Childhood Heroes

It’s World Book Day, and there’s a movie I’m looking forward to coming out this week, so let’s talk about childhood heroes.

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I’m not the biggest fan of the Marvel superhero movies which have taken over the box office, but I am keen to see the latest, Captain Marvel. (I started getting excited when they announced the movie back in 2014).

When I was a little kid, my mum bought me an anthology of old superhero comics sold by the department store chain British Home Stores.

It included Ms. Marvel issue 5 – she hadn’t become a captain then. Five-year-old me thought she was scary and wicked and awesome. So I’m quite excited to finally see her on the big screen.

Ms. Marvel seemed scary to little Matt, because her human identity Carol and her superheroic one, Ms. Marvel, were so at odds with one another. The idea of your secret identity being somehow a threat to your own existence was thrilling and frightening at once.

Panels from Ms. Marvel issue 5: Carol reluctantly transforms into Ms. Marvel

In addition, Ms. Marvel wasn’t yet trusted by the other heroes. Hampered in her mission to save the day by another hero, the Vision, whom she couldn’t beat in a straight fight, she had to outwit him and lure him into a trap in order to triumph.

Panels from Ms Marvel issue 5: Ms Marvel lures another hero, the Vision, into a trap as they fly around a suspension bridge

That British Home Stores compilation also included the equally-weird-to-an-infant-schooler “Gather Ye Witches”, where the Silver Surfer is captured by warlocks who drug his tea and really put him off the idea of protecting earthlings from their own folly.

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Not only does our hero spend most of his time prone or debilitated in a story entirely populated by unsympathetic characters, but he ends up saving the day by using his Power Cosmic to soothe the Hulk-like Abomination and put him to sleep.

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The riven Ms. Marvel, whose identities seemed to threaten one another, and the vulnerable Surfer – who was reluctant to play hero and who healed instead of fighting – were so unusual and so compelling to me as a little kid. They troubled me in ways that made me think and wonder and grow. Those stories and characters have stayed with me my entire life.

(So, that’s why I’m so looking forward so much to tomorrow’s movie. And why I have the coolest Mum. Happy World Book Day!).


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