The superhero thing just kinda missed me when I was a kid.
As the oldest of my brothers, I was the default arbiter of taste, which means that I didn’t have a cool older brother to provide hand-me-down comics—which by the early-’90s had mostly gone underground. Or in a small Ohio town they had never really surfaced at all.
Sure, I still had larger-than-life figures I looked up to, but most were athletes, who on the grand scale don’t carry the heroic weight that superheroes do. Today, Superman and Batman and Captain America still resonate with adults all over the world, but I no longer presume sports players to possess magical powers.
This would have been my comic book:
Mayor: Oh no, [the villain] is on the loose again! What will we do??
Police Chief: I know it’s risky, but I think this is a job that calls for…
Citizen: Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin!!
I still love you, Barry, but your ability to knock an outside pitch into the opposite field on a one-two count—while a serviceable skill—would never be enough to counter evil.
The funny part: it’s easier to be a superhero when you grow up than it is to be a professional athlete. I mean, all you need is a light costume, a hyper-normal persona by day, and an overarching quest to contribute to the greater good.
Honestly, in many cases you don’t even need a costume. I mean, Superman essentially wore pajamas and fooled an entire room full of journalist coworkers with some trendy eyeglass frames. (There were no lenses; Clark Kent was the first hipster, by the way).
This month’s cover story is dedicated to those people who have taken it upon themselves to adopt a fantastical persona and play the part for a city that needs them. We became captivated by their quests, whether it is to raise awareness for mental health, to spread love and empathy, or to inspire people to follow their passion and skills and unlock their potential.
These are everyday people parlaying their special talents into something remarkable. It’s hard not to be enthralled by folks who don’t think twice about walking the streets in a cape or flying from a downtown crane as if it is totally common behavior. They’re a testament to embracing and elevating the latent capabilities within all of us.
Or maybe that’s just a farm kid who never read comics and grew up to work at a newspaper, disappointed that he never had one single coworker revealed as a moonlighting crusader. (Although honestly, it would be pretty noticeable if Liz the copy editor kept leaving her desk every time the police scanner lit up).
Needless to say, I get the superhero thing now—and thank Thor, because superhero films are so dominant at the theater these days that I have to either enjoy them or just stop watching movies altogether.
So I will look to the skyline, confident in the knowledge that our little Gotham is being watched over by everyday guardians and saviors, warriors and defenders.
And I am probably gonna replace that Barry Larkin poster on my wall with one of the Fantastic Four. Sorry, old friend.
Travis Hoewischer, Editor-in-Chief