Fast forward to now, when all those little heroes are grown.
How many of us are those heroes we dreamt of being?
I'm certainly not. Granted, that's mostly because I'm not an elf and orcs aren't real, but I digress.
Because here's the thing, heroism is hard.
That sounds stupidly flippant to say, but if it was easy, we'd all be doing it. There wouldn't be stories, fictional or otherwise, about remarkable people who stood bravely against overwhelming odds.
Heroes are remarkable both in (good) fiction and real life because they stand up, despite how fucking hard it is. These are the men and women who stand for something and are willing to put everything they have on the line to defend it, defend us.
Part of the reason superhero comics never really captured my attention is because the heroes were not ordinary folk. By some accident or experiment, they're made remarkable, putting them in a position of having to do the work to save the world.
Though these stories are surface-level enjoyable, I quickly get bored with it.
Far more interesting by far are ordinary people, those without superpowers granted to them by an irradiated spider bite, irradiated lab accident, or irradiated super-serum. The ordinary folk who stand up to be counted when other ordinary folk can only shrink back and hide. These stories are fascinating, remarkable and inspiring.
In real life, this would be something like The White Rose, the intellectual, non-violent German student group that worked against the Nazis. They were discovered, and Sophie Scholl, who refused to renounce the other members of her group, and her brother Hans, were convicted of high treason and executed by guillotine. These people were fucking heroes, standing up to evil right until their last. Hans shouted, "Long live Freedom" as the blade of the guillotine dropped. They were ordinary folk - just students and one professor - who stood up to be counted when it seemed the rest of the country shrank away and hid.
(Seriously, though, you can read about the White Rose resistance group here. It's wikipedia, so not a peer-reviewed source, but it does provide a bibliography for further reading. I cried reading about Sophie Scholl.)
We need heroes like the members of the White Rose today, it seems. But that is a different post for a different day.
Perhaps because I know I can never be a superhero, I prefer to read about the heroes ordinary people become when it comes to my fiction. The broken soul who has finally had enough, and stands up in the face of evil. The shy girl who cannot let hatred stand and moves to protect her fellows. It is the military man who refuses to carry out an unjust order, despite how it might affect him.
For that reason, the old German man who refused to kneel before Loki in The Avengers was more of a hero to me than most of the Avengers. The Kid in the movie Doom who refused his superior's order to execute innocent people and was, as a result, shot and killed by same superior, was more of a hero to me than the actual hero (sorry, Karl Urban. You're still pretty heroic in the movie, though).
When writing my heroes, they are often just regular people. I don't really write superheroes. They're not interesting enough. They're super-powered. Of COURSE they're going to be able to do extraordinary things. By far more interesting are those who aren't super-powered. It is so much more intense and gratifying and inspirational when those people do extraordinary things. They had no extra help. It was just them, the strength of their convictions, and a remarkable amount of courage and gumption.
They convey to me that perhaps the child in the yard pretending to be an elf warrior-queen might have been onto something. Fiction about heroes that aren't super inspire me to find that spark in myself. They help me stand up. They help me find my courage.
Because I will never be super, but there is the possibility, as conveyed by fiction, and proof, as conveyed by actual history, that someone as ordinary as me can one day be a hero.