Declan and the superhero gene
My son is two and a half years old now, and consequently seems to love just about everything you’d expect a two year old boy to love. He is particularly obsessed with anything involving construction and large vehicles adept at moving things from one place to another. When he goes to sleep, he dreams about dump trucks, and cranes, and the like.
On a similar note, he’s a huge fan of automobiles. I’m already a little disconcerted at how much Declan is going to love Cars 3 (and Cars 2 and also Cars) when he sees it over and over and over again, which seems inevitable. He also likes any entertainment involving dogs, particularly if those dogs also have impressive vehicles, as on the astonishingly popular, astonishingly worthless Paw Patrol.
Declan was recently introduced to some of the robots from Star Wars, like C-3PO and R2D2 but because my son is super into robots he processes them as robots rather than as characters within the Star Wars universe. My son nevertheless likes to pretend he's not human. He'll say "Bleep, bloop! I'm a robot! Bleep, bloop, I'm a robot!" and it is, legitimately, possibly the most adorable thing ever. Having watched only a few movies at this point, Declan has only a vague conception of what Star Wars entails.
What’s fascinating to me is that Declan similarly has, if anything, an even vaguer conception of Batman and Superman entails. He’s never read, or watched one of the countless origin stories for the characters. Declan doesn’t know that Superman comes from outer space or that, preposterously enough, he has kind of the same kind of job as his dad does. He similarly has never seen one of the many movies or TV shows that explain that Bruce Wayne’s parents were brutally murdered in front of him, and then, in his despair and confusion, young Bruce Wayne made out with a radioactive bat, which is how he became Batman (that is the origin story, right? I’m a little rusty).
Yet even though Declan doesn’t know anything about Batman and Superman he is nevertheless absolutely obsessed with them. He’ll run around toting one of the superhero figures in our apartment (he doesn’t really delineate them at this point) joyously singing the theme song to the 1960s Batman television show. That’s a show he’s never watched, and a theme song he’s never heard except for my crude approximation. Yet that hasn’t kept him from being so excited about Batman’s mere existence that he sometimes just yells out “The Batcave!” or “The Batmobile!"
He’s similarly excited about Superman. He’ll hold his arms out in the classic Christopher Reeve pose and I will “fly” him around the apartment while he sings the theme from Superman, a movie that, again, he has never seen and a theme that he’s never heard except for when I’m singing it.
I suppose you could say that Declan has picked up a lot of clues and hints about the nature and characteristics of Superman and Batman from me and that’s why he’s so excited about something he knows so little about.
But I prefer to think that a Batman/Superman gene exists within almost all boys, and some girls, so powerful and strong that knowledge of stuff like Kryptonite, the Bat-Cave, the Batmobile and the Bat-Dance is hardwired into their brains. They don’t need to be introduced to Batman or Superman, it seems, they just seem to pop out of the womb knowing a surprising amount about their mythologies.
As a nostalgic dad and Marvel Collectors Club member (now, finally, I can reveal myself to be anerd! Phew! Feels good!), I look forward to actually introducing Declan to Batman and Superman and James Bond, but there’s something weirdly pure and adorable about my son’s boundless enthusiasm for something he fundamentally knows nothing about.
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