we hit a creative nerve on Monday with our themes of heaven, transformation, resurrection — and the high hopes that superheroes set for many of us.
After reading that story and viewing the videos, Emails from readers kept dropping into my “inbox” throughout the day.
“I love what the rabbi said in your story today … We all should work harder to bring a little heaven here to earth. That’s better than dreaming of, what does the song say? Pie in the sky someday,” Leah Wills wrote from Chicago. “I wish I had super powers to use around here.”
Then, the Rev. Tim Ziegler, a young pastor, emailed me to say that Iron Man was his comic book hero when Tim was a boy growing up in Ohio. Now, as an adult, he’s intrigued by the spiritual issues revolving around a guy like Iron Man (and we’ll have more on that later this week, by the way). He wrote, “You’re absolutely correct in seeing how Tony Stark
now knows all too well the ills that go along with technology when it’s
usurped in the wrong hands. Or, how it can get out of control. Or,
how we 21st-Century folk might become workers/slaves of the technology
rather than controllers of it.
“I’m trying to line up a babysitter so I can be in a movie theater seat on opening night.”
We said that this convergence of themes is a “preachable and teachable moment.” And, tomorrow — Wednesday — we turn to a very serious side of this issue: A Conversation With the best-selling British author N.T. Wright about his important new book about heaven, resurrection and the future of faith. Come back tomorrow to hear from Bishop Wright.
But right now, let’s tackle The Return of the Popular Tuesday Quiz!
In keeping with this week’s theme, we’re looking at Superhero Origins.
At first glance, you may wonder how this relates to our overall theme — which is more about where we’re heading, than where we started. But, in fact, origins are important parts of the spiritual glue holding these themes together.
If you wonder how seriously Americans regard superheroes — all you have to do is look at the May issue of Popular Science. That’s the brand-new May cover, shown above. Inside the issue is an amazing 14-page special report on how scientists are developing technology to give humans super powers. Not only that, but some of this technology may help disabled people. Paraplegic men and women actually may walk again with super-powered devices strapped around their legs.
Origins are important to all of us. We all want to know where new powers may arise in our lives.
Kurt Kolka, the creator of The Cardinal, a series of Christian-themed comics, was among many readers I talked with on Monday. Right now, Kolka is publishing online a brand-new version of the Cardinal’s origin narrative. Click on that link to read this week’s chapter in the Cardinal saga. And return to that site every Sunday for a new chapter. Kurt says the Cardinal’s origins story is likely to unfold over a period of months. This particular superhero is a fascinating, college-age, ecumenical superhero, trying to figure out his life’s vocation.
So, What Do You Know about Popular Superhero Origins?
Take the following 10-question quiz, then — in the online version of this story — click on the link at the end of the questions to reveal the answers.
1.) Batman’s back in movie theaters on July 18, battling the evil Joker. We all know that the butler Alfred played a major role in raising the young millionaire Bruce Wayne, who transforms himself into Batman. But why did Wayne become this “Dark Knight”?
A. He’s sensitive to sunlight, because of a genetic disorder that killed his parents.
B. The Riddler trapped his parents for years in a medieval house of horrors on a remote island.
C. His parents were murdered by criminals after a night at a theater.
2.) Comic book superheroes borrow liberally from religious traditions. DC Comics says that Captain Marvel possesses the wisdom of Solomon, the power of Zeus and the courage of Achilles. But this mighty figure is actually an orphaned teenager, who utters something that transforms him into the heroic captain. What does he shout?
A. Great Caesar’s ghost!
C. It’s clobberin’ time!
3.) Another superhero torn right out of the pages of world mythology is Wonder Woman, who is an exotic intersection of Olympian gods and the Amazons. There’s also an element in Wonder Woman’s origin that echoes the Bible. What is it?
A. Eve is tempted by a serpent and, as a toddler, Wonder Woman must defeat a snake to survive into adulthood.
B. The naming of animals is a key part of the Eden story, and Wonder Woman knows secret primeval names of animals that allows her to control them.
C. Genesis says God made humans from the dust of the earth, and Wonder Woman started as a baby made of clay.
4.) The Flash got his high-speed superpowers from a bizarre chemical accident, but there’s something quite unusual about the Flash’s origins. What?
A. Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he can turn on and off his power with a dose of the original chemical reaction.
B. The Flash powers move through various humans across the centuries.
C. Flash discovered that he really was born on the star Alpha Centauri — and the chemical accident unlocked his star-born powers.
5.) The Incredible Hulk showed up in comic books in 1962 and returns to movie theaters in a new incarnation on June 13. We know he’s Dr. Bruce Banner, a brilliant but troubled scientist. So, what happened to turn the scientist into a green titan?
A. He was exposed to gamma rays while working on a G-Bomb.
B. He drank toxic waste, slipped into his lab’s water cooler by Doctor Doom.
C. He was doused in chemicals while held captive by communist Chinese forces.
6.) Aquaman is one of the oldest superheroes, debuting in 1941 — and still going strong 67 years later. Of course, he’s an ocean-based superhero and ecological concerns now are far more pressing than they were when he first showed up in a series called More Fun Comics. Which is true about this king of the sea?
A. He is an Atlantean, abandoned as a child and raised by dolphins.
B. He is a scientist, locked too long in an isolation chamber that was flooded with nuclear waste.
C. He is a southern California surfer, bathed in an exotic chemical that leaked from a ship.
7.) Over the years, Spider-Man’s origins have been muddied up by speculative storylines, but the basic story that was sufficient for readers from his debut in 1962 was:
A. He was part of a NASA experiment and swallowed a spider that had hitchhiked on an intergalactic space probe.
B. He was spun in a web one night by a huge spider escaped from a lab next door.
C. He was bitten by a radioactive spider.
8.) Ben Grimm has emerged as one of the most famous Jewish superheroes in popular comics and movies today. That’s a remarkable development in a creative profession that was shaped for decades by Jewish artists and writers who excluded specific references to organized religion from their storylines. But, it wasn’t Judaism that gave Ben Grimm his world-famous orange color or his super-human strength. Where did that originate?
A. He fell into a volcano where scientists were testing new weapons.
B. He flew into outer space and was bombarded by radiation.
C. He was repairing a nuclear reactor when someone flipped the main switch too early.
9.) We all know Superman is an orphan of the planet Krypton that blew up — but not before Superman’s Dad, Marlon Brando … er, sorry, we mean Kal-El (who once was played by Marlon Brando) rocketed the infant to great fame in Hollywood. However, the big guy’s roots have haunted him all the days of his life, because about the only thing that can kill him are stray chunks of his home planet. This lethal Kryptonite is famously colored:
10.) Batman’s sidekick Robin turned out to be a smooth fit in the ol’ Bat Cave. Why?
A. His parents were killed by bad guys, too. Plus, they were circus acrobats so Robin grew up knowing all the fancy moves needed to fight crime.
B. He almost lost his life due to a genetic order, as well. Plus, after Bruce Wayne found scientists to save his life, a side effect was that Robin had nocturnal “bat” senses.
C. Before he was Bruce Wayne’s ward, he was the Riddler’s young assistant. Plus, when he finally saw the error of his ways, he was the one who risked his life to free Wayne’s long-imprisoned parents.
Think you’ve got all the answers?
In the online version of this story, click on the link below to find the answers!
Here are the answers!
1.) C. Bruce Wayne understood the depths of evil from an early, impressionable age — a trauma that transformed his life into a search for justice.
2.) B. However, the others are famous comic cries, as well. “Great Caesar’s Ghost!” is the favorite exclamation of Perry White, the newspaper editor in Superman comics. “It’s clobberin’ time!” is the trademark battle cry of Ben Grimm, the Thing in the Fantastic Four.
3.) C. She turned out pretty well for having started as an Arts ‘n’ Crafts project. Wonder Woman was fashioned of clay and the gods brought her to life.
4.) B. This is a pretty cool mythological idea — with lots of potential spiritual issues one could explore. The Flash’s powers do move through the centuries to various people. There have been at least three major Flashes since this collection of super-speed heroes first showed up in comics in 1940. (Another similar multi-generational superhero is Green Lantern, part of a cosmic police force.)
5.) A. Gamma rays! And, eventually, Bruce Banner learned to use gamma rays to switch himself back and forth.
6.) A. Aquaman is a royal figure, according to DC Comics version of mythology, but was abandoned and grew up healthy thanks to a family of dolphins.
7.) C. And, believe it or not: At the time, Peter Parker was a student visiting a science exhibition! Parents, take note next time there’s a science-class field trip!
8.) B. His buddy Reed Richards had this great idea for a new outer-space vehicle and Grimm agreed to help test it — along with Susan and Johnny Storm who also are part of the Fantastic Four.
9.) C. Kryptonite is green.
10.) A. Dick Grayson’s parents refused to submit to organized crime. It wasn’t hard to kill them, since they regularly performed risky feats on a circus high wire.
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