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Monday, October 11, 2004

Heroes just for one day

"Who are you?"

"A friend."

-Lois Lane and Superman

It's no exaggeration to say that my life would be very different if not for Christopher Reeve. If nothing else I could save the few dollars that comes out of my pocket for my weekly tithe to DC Comics, but there's really nothing else I'd rather be spending that money on. My friend Tom Schorsch watched an airplane piloted by maniacs crash into a building full of people on live television a few years ago. I was asleep at the time myself, for which I've always felt guilty. He tells me that he dropped to his knees and, like the President did in Superman II and cried out "Superman, Superman where are you?" He never came of course, but others did. That's the point. A lot of people don't get Superman, they think he's an outdated, boring archetype. They think the message of the character is that might makes right, but that's not it, the message is that no matter how strong you are, no matter what gifts you've been given, it's all secondary to your obligation to serve humanity, to put others above yourself. He had the power to take anything he wanted, but he chose to give instead. Superman's not motivated by revenge like Batman, or guilt, like Spider-Man, he does the right thing because it's the right thing and it's that simple. Christopher Reeve was the incarnation of that message, onstage and off.

Mike Royko wrote a great column after John Wayne died, even though he disagreed a lot with Wayne's politics, he loved the Duke because he thought that everyone who ever jumped into the lake to save a drowning person, everyone who ever ran into a burning building to help those inside, everyone who ever pursued justice in their everyday lives regardless of the personal costs was a John Wayne fan. I think they're Superman fans too.

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