When I was a kid my favourite hero was by far Wolverine. Incited by my love of the excellent X-Men Animated Series, I began to adopt his persona at any playtime possible. Was there a situation in which my character could have large claws? Opportunity taken. I remember a flash card exercise in which one of the pairs involved a polar bear with big claws. The rules of the game were warped to make finding the polar bear into a significant points advantage. Would I find excuses to throw out the word “bub” unnecessarily? For sure. I remember seeing Wolverine sit down on a chair after turning it backwards, legs to either side of the chair’s back. For more time than was logical afterwards I attempted to sit this way in class whenever a teacher would give me leeway to do so. Far from being practical, it meant I had to raise my arms up over the back of the chair in order to write. It didn’t facilitate learning, but you wouldn’t believe how cool I looked in my own eyes.
In that way, Wolverine was giving me something I found lacking in myself. When I think about it, isn’t that what most of our heroes do for us? We discover our heroes through seeing those traits we perceive as admirable, things we aspire to. We see people conducting themselves as we would seek to emulate and place them on a pedestal for it. That we often fall for the idea of what that person represents rather than the human behind the heroics gets left by the wayside and we’re left with simple idolatry. Nuances be damned, we want a paragon of virtue, someone to entice us to becoming our better selves.
As a child, what was it I saw in Wolverine? He was strong and had no problem subduing his enemies. As a fat kid facing pervasive bullying, the notion of solving my problems succinctly through violence seemed perfect. Never mind my timid nature and fear of hurting others (I mean, being big meant a lot more weight to throw around, literally. Falling or stepping on someone actually could hurt someone), any simple solution held a sharp appeal thanks to Occam’s Razor. If Wolverine did get hurt, he’d heal at a moment’s notice. Though physically doughy, I had a fragile temperament. Imagine being able to instantly make it better. Imagine being able to shrug off anything with ease. A quality I admired for sure. Lastly, the attitude. I wasn’t cool. Wolverine was though. No different from anyone else in this world, I just wanted to be liked, admired. I wanted people to look up to me as someone they respected. I was a friendly kid, I had a ton of buddies. Not the same as having people think you’re something special. We all want to excel and be that hero for someone else.
I didn’t. Not right away anyhow. I developed a thick skin (which might as well’ve been an adamantium skeleton) and endured those taunts. I grew bigger, stronger and more self assured. Those jibes started to fall away. I don’t know that I ever really attained a “coolness”, but I found that being friendly and having people around me who wanted to be there was practically the same thing. Despite my wishes, I never became Wolverine. That being said, I think the person I’ve become would easily be a hero to my 6 year old self. How is that not heroic?