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Jack Miller’s Mid-Missouri Memories: My Time As a Superhero

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As a boy, I went through a hero worship stage just like all children do. I wanted to be a fireman every time I saw that big fire engine go by, and I wanted to be a policeman when a black and white passed the house with its siren screaming. I also pictured myself as a Cowboy with the big hat, or an Indian galloping after a buffalo herd as I watched them streak across the movie screen. But I also wanted to be a superhero like the ones in the comic books.

I was drawn to those heroes with great costumes and a cape, and I wore out many of mom’s towel as a boy by tying them around my neck and running fast enough to keep them flapping behind me. Superman and Batman inhabited my daydreams, as well as my dreams at night back then. In my imagination, I could outrun a locomotive and jump over my house with ease. I also saw my skinny arms grow to tree trunk thickness when I raised imaginary cars and trucks above my head to toss at the bad guys who lived all around my yard in those days.

There were a lot of other super-strong comic book heroes in the 40s, 50s and 60s, and just as many anti-heroes that had super powers too. That, of course, was necessary so the superheroes could rescue the ordinary people, who most of the time was the beautiful woman they were secretly in love with. Getting too mushy was always a no-no for the hero though, and the editors of those comic books knew their main audience was little boys who would not put up with such nonsense. The superhero had to have a real vulnerability too, like superman’s kryptonite, which made him weak when he came close to it. We knew however, that sooner or later his strength would return, and he would beat the bad guys.

There was an also family of superheroes called the Marvel Family that got their power from a word. They were ordinary people until they said the word “Shazam,” then they became super strong. I used to yell myself hoarse trying to change into a superhero, but for some reason, it never worked.

There was one thing all those superheroes had in common back then: they were honest, trustworthy and loved this country with all their hearts. Today, many of our heroes leave us wondering what they love and what they believe in. Those of us who grew up in the pre-60s era may have been spoiled by the heroes of the day, but I believe those real heroes are still out there, and I am just waiting for them to yell “Shazam.”

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