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Raised by Super Heroes

A tale of overcoming abuse and finding family in the work of Stan Lee.

That metallic copper taste hits me first, as my eyes open. I’m nauseated, everything hurts, but I manage to get up for a body scan.

What the fuck just happened?

Memory fails. Status check, all systems are fucked. Internal integrity stands firm minus the broken nose. After a few breaths, I manage to get up to see my mom standing at the doorway, eyes puffed and raw around the edges.

“Dad is outside, he wants to talk to you.” Her hands shake.

Here we go. Either I face more of what I just experienced, or I get a talk. Depends on how angry he still is, we’ll find out.

Limping my way to the back yard, I wobbled, swaying side to side, a helpless mariner on a vessel ravaged by a storm. As I step outside, the nicotine hits my senses with a sharp, but sweet aroma. There he is, staring out in the yard with a beer in his hand. He doesn’t even look at me.

“I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. I promise.” He still doesn’t look at me.

But it did happen again. It wasn’t always physical. The psychological and verbal attacks were served up daily. This left me isolated; I was desperate for another home, another family. That’s when Professor Charles Xavier wheeled into my life one Saturday morning and gave me a place in his school.

Each Saturday brought new challenges to face, new enemies to defeat, a chance for me to defeat evil, for once. At home, well, you already know. School was no different for this little brown boy. If I wasn’t being picked on, I was feeling like an outcast because other people’s home and personal lives were nothing like mine, completely alien. Ashamed, that’s a good word for it; ashamed at every corner.

Fortunately, thanks to Professor X, being an outcast became less shameful and, eventually, a reason for hope. Each episode dealt with concepts beyond my understanding at the time. But without even knowing, I learned how to deal with racism, sexism, hard upbringings, abandonment, social justice, humanity as a whole, even PTSD.

Wolverine is the epitome of going through traumatic experiences that result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He demonstrates the loss of memory, hostility, mistrust, hypervigilance, social isolation, and self-destructive behavior that characterize PTSD. Without even knowing why, I was drawn to Wolverine. How could I not be? The gaps in memory, the fits of rage, and the self-destructive behavior, we had a lot in common.

Ten-year-old Alex didn’t fully grasp this at the time, but the relationship between Professor X and Logan (Wolverine) would be my salvation. Professor X ultimately helps Logan piece his memories together. Upon remembering, Logan goes into full berserk mode; he was triggered recalling the pain and agony of being injected with Adamantium from the Weapon X project. That injection caused so much pain his brain had to override and shut down so he wouldn’t remember, essentially blocking out the experience. Imagine experiencing pain so intense that it triggers a mental circuit to break for the sake of self-preservation; not even his regenerative powers were able to override the trauma and repair his memory loss.

This sounds oddly familiar to this brown boy. It took a humanitarian like Charles Xavier to help Logan work through his past and resolve the conflicts which enabled his trauma. As a kid, that gave me hope that I’d come across my very own Professor X, a mentor to guide and train me. More so, it gave me hope that I could rise above my past circumstances and come out stronger, better. That’s just one example of how the Marvel Universe helped mold who I am; there are many.

From morals and core values to the importance of social justice, the Marvel Universe has more to offer viewers than most believe. Sure, you’ll get whimsical stories involving powerful beings with fantastical powers that bend the laws of physics, classic good vs. evil wrapped in an otherworldly story. But look beyond that. Every Marvel hero deals with very human issues such as mental health struggles. As a result, no matter what your lived experience, there is a character I guarantee will comfort and appeal to you.

Without Professor X’s and Logan’s guidance, I could have grown into a calloused, cruel individual. I found my moral compass, my mentors, my bible. Therein lies the true value of Stan Lee’s creation.

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