Thursday, June 29, 2006

A shoutout to my boy Clark Kent

Superman means different things to different people -- besides the whole "truth, justice and the American way" thing.

To some, he's just a musclebound goober who wears his underwear over his pants. To others, he's a fondly remembered part of childhood. To me, Superman represents hope. This was the case as a kid, and I think even a bit now.

Not surprisingly, I was a lot more like Clark Kent than Superman, even ignoring the issue of super powers. Clumsy, awkward, bespectacled -- the whole shebang.

But that little bit of identification with Kent helped me out in junior high school. I don't think junior high is much fun for anybody, but it sucked beyond suckitude for me. You know the one kid in class who everyone else teases, picks on and generally treats like crap?


There were a few others who got in on it, but the brunt of it went on me. And I didn't really help matters much, either. I was the youngest in the class, and consequently always behind everyone else. I didn't dress like everyone else, and the mid-1980s was a really bad time to not be wearing clothes with fancy labels.

Plus, in all honesty, I was a dork. Not the cute dorks that are fashionable these days, but an old-fashioned dork -- the social pariah. Between the hormonal hijinks puberty was playing on me and interests that didn't match others' (no sports, etc.), I was an easy target. As you can imagine, I was pretty miserable; the prospect of going to school every day to face yet another barrage of torment did wonders for my stomach. Once in a while, I just stayed home sick. I wasn't faking, either.

Clark Kent (in the comics of my early youth, anyway) didn't get a lot of respect. And while I don't remember him being teased with such bon mots as being so poor he had to use sticks of butter as deodorant, I did notice that he took these things in stride. Sure, he rarely stood up for himself -- just like me -- but he endured.

Thus, so did I. I went to school, knowing that there was the possibility if not the absolute certainty that kids would give me crap. In the back of my mind, there was always the hope that there would be a day that I wouldn't have to deal with that kind of thing. Until that happened, I just pushed up my glasses, Clark Kent-style, and slouched my way through another day.

So even now, Superman still holds a special place for me. I wore Superman S-shield cufflinks on my wedding day. It was a happy and sad coincidence that one of the medical problems my son Harry had when we was born was a genetic condition also referred to as "Superman syndrome." And when Harry died, I got an S-shield tattoo in his honor.

When I saw "Superman Returns," I smiled when I saw the name of Bryan Singer's production company, Bad Hat Harry Productions. And as the familiar strains of John Williams' Superman theme began to play, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little excited.

Just yesterday, Brody asked to watch "Superman cartoons," so I put on the DVD of the first Superman movie. As the music played, he beamed brightly.

"Superman!" he said, bouncing happily on the couch and absently humming the music. It was one of those proud-dad moments. A super one.

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