Friday, February 18, 2011

Hero


This morning was a good news/bad news kind of morning. The good news was that it was a sunny day, my housemate Coop was in the kitchen making his daughters laugh, I was excited to write a speech for Rik and Piper's 20th anniversary party tonight, I was looking forward to a trip to see my sister this weekend, and down in Texas, Lindsey was getting ready to show off to a book editor. To top it all off, the first "Chronicles of Narnia" movie was playing in the background... and somehow that segued right into the bad news...

As I sat at the table next to young Domina (who was, as usual, coloring very carefully within the lines) and started my morning news-surf on my computer, I ran right into the weird discovery that the man pictured here, one of the executive producers of the Narnia films, had died yesterday in New York City.

His name was Perry Moore and aside from nurturing the Chronicles into their onscreen  lives, he wrote a very good book a couple of years back. It's called "Hero" and it's a novel about superheroes. Now usually, such stories a better served by comics, occasionally they work as films, but to tackle that world in a novel is unusual.  But Moore created a deeply layered, resonant world of action and color and he populated it with very realistic characters. The Hero of the title is a second generation superhero, the son of a disgraced champion now living in hiding and shame. The last thing the father wants is a son to follow in his footsteps.

And did I mention that the Hero is gay?

It's a great story. I think Moore got away with telling it in a novel because it falls under the heading of young adult fiction (it's built around a young protagonist, so the publishers market it to that age group). But like the best cartoons and fairy tales, there's a story there for adults. How do you deal with a secret? How do you find someone to love? More importantly, how do you find someone you can trust to love you as you really are?

I think often we cheat ourselves by calling things "kid stuff" or "serious literature". Does it grip you and keep you reading to the very last page? Then I think it's a good book. I think I understood Ahab better by watching Ricardo Montalban in "Wrath of Khan" than I did after slogging through "Moby Dick". I can appreciate the mechanical skills of a writer for a paragraph or a chapter, but I want a story that grips me and moves me and speaks to me. There are lots of reasons people get stuck on comic books at an early age. Sometimes they speak to the heart of a damaged child living in chaotic circumstances who sees themselves as special. But that can't be all... They also speak to minds that wonder "What if..." or hearts that believe in ideals and visions of a better world. Will Eisner told stories about "The Spirit", a guy in a black mask and a red tie who fought crime, but he was also telling stories about people living stacked one on top of another in a crowded, dirty city and how they survived day to day with momentary pleasures and simple joys. James Robinson wrote about Jack Knight, "Starman", fighting bad guys in Art Deco-inspired Opal City. But the overall picture was of a son coming to grips with his place in a long family tradition, looking at where he came from, making peace with it and moving on into a life that is finally all his own.

I'm sorry that Perry Moore won't be around to tell us any more stories. I like the way he saw things and I was looking forward to what he had up his sleeve.  Pick up "Hero" if you get a chance.


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