owned countless comic books growing up. Naturally, I can’t find any of them now, but even if I did, the covers would be torn or the pages would be dog-eared. Sure, I read the actual stories in those books, but to me the best part of comics was the back covers. I was fascinated with the spy gadgets and trinkets you could buy. Sure, they turned out to be worthless pieces of plastic. But the joy was in the anticipation that I, too, could see through walls (I couldn’t.) Or that I, too, could have superhuman hearing (I didn’t).
Those ads sold kids my age on the idea of being extraordinary. They sold us on being able to have a gadget or a tool to make us into a superhero. How amazing would it be if you could have x-ray vision to see the answers on a test sitting 50 feet away on the teacher’s desk? What wonderful events could come upon you if you had a 25 in 1 tool that could get you into any locked door or out of any jam? Batman has his utility belt. I would have my own filled with gadgets to make me superhuman.
At a certain age, you learn that those gadgets don’t really exist. At a certain age, you start to recognize that there are no superheroes at all. Nobody can fly. There isn’t anyone to dawn a latex catsuit and prowl into the night to thwart crime. That’s just one of the lessons you learn on your road to adulthood.
And yet, the genre of the superhero has never been more popular. I watch countless hours of CW shows featuring Supergirl and The Flash. And then I watch The Avengers movies when those shows aren’t on. These properties have led to a resurgence of the actual comic books being sold. Shows like The Big Bang Theory have led to a rise of the geek — someone who is infatuated with comics and heroes.
This week was hard for geeks like us. We lost The Black Panther. Chadwick Boseman. He died at age 43 of colon cancer. Boseman transcended the movies appearing as both the ruler of Wakanda, a hidden African nation, and also as the Black Panther – a superhero with super strength and incredible technology.
I love the Black Panther movie.
In the outpouring of emotion after Boseman’s death, you learned that he had been battling colon cancer for four years, which stretched into the development of many of the movies he appeared in. He would get treatment, then be back on set to film scenes – often on the same day. He never once alluded to his illness. He never once showed signs of sickness publicly. There are millions of people like Chadwick Boseman. There are zero people like The Black Panther. Yet, we spend our money on an idealistic superhero that doesn’t exist, and ignore those around us going through struggles while maintaining their poise and grace.
The Black Panther wasn’t the superhero we needed to make stories out of. Wakanda wasn’t the hometown of that superhero. Chadwick Boseman was the superhero all along.
Rest in power, King.
(Chris Kamler can be your superhero on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed)