#52sparks: A superhero

Superhero or Bust

Last week I conducted a research project that might put my almost Ph.D. in danger by being totally non-APA, not approved by an IRB, and just for FUN. Via Facebook, I asked my friends: “Who is your favorite superhero and why?” I am so grateful for my friends who shared a bit of their Friday night to reply:
• “Tony Stark aka Ironman…attitude, looks, tech, savvy”
• “I’m becoming my own super hero”
• “Deadpool, immortality”
• “Doctor Who. Because he’s more super than most generally accepted heroes.”
• “Thor because he always forgives Loki and has a wonderful sense of humor. Although all regenerations of The Doctor are just plain amazing!”
• “Star Lord because Chris Pratt. Seriously, I like Doctor Strange due to his character development.”
• “Right this minute, I’m going with Tom Hollard’s Spider-Man, because that innocent baby is so much more relatable to me. Can I vote for Black Panther’s little sister? She is awesome stacked on awesome. Wonder Woman is the hero we all need. The Doctor saves entire planets.”
• “I am my own superhero. And so are all the great ladies I work with.”
• “Loki, no explanation needed.”
• “Batman is the best”
• “Batman-courageous, loyal, melancholic, night owl, complex, and has cool ‘toys’”
• “Squirrel Girl because she tries to be empathetic and talk things out with the villains before beating them up. And she is joyous and optimistic.”

In reading through the answers and thinking about my own (Batman), I found three common themes among these answers.

• Strength – Although superheroes typically have great physical strength, that’s not the only kind of ability that we’re seeking. Strength can be related to intelligence, such as Iron Man and Batman who develop and use tools far beyond normal security forces. Thor, at least the Chris Helmsworth version, has a great strength of character and ability to forgive. Wonder Woman, the women of Wokanda, and Squirrel Girl must have great strengths related to patience as they wait for the public to fully embrace their awesomeness (and men to stop taking the center-of-the-poster limelight).
• Style – “Boom Baby!” Superheroes cannot gain their cult followings by just winning battles; they must also be worthy of movies, posters, memes, and hash tags. That’s why we are looking for qualities that don’t really impact saving the world before bedtime, like savvy and humor. Maybe the fact that Superman wears his underwear outside of his costume is why he’s not on this list (just a theory).
• If-Only – The last quality that I want to highlight was demonstrated by two of the responses that highlighted that they were, or were becoming, superheroes. Hollywood loves telling (and retelling) the origin stories of superheroes because they connect us watchers to the character on the screen, and show how close we are in some ways to being them. I might not be an alien from another planet, have billions of dollars to finance awesome toys, or regenerate as needed. But I can certainly offer forgiveness and empathy, I can step into situations to protect the innocent, and I can try to be “awesome stacked on awesome.” And so can you. We want superheroes that we can believe in, and our world needs the heroes we can be.

So here’s to the superheroes, heroes, and future heroes. May you be worthy of a Stan Lee cameo.


#52sparks is my year-long writing series based on an art prompt challenge.  The title is inspired by a quote from Star Wars: The Last Jedi: “We are the spark, that will light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down” (Poe Dameron).  The spark that lights a fire to toast a marshmallow or to ravage a forest begins in the space of an inch.  So just imagine what hundreds of inches and words can do.

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