Friday, November 28, 2014

Secret Identity: My True-Life Adventure as a Superhero by John Phythyon

Secret Identity: My True-Life Adventure as a Superhero by John Phythyon
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Superheroic hijinks!
What happens when an eight-year-old boy decides he wants to be a superhero like the ones he sees on TV? Hilarity!

John Phythyon was not an ordinary kid. Growing up in De Pere, Wisconsin in the 1970's, he was obsessed with superheroes and adventure. And after reading Alvin Fernald, Superweasel by Clifford B. Hicks in third grade, he was certain he too could become a caped crusader.

In this sidesplitting mini-memoir, the author of The Sword and the Sorcerer (, Beauty & the Beast: A Modern Fairy Tale (, and the Wolf Dasher series explains his childhood obsession with masked defenders of All That Is Good and True and how he was determined to sneak out of the house one October night in 1976 to join their ranks.


Every child understands there is one defining characteristic of a superhero. We know he or she should be brave and strong, have either cool powers or nifty gadgets, and generally be out there defending All That Is Good and True. But that’s secondary.
To be a superhero, first and foremost, you need a costume.
A costume is the very foundation of everything about the individual hero. You know it’s Batman, because he looks like a bat. Wonder Woman was fighting for the U.S. in World War II, so, despite being an Amazon, she wears a gold American eagle on her chest and white stars on a blue field on her, um, “pants.” Spider-Man has webs and spiders on his costume.
You can’t just go out into the world and say, “I’m Hero Man!” You have to have a costume that clearly identifies you as a masked defender of All That Is Good and True. And your costume should be evocative of your superhero name.
Moreover, the costume is the superhero’s most important asset. The costume protects his or her real identity. By donning a mask and a garish suit, you hide your true face from the world.
That’s important so that enemies can’t hurt the people you love or track you down at your day job. When the Green Goblin found out Peter Parker was Spider-Man, he kidnapped Gwen Stacey and killed her! Lois Lane gets into gobs of trouble on her own. Imagine what would happen if Lex Luthor knew Superman was really Clark Kent! A secret identity is critical to superheroing success.
It’s also really important if you’re an eight-year-old kid planning to sneak out after bedtime to fulfill your superheroic dreams. If anyone knew who I really was, they might tell my parents!
So I needed a secret identity – a superhero alias. My health and safety depended on it. And that meant I needed a costume.
I also needed anonymity, and that meant no one could be involved in the creation of my costume and the secret identity it afforded.
Well, no one except my brother Dave. A secret this delicious, a plan this awesome, could not be kept all to myself. I had to tell Dave what I was doing. After all, someone had to appreciate it!
Unfortunately, Dave lacked my vision. He saw few opportunities for eight-year-olds to be superheroes. I was utterly disappointed. Despite being only seven years old, he had the sad, worldly skepticism of a grown-up. It was tragic, really.
Of course, he also understood the life-threatening danger of getting caught sneaking out of the house. That was really why I needed him. I was looking for insight into how to escape both the house and the certain doom that would accompany being discovered out of bed. I was looking to hire an accomplice, who could cover for me.
Dave was disinterested. He too harbored a mad passion for superheroes, but he had no desire to boldly put himself at risk to enable me to fight the forces of darkness.
But I was undeterred. I would become a champion of All That Is Good and True just like Alvin Fernald had, whether I had Dave’s assistance or not. Just let him wait. He was going to be insanely jealous when his big brother was making headlines as the world’s first superhero, and he had missed his opportunity to get in on the ground floor.

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