the whole fight was done without CGI makes it all the more impressive. That one fight has gone down as one of my all time favorite super hero fights ever.
The next was the Superfriends.
Superman and the Justice League v.s. Lex Luthor and the Legion of Doom! How did it get any better? Maybe with the last two incarnations of the cartoon, Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show,
and The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians.
Not only did these cartoons get more serious in tone, but they had an action figure tie in. Now I could continue Superman's adventures after the cartoon had ended.
Boys like cars, aliens, and robots. The Transformers packed all three in one package. What could be better? Well, nothing really. Transformers ruled the school and Optimus Prime was more akin to me than the lord and savior. Here was a fictonal character that embodied truth, honor, loyalty, and bravery. All the things my father tried to instill in me. The fact that my dad drove a semi, and Prime turned into a semi made the association all the more real to me. Prime was my idol, my hero, and even my imaginary friend. My nostalgia for Transformers came in 1995 when I first saw "Toy Story". The scene where everything in the boy's room goes from a Woody theme to a Buzz Lightyear theme reminded me of my own bedroom circa 1985, when everything in my room went from a HE-MAN theme to a Transformers theme.
Of course the toy was and is still one of my favorites. I now own several Primes along with an entire collection o fTransformers toys and other memorabilia.
Of course without saying my dad was, is, and always be my biggest hero. He was all of my childhood heroes in one. Even after I had the epiphany that all young men should have, that my dad was less SUPER and more MAN with all his own faults and failures, never diminished my idol worship. My dad passed away ten years ago this month, but it still seems like we last spoke just yesterday. I'll always miss him, he will always be my biggest hero, and I will always be his biggest fan.