In keeping with my grandson’s embrace of gender neutrality, I have recently been advised that I am Batman, and his daddy will henceforth be known as Wonder Woman.
He has also decreed that his aunt is Wonder Girl and granddad is Captain Canada, just to balance things out. Ollie himself has already assumed the mantle (or web) of Spider-Man, and takes umbrage at being addressed by his given name. He spends a lot of time employing web-shooters and making venomous hissing noises in the general direction of anyone who crosses his path or attempts to separate him from his cookie.
I first became aware of Ollie’s deep fascination with superheroes in general, and Spider-Man in particular, when he announced with a crestfallen sigh, “I’m sad because I don’t have radioactive blood.”
For those, like me, who are completely out of the know, radioactive blood has coursed through Spider-Man’s veins ever since he was bitten by an arachnid whose venom contained the substance, giving him superhuman strength, the ability to crawl up walls and incredible healing powers.
Batman, on the other hand, or so Wikipedia informs me, does not possess any super powers but relies instead on his ‘genius intellect’ to keep him at the top of the caped crusader game, much as the Tangerine Troglodyte uses his ‘stable genius’ to cling to the US presidency.
But how could I resist my new identity, given its lack of requirement for excessive physical activity? And who wants to be able to scale walls or leap tall buildings in a single bound, when they could be adding to their academic acumen by reading Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk or binge-watching Dark on Netflix?
On a recent cold and gloomy day, I took Ollie to the library in search of a book on his beloved alter-ego. There wasn’t much in his age range, but the librarian unearthed an oversized tome containing a massive collection of glossy illustrations of our superhero and his mind-boggling collection of evil enemies, including the Vulture, Doctor Doom and Mysterio.
The exhaustively in-depth details of Spidey’s life and struggles contained therein led me to momentarily long for the turgid tales of Paw Patrol, which have the considerable advantage of being mercifully short. The writing is pedestrian at best, the plots are more or less interchangeable and one of the token female characters is unforgivably pink, but they are a much quicker read and do not lead to existential questions of good and evil or the advisability of wearing Lycra unless you are really svelte and toned.
Having been brought up in the UK, the comics of my youth were less concerned with the coming apocalypse and more focused on humour and a sense of the ridiculous. They featured characters like Desperate Dan, the world’s strongest man, able to lift a cow with one hand, and Lord Snooty and His Pals, whose protagonist was a very posh and nattily dressed schoolboy called Lord Marmaduke of Bunkerton.
Desperate Dan, in contrast, looked like an unmade bed and sported several days worth of stubble on his large chin, putting me in mind of President Trump’s nemesis*, Steve Bannon, without the latter’s determination to wreak havoc on democracy.
As my very own Spidey would say, “With great power comes great responsibility. Can I have another cookie?”
*By the time you read this, Sloppy Steve may well have morphed into a great guy, a tremendous friend, best guy ever.