If I had sent one of my long-time friends into the Fayetteville Public Library recently – folks who have not seen my daughter in years, or maybe ever – I still think they could have spotted my kid easily.
There she sat in her Batman t-shirt, a new favorite, with her nose in a comic book, her strawberry-blonde hair peeking out from behind the cover.
I could image one of my pals from the Society for Creative Anachronism or an old war-gaming or role-playing game buddy pointing right at her and saying, “Yeah, that’s Magsam’s kid.”
The very idea made me stupidly proud.
She’s heavily into a comic phase. Her most recent focus is on the animated TV series, Young Justice, but she’s also been combing the web, looking at art and videos of her favorite heroes and exploring their stories and backgrounds.
She and I have watched superhero shows since she was little. We’ve shared Batman: The Animated Series; Batman Beyond; Justice League; Justice League: Unlimited; Teen Titans and the hilarious Teen Titans: Go!.
What pleases me most is that we’ve shared these shows, watched them side-by-side, talked about them, and joked about them. It reminds me of the limited time I spent watching TV with my father. We shared Johnny Quest. I can still remember sitting with him as we watched the cartoon when it was on prime-time back in the 1960’s.
My wife initially objected to my daughter and I watching the superhero stuff. She didn’t like the violence, the skimpy outfits the women wore, and the sinister nature of most of the plot lines. My wife would always relent in the end though, won over by the fact that my daughter and I watched the shows together. She wasn’t left to sort all those images and issue out on her own. We talked about it – kicked it around like two sports fans chatting about their favorite teams.
It makes me happy my daughter recognizes a guy like Lex Luthor can be both, smart, rich and terribly evil. She understands sometimes its important to risk things to help others; that you don’t have to let tragedy cripple you (though maybe becoming a vigilante is an extreme reaction); that love is possible in the strangest of situations; and that people with differences – different powers, backgrounds, colors, creeds, even those from other planets or galaxies – can find common ground and work for a common cause.
I’m proud she’s a kid that knows what Kryptonite is; why Batman fights crime; or that The Flash isn’t only the fastest man on earth but also one of the kindest. I’m also happy she doesn’t know which Real Housewife is which and never liked Justin Bieber.
In recent years, my daughter has developed her own favorite heroes (She likes Dick Grayson, the original Robin over Batman), found story lines that spoke to her, and explored aspects of the superhero condition all on her own.
Recently, she’s taken to drawing her favorite heroes as if they were cats. She has found independent artists who have taken the characters she likes in different directions. She found an online comic that imagines that Batman’s many sidekicks are really the caped crusader’s children. It’s a bit like a Batman meets the Brady Bunch, only with much better jokes and scenarios that poke fun at the whole genre. You have to understand a genre to enjoy it being spoofed.
And she’s become and informed fan. When, I explained to my wife that Mercy, Lex Luthor’s bodyguard, had managed to turn her arm into a blaster-cannon because she was a robot, she pointed out my error. “Dad, she’s a cyborg,” Laynie corrected.
And it’s not just a one-way street. She influences me too. She got me watching Gravity Falls.
When she stumbled across Gravity Falls on TV my daughter knew I’d love it, and she was right. The Warner Brothers cartoons could be enjoyed by both adults and kids; Disney’s hit Phineas and Ferb was cut from the same cloth and I enjoyed that as well.
Gravity Falls is unique.
It’s subversive and funny and quirky. It’s like a cartoon version of Twin Peaks without the murder but it has plenty of mystery. The main characters, twins Dipper and Mable, who are spending the summer with their shyster great-uncle, genuinely love each other, nice for a change. The humor is smart, razor-sharp, and rapid fire. There’s a marathon of the Season 1 running in the background as I type. Next week Season 2 starts!
This week, my girls are out of town, so talk concerning Dick Grayson or one of the many other Robins or which Batgirl was which, have been few and far between.
But when I spoke to my daughter on the phone over the weekend, she told me to catch up on episodes of Young Justice Season 2. I promised I would. The three of us, my wife, daughter and I, have been watching several episodes on VUDU every night and I’ve manged to fall behind somehow.
I told my daughter I found a documentary on superheros and the comic book industry on Netflix and had watched it in her absence. She was mad and vowed to watch it with her cousin at first opportunity. Barring that, we decided we would watch it together when she got home.
When I spoke to my wife, she told me she was enjoying our evenings watching Young Justice. She’s come a long way since we started dating. She watches some Star Trek, I’ve got her hooked on Supernatural and Arrow, and now she’s sharing Young Justice with me and our daughter.
Then I found out why I was behind. The two of them had been watching ahead right before they left, enjoying a companionable summer afternoon in the company of superheros.
“I was sitting there watching Young Justice, drinking a cup of hot tea and eating Fig Newtons,” Shan explained. “And I realized, I was becoming you.”
See, I still got it.