One could reasonably assume that after 51 years on the scene, Spider-Man would look a little less youthful. He’d probably have slightly saggier webbing and may well be less agile while scaling walls in pursuit of justice. So too for Superman. A little chubby in the waist? And Lois Lane might have moved on to a more suitable mate.
Yet, in fact, Peter Parker has retained his boyish good looks. He, of course, isn’t even close to the most shocking superhero evolution. Batman, Superman a smattering of Avengers and more have all undergone similar transformations. Some have crawled into tighter Lyrcra suits. (I didn’t know that Lycra could get skimpier but apparently it can.) Others have grown biceps on top of biceps, making them… quadriceps? No, wait those are in your legs. These guys have new growth that would land any normal human specimen into a medical journal.
Being that they are “super,” one shouldn’t be shocked at the development of muscle groups that don’t exist — and really, I’m not shocked, just sad. I miss the Michael Keaton Batman of my youth. Yeah, I admit it, you Kilmer-lovers. I adored Keaton’s version of Batman, so jocular and softhearted as vigilantes should be. My older counterparts (read: My Dad) miss their Adam West. And so it goes … every generation has its favorites.
Why are we bothered by the fact that our heroes have been hitting the gym? Is it because our personal trainers haven’t produced similar results? Is it really just nostalgia? It isn’t because we don’t like the new version. I was in the theater for The Dark Knight Rises with everyone else.
Some changes made are for purely practical reasons. When first introduced, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all wore red bandanas. Without different colored bandanas, how are we to know which turtle is the leader, who’s the bad boy, who is the fun-loving one and who is the technologically savvy IT turtle?
Other changes are more questionable. I’m not sure The Hulk needs to be on steroids and angrier (though one logically follows the other.) If our superheroes can’t withstand the societal amping-up of sex, strength and violence, what does this say to our kids?
Was Butterball bound to fail? Is Captain Planet a lesson to us all? Beef up or get out of the game.
OK, all of the above is true. We want our kids to have realistically achievable role models, but if I’m being honest, my sadness does stem mostly from lamenting the loss of my youth and of combative, onomatopoeic word bubbles (Zlonk! Ka-Pow! Biff!). What gets me the most is that the blissful dream I have of watching old superhero flicks on the couch with my kiddos is a myth. There is no way I can trick the kid into watching something that old without some serious preparation.
Also, begin your superhero indoctrination when they’re young and impressionable (a.k.a. controllable. Muah ha ha!) A bonus is that older versions of superhero stories tend to be more age-appropriate for little ones. Lewis G. Wilson’s voicing of the caped crusader is a far cry from Christian Bale’s scary rasping for Rachel.
Another truth: There is nothing wrong with subliminal advertising. If you’re really on your game you can slip some secret superhero promotion in as soon as they’re born with this receiving blanket.
You might want to don the appropriate attire and get the kids in on creating their own superhero disguises. Or get creative with what you have at home. The best Batman costume I ever saw was a kid in a hooded sweatshirt outfitted with a cape and ears. She went around bravely saving her friends all day… albeit from things they probably didn’t need saving from: “I’ll save you from that chocolate chip cookie! I’ll rescue you from that balloon! I won’t let that ice cream hurt you, lactose intolerant citizen!” OK, that last one kind of makes sense.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how you choose to infiltrate their little heads. As long as they get to the crux of what it means to be a superhero: Protect the small, know how to change quickly in a phone booth, avenge stuff, look great in a mask. They’ll be fine.
As the Spiderman comics tell us, “With great power must also come great responsibility.” We have the power to decorate their rooms and furnish their toy collection, so then we must accept the responsibility of introducing our kids to all forms of our beloved heroes.
If they simply refuse to indulge your old people whims, tell them “it’s clobberin’ time” à la The Thing and tickle them until they relent. That usually does the trick.