Why Superheroes? By Samantha Bryant
I love superhero stories. Some of the stories that linger best in the deepest heart of me came to me from comic books or movies, and feature people wearing capes and underwear over their pants. From the Wonder Twins to Mighty Mouse, Wonder Woman to The Greatest American Hero, Superman to Wolverine. In fact, my love of superhero stories is so much a part of me that I no longer question it at all.
So, it’s a surprise to me when I run across other people who aren’t as steeped in the whole superhero thing. Even now, in the age of Marvel movie blockbusters, there are still people who don’t get the appeal of these stories. In fact, when Going Through the Change came out last spring, one of the questions I got the most from family and old friends was “Why superheroes?” As if they’d have understood my writing about gerbils or helicopters or the history of bananas, but superheroes?
I get it at author events, too. Not so much at genre cons, where superhero fans are everywhere, but at book fairs or panels at the library, where the readership is a little more diverse. Generally, readers walk by the tables, keeping their eyes low, on the covers of the displayed books and not meeting the eyes of the authors behind them. I get that. You can’t buy all the books, and you don’t want to end up feeling obligated because you interacted with the person.
My cover is pretty eye-catching (thanks to Polina Sapershteyn, the graphic designer). Between the bright yellow that dominates the cover and the fun feeling of the art, most people at least rest their eyes there for a moment when they’re cruising. Then they read the title. Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel. That usually rates a look of surprise, either followed by a wrinkled nose (some people have an automatic “gross” reaction over the word menopause) or a glance at me to see who might have written such a thing. Then comes the question: “So, superheroes, huh? Why superheroes?”
The first few times, the question really threw me. It never occurred to me that I’d need to explain why I chose to write about superheroes. It seems obvious to me: because they’re awesome!
That’s not really much of a response though. It’s like explaining coffee to someone who has never had any: you have to explain what makes it so good. So, over time, I’ve figured out how to better articulate my answer.
- Because sometimes, you need a big canvas to explore a small thing on.
- Because superpowers are my favorite kind of wish fulfillment. Don’t we all want to be heroic?
- Because heroic characters take action when most of us would be frozen by indecision. They might be wrong, but they are decisive.
- Because it’s easier to write about painful and complicated issues of society and relationships when we think we’re just playing.
- Because the single most fascinating question I’ve ever asked myself is: What if?
Samantha Bryant believes in love, magic, and unexplainable connections between people. Her favorite things are lonely beaches, untamed cliff tops, sunlight through the leaves of trees, summer rains, and children’s laughter. She has lived in many places, including rural Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, Vermont, England and Spain. She is fierce at heart, though she doesn’t look it.
She’s a fan of Charlotte Brontë, William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Neil Gaiman, Nicole Perlman, and Joss Whedon, among many others. She would like to be Amy Tan when she grows up, but so far it doesn’t look like she’ll be growing up any time soon.
Samantha writes blogs, poems, essays, and novels. Mostly she writes about things that scare or worry her. It’s cheaper than therapy. Someday, she hopes to make her living solely as a writer. In the meantime, she also teaches middle school Spanish, which, admittedly, is an odd choice for money-earning, especially in North Carolina.
When she’s not writing or teaching, Samantha enjoys time with her family, watching old movies, baking, reading, and going places. Her favorite gift is tickets (to just about anything).