I’m remembering my superhero days, tying old blankets around my neck and imagining them as capes, kindergarten baseball cap turned around and pulled down so I was looking through the hole in the back, and it was the cheap adjustable type with the plastic pegs, so I had it set to the last peg so it could be my mask, and the way I’d come home from school and park myself in front of the TV for an episode of Darkwing Duck before going outside our old apartment building and playacting what I’d just seen.
It was using the plastic coin bank bust of Michael Keaton’s Batman–the one with stickers to approximate facial features–not as a coin bank, because I didn’t have any money, but as an idol, a totem, something to watch over me when I went to sleep. It was the dollar store Wolverine costume I put together for Halloween, and using butter knives to approximate the claws’ snikt. It was seeing a neat and tidy world where the needy were helped and injustices were set right within the confines of a cathode-ray tube.
I carried these stories with me into and through adolescence, gravitating more then for the edgy, the dark, but still stowing away those ideals, those values, those blueprints for a better life and a higher calling. It was things like going out for daily runs in preparation for a Batman fan film I was going to do with some friends, the budget slightly higher than those childhood dollar store days but barely, and putting on our version of the cape and cowl, and sweating terribly as we shot one setup after another, but feeling the weight of being that type of character–that type of person–if only for a short film. It was, after the shoot was over, going back to my job at the movie theater and working to get myself through community college–next stop film school.
After a pivot from film to fiction, and some success in publishing, it was working to get myself into fighting shape, using the fiction to inspire the fact. Krav Maga first, then MMA, drilling and drilling, hitting bags, sparring, cardio, more drilling, and realizing that there is reality to these hero-journey stories we consume on the regular, rather there is if we let there be, and no matter how tread and re-tread the stories might be, there is gold there.
And for me, it was that first night going out, and being able to actually help, that did it. It was in the nights that followed, showing up, and getting to know the people in my community as I helped them. It was being able to reach back in time and let that little kid dressed as Wolverine know that one day he’d do it for real. He’d feed and clothe the needy. Protect people. Help them. Literally fight crime. He’d make good on that dream he always had.
(If you’d like to read/see more about my journey as Night Watch, you can do that here!)