Why I Love Superheroes And Why My Narrator Is Almost One

This post is by Joe Stephens

Just many other boys–and mostly it was boys when I was a kid–did, I spent a lot of time with a towel tied around my neck, running as fast as I could, jumping off of things that I probably shouldn’t have jumped off of, and fighting the forces of evil in the person of imaginary supervillains like The Joker, Lex Luthor, and Dr. Sivana. Sometimes I was Superman. If I was feeling like the night, I was Batman. I even had a cape and cowl, though the cape succumbed to a tragic ironing accident. Rarely, I was Captain Marvel as I knew him. He later became Shazam. The woman they call Captain Marvel now isn’t the one I’m talking about. She’s great; she’s just not the one I mean.

Unlike some, though not all, boys my age, I never outgrew this love. I still read the comics, though now I borrow them from my friend Keith, who loves Superman so much that the picture that pops up on my phone when he calls me is Henry Cavill as Supes and the ringtone is the Christopher Reeve-era Superman theme. And I see every superhero movie coming and going–most multiple times while they’re still in the theaters. I saw Avengers: Age of Ultron three times. Most of the time it’s with some or all of, at least the male half, my nerd group. In a perfect world it’s all of us. We like to think of ourselves as kind of our own little Justice League, if you will, though Jonathan would, I’m sure, prefer that we be The Avengers or X-Men. He’s a Marvel guy. Keith and I are DC. It matters.

My group’s ID badge. Yes, we’re that nerdy.

Why do I like these characters and stories? I could get all sociological and psychological on you (I really could–I’ve read myriad books and articles on the subject, many quite scholarly), but it really boils down to one main thing: at their heart, all that matters to them is doing good.Superman’s parents chose Earth partly because he would be safe there, but also because he could be a shining beacon or right and hope to the people of our planet. And he spends his life trying to live up to that mission. Sadly, we don’t always understand or accept that he’s really here to help us. But he stays true to his mission. He helps. He fights for the right. He protects the weak. He sacrifices himself–to the point of death–to save the world.

There’s a little of Kal El (that’s Superman’s name on his home planet of Krypton for you non-nerds out there) in my hero. And a little of Billy Batson (Shazam) and Bruce Wayne (Batman) too. Maybe someday I’ll write about what specific attributes from Harry Shalan are inspired by which hero, but that’s not my point today. While I like sci-fi and fantasy, I never really enjoyed writing it all that much. But I would argue that detective fiction is a superhero story without the capes and cowls and, mostly, the superpowers. Harry Shalan, the narrator and hero of my stories, and his wife Dee truly are just a little better than the average human being. No, they don’t have the ability to go faster than a bullet or jump over a high building or stop a locomotive in its tracks, but they can survive that bullet when others probably wouldn’t. And they can shoot just a little straighter and hit just a little harder, and think just a little more clearly than the people around them. So they really are, to a degree, superheroes.

Ignore the fact that he’s wearing a Santa hat.

But that’s not the way in which they are most like superheroes. They channel my favorite heroes in that they are on this Earth to do good. It’s their mission, their raison d’etre if you will. They protect the weak, stop evil, and right the wrongs. Sometimes people don’t agree with or understand what they do, but that doesn’t stop them. They know they are doing right and they won’t let anything stand in their way, especially when someone’s life or safety is being threatened.

I choose to write about this because, at least in the world of the Shalan Adventures, there’s someone like that. Someone who is a real hero that’s there for the express purpose of saving the day. And because I strive to be that person. I’m not big and strong and fast and I can’t shoot as straight (though I am not a terrible shot) but by watching those movies and reading those comics and writing those books, I remind myself of the importance of doing my best every single day to be a little more. More compassionate, more protective of the weak and oppressed, more heroic. And wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could all be just a bit more heroic.

Sorry, I have to cut this short. I think I hear a cry for help somewhere.

Joe Stephens is a teacher at Parkersburg High School. He is also the author of Harsh Prey and Kisses and Lies, both of which are available in paperback and Kindle formats. The paperback may be purchased from
Amazon, from J & M Used Book Store in Parkersburg, and from the author’s trunk.

kindle cover

Take a look at Harsh Prey on Amazon 

Kisses and Lies Cover Michele croppedTake a look at Kisses and Lies on Amazon

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Check out joe’s website.


18 thoughts on “Why I Love Superheroes And Why My Narrator Is Almost One

  1. Ah, Joe. You have hit a cord and it is in perfect harmony with the rest of the symphony. I love Superhero movies and read the comics growing up also. (Yeah, I know. Not the typical girl thing. I’m fine with that.) For me, it’s the Western genre that my superheroes inhabit, be they men or women. It has always been about helping those who need help. You are right, what a world this would be if that was the motive for all actions.

    I wish you the best on this third book in the series. May it surpass all expectations. Doris

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! People give me a hard time about watching superhero/fantasy/scifi movies at my age, but the same people who say I’m childish wouldn’t think twice about watching a western or a cop movie. Just because it’s in a spaceship or someone is in a blue bodysuit and can fly doesn’t mean it’s not the same story of good versus evil.


  2. Truly, good versus evil, in any form, is the basis for all mysteries, and meaningful stories. Even the news. My heroes were Roy Rogers and The Lone Ranger when young. I also liked Superman and Zorro. I think there are a lot more of “you” out there than you think, and I enjoyed your novel “Kisses and Lies” very much. You are right, superheroes come in many forms. And often aren’t recognized as such.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I actually loved to play Batman and Robin with my friend when I was growing up. We’d hang from her swingset and pretend we were flying and chasing the bad guys. I grew up watching Adam West on the TV show. I loved the Sat morning cartoons and watched Super Friends. The Wonder Twins were my favorite. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Joe.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I echo Sarah’s comments — LOVED Batman and Robin (I wanted to be Batgirl!) and I really liked Chris Reeves’ version of Superman. I’m saddened by how dark so many of these superhero movies, TV shows, and comics have become, though — sometimes the lines are too blurred as to the good and the evil ones — people need true heroes, where good is truly good (yet also believable, but not so dark that you’re not sure about the goodness)… so I’m not as into superheroes as I used to be. Fun post, Joe!


    1. I’m sorry I was so slow in replying. Life has been really crazy. But I agree! That’s why I like the new Flash series so much better than The Arrow. There is that element of struggle when we can’t know for sure what’s the right thing, but someone like the Punisher is just too far over the line for me.


  5. I apologize, Joe. I’m trying to catch up on the blog posts. I enjoyed this one. As an adult, I like superhero movies. Boy, there’s a ton of them nowadays. I don’t read comics so much as when I was a kid. For a while, I was reading comics about Conan, Red Sonja and other barbarian heroes. I recently came across a photo of myself at about 8 years old… I’m wearing a Zorro costume.


    1. I am struggling to keep up too, so please don’t apologize. My main comics were the DC biggies–Superman, Batman, and Captain Marvel, but I read anything I could get my hands on. Even Archie.


  6. Joe – Back in 1950s Scotland, my comics didn’t have what you’d name as superheroes because mine were the girly ones. My older sister, on the other hand, only got the ‘boy’ comics which I read when she was finished with them. Superman didn’t feature in the DC Thomson comics. Desperate Dan and characters like him were the larger than life heroes and most of those existed to do ‘good’. Yet, in contrast, there were the pages where the characters were the ‘baddies’ and it’ s probably no surprise that I can’t remember their names because I probably skipped those pages. 😉


  7. I’m a DC guy too. As a kid I would only get a few comic books a year and I’d read what I could at the grocery store while my mom was shopping. Marvel always had characters arguing among themselves instead of pursuing the bad guys and often they would make references to past comic books. DC was more straight ahead. Batman (my favorite) or Superman had a job to do and they needed to complete it by the last pages of the comic. Sometimes they would be 2 or 3 part series. Now I think everything is about long arcs through several issues. It might be one of the reasons I like short stories so much.


    1. Yes, now the only way to read comics is to wait until they’re compiled into one giant graphic novel and read it straight through. Luckily, my best friend buys them so I don’t have to. 🙂


  8. I think there is a little bit of superhero in all of us. Some of us use our super powers to help pets, the environment or children. Others use their super powers to educate or help the sick.


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