My eldest son just turned three years old, and he’s now at that age where he’s “into” stuff. Specifically, he’s into superheroes. And when I say that he’s “into” them, I mean that most of the toys, books, and TV shows he cares about involve some combination of Iron Man, Batman, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, and sometimes Superman. And then there’s the real favorite, the one who stands above all others: Spider-Man.
If I were the type to take credit for this obsession, I would probably point it back to the last time I watched the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie, when he wasn’t quite two yet. The friend of ours who took care of him at the time for one day a week, may have snuck in some of the Iron Man movies too. But the truth is, he just wants to learn everything he can about them, and it’s almost entirely self-driven now. He points out all of the Avengers on merchandise at the store. He watches the same episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold and the 1967 Spider-Man over and over again. He has a couple of small Golden Books about Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Avengers. He has them almost memorized, and he gets a little upset when you don’t let him complete every sentence.
This is really cool, and not just because I have the only kid who knows who Fin Fang Foom is. No, it’s cool because it’s given me an opportunity to get into this little corner of geekery that I’ve never really dug into. Oh, I’ve seen all of the movies (superhero movies being one of my favorite types of genre pictures), but I never did really try to learn about the world of comic book superheroes. Largely inspired by my son, I’ve now had a chance to get to know the vast world of superheroes as they were meant to be experienced, on the printed page. I would hardly call myself an expert in anyone, but getting into comics, even just a little, has proven to be a surprisingly rewarding pastime. My life is richer for knowing the work of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Walt Simonson, Grant Morrison, and Ed Brubaker. I’ve learned so much about heroes I already loved (Batman) and discovered that I love some ones that I never knew anything about (Thor). Of course comics aren’t meant for kids anymore, and nothing I’ve read would be appropriate for a three-year-old. But there’s a connection there that I treasure, even if it’s just because we enjoy the same thing.
But the best thing is that this is something that I’m getting into because of my son. If I were to pick some kind of geek thing for him to enjoy, it’d be something that I love, like Star Wars, Tolkien, and Doctor Who. Not that I won’t introduce him to those things down the line, but superheroes are now his thing. It’s special because it’s just a small taste of how it’ll be to see him grow up, and discover things that he loves. It turns out that one of the great joys of parenting is learning how your child is different from you, and allowing that difference to teach you a little about yourself.