I sometimes feel like I’m the only person in the world who still gets confused by all the different comic book heroes and movies. Which is better DC or Marvel? Batman or Spiderman? I decided to ask the only expert who knew: my son Ethan.
“Marvel sucks. DC comics are superior, man.” This was supposed to be a quick question, but I could already tell that this was going to be a long discussion.
“Batman is basically the best, most altruistic superhero there is. Spiderman is just a dumb kid. “
“Ethan you are just a kid, too. You’re only 12.”
But he was clearly on a roll. I sighed and rubbed the spot on my neck where earlier a knot had formed during a phone call with a coworker.
“Ok, I admit the Marvel movies have been better in recent years, but the DC comic books blow Marvel comic books clean out of the water!”
I looked at him, and he was on fire. This wasn’t silly to him. This was something he really thought about. Cared about. I suddenly wanted to hug him and touch his spiked hair.
I did hug him. Thank God he is mine. Thank God he is my boy.
He pulled away but not before squeezing me hard around my soft middle. He grabbed his cell phone and reclined on the couch again, a tangle of limbs that seemed suddenly long. It was like his bones had stretched far beyond their normal little boy length all in the time it took for him to rattle off why DC was superior to Marvel. I stood at the doorway and watched his eyes dart from cell phone to TV and back again. His one hand hung off the edge of the couch to pet the dog. Did Batman have a dog? I wondered. I knew Batman didn’t have a mother, and the thought made me melancholy.
He was changing so fast. It was overwhelming to see skin tighten over jawline and feet outgrow shoes at a rate that was beyond even the toddler years. His doctor had also noticed the rapid change. And something more, too. The pediatrician felt there was something just a little off with Ethan’s back. To him, Ethan’s spine seemed a bit “crooked.” He sent us to a scoliosis specialist.
The orthopedics office buzzed with efficiency and before long several nurses had measured and scanned and poked at his tender hips and sharp shoulder blades. The doctor walked in the examination room with a flourish and immediately started joking with his young patient like they were old buddies. He made my son walk back and forth, bend over, stand on one foot. He pulled up the x-rays on the computer and studied them for a long minute.
“He doesn’t have scoliosis. No, one leg is just longer than the other.” The doctor said all of this as he pointed to the black and white image on the screen. My child’s spine glowed liked a Halloween skeleton, and it made him seem at once vulnerable yet strong, grounded.
“See, his longer leg just tilts him to the side a bit so that he lists like a wobbly table.”
I thought about sugar packets then, about how people stuck them under shaky table legs to get them to stand straight and firm. Maybe if I fed him sugar from a spoon like a baby bird his shorter leg would catch up to the other. Maybe I could fix this.
“But it isn’t a big deal actually. Almost everyone is like this. He is unmistakably normal. Go have fun and play outside and be a kid. There is nothing wrong.” Nothing wrong.
I remembered that doctor’s visit while I watched his bare legs stretch across the couch. The fine blond hairs on his shin glowed a little in the blue TV light, and I imagined that the hair was baby soft like the down on a newly hatched robin.
By the time Bruce Wayne –the most famous of DC comic book heroes — was twelve, the age my son is now, he had been motherless for two years. When young Bruce was only ten, a criminal named Joe Chill accosted his family as they walked home from a screening of The Mark of Zorro. Chill killed Mr. and Mrs. Wayne leaving Bruce alone and traumatized. He had no mother to stroke his hair or take him to doctor appointments. She wasn’t there to witness him transform from little boy to adolescent to teenager to man.
Did Batman lean to one side when he was twelve? Does he lean to one side now? Does one of his clunky black boots have a small heel lift to help him stand straight as he fights crime and attempts to avenge the loss of his parents? These thoughts flood my mind all at once and I leave the room so Ethan won’t see my tears. I don’t want him to see me cry with nostalgia and love and grief over the loss of the Waynes. I want him to read his comic books (DC of course) and play with the dog and do his homework. I want him to stand tall and proud even if he does lean to one side.
Christine Green is a freelance writer in Brockport, NY. She also writes a Literary Arts column for Rochester’s 585 Magazine. Green hosts a monthly literary reading, Words on the Verge, at A Different Path Gallery. She grew up in San Jose, CA and holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in historical archaeology from the College of William and Mary. Green is a 2016 Pink Door Literary Fellow.