Spandex in the City: They say you can never go home againâ€¦
Although we may be superheroes, and we may travel far from home, and far from whatever humble or grand beginnings we may haveâ€¦ we never really escape where we came from.
Some of us are haunted by where we came from, and some of us take strength in it.
Last week, Dr. Silverback asked me to help him with some experiments using my energy powers on the Qularr technology on Monster Island. So of course I said Iâ€™d be delighted, and Ironclad agreed to fly us on the V-Jet.
Now, Iâ€™d never been to Monster Island before. Just so you understand how excited I was, think of Monster Island as the superheroâ€™s version of Hawaii.Â Youâ€™ve got volcanoes! And pina coladas, and cabana boys (admittedly, those cabana boys are manimals and therefore slightly unusual, but still â€“ cabana boys!).Youâ€™ve got sultry jungles to wander through, and beautiful wildlife, and dangerous radioactive dinosaurs! Itâ€™s just so fun!
What surprised me, though, was how quiet Dr. Silverback was on the flight. Now, heâ€™s not a chatterer like me. But he usually talks. He was so quiet, he made Ironclad sound outgoing! He just stared out a window, and smiled occasionally when I said something.
â€œWhatâ€™s with him?â€ I whispered to Ironclad.
â€œHeâ€™s always quiet when I fly him to Monster Island,â€ Ironclad told me. â€œItâ€™s his home. For him, it holds dark memories, as well as dear ones. He served Dr. Moreau here, and did great harm. He also turned against Moreau, here, and freed the other manimals.â€
I nodded. Everyone knew that story.
â€œThat kind of past will leave a mark on you.â€
I guess it should have been obvious. But I hadnâ€™t ever really thought about it that way. To me, Dr. Silverback has always been this incredibly smart, charming scientist. Heâ€™s been a superhero since before I was born. In fact, heâ€™s part of what defines being a superhero in my head. Heâ€™s someone who works crazy hours, dedicated to helping people. And heâ€™s funny and interesting. He gives great interviews and makes people feel good about superheroes. Iâ€™d never thought about how his past might haunt him.
But it does. In my eyes, and probably the eyes of the rest of the world, heâ€™s more than made up for his time with Moreau. Heâ€™s saved so many lives directly, and so many thousands â€“ or millions â€“ more with his inventions and with the help he gives to other superheroes. But watching him on the island, seeing the way he was so gentle with the manimals still on the island, and the way he would listen to them no matter what else was going on, I began to realize that he hasnâ€™t forgiven himself for that time. Â He still feels responsible for the other manimals. In a very real sense, I think heâ€™s trying to make the rest of the world safe so that they can be a part of it.
It got me thinking about where I come from. I grew up just off Figueroa in LA. I donâ€™t know if youâ€™re familiar with that area, but itâ€™s not glitz and glamour. Itâ€™s all about hard work, and making ends meet, and fighting with your sisters, and slaving in a hot kitchen with your mother when youâ€™d rather be outside. Itâ€™s climbing a rusty old jungle gym in a park the size of a postage stamp, and scraping your knees, and singing to your baby brother to try to get him to sleep. And itâ€™s watching your parents work from dawn until dusk to keep you fed and a roof over your head. And maybe I canâ€™t see all the ways that history makes me who I am, but Iâ€™m pretty sure that it shapes me. I look at my singing, and I look at how hard I work as a superhero, and I look at my friendships with Mayte and Witchcraft, and I can see how all of those things grow out of who I was when I was a kid. I want to protect other kids, like me. I take strength from those memories, and use that strength to keep me fighting.
And then thereâ€™s Ironclad, and I donâ€™t know all of his story. But I know that heâ€™s been through a lot, and that heâ€™s one of the most honorable people I know. You can tell, when you talk to him, that heâ€™s fought in a lot of hard battles, and lost so much. Being a superhero is part of what makes him whole. He fights to protect other people, and to make sure that they donâ€™t get hurt the way he did.
We all come from somewhere. We all have things that matter to us, that are important, and that drive us to be superheroes. We can never fully escape our pasts, but maybe thatâ€™s a good thing.