Let me paint a picture for you: It’s March of 2012. My sister, two cousins, and I are all sick. We’re lying on the concrete floor of the play-room in brightly colored sleeping bags with throw-up bowls next to us (gross, I know). My dad and uncle have just returned from the convenience store where they rented four new movies for us on RedBox. After some bickering, we decided on which movie to play first. We readjusted ourselves in the sleeping bags, fluffing the pillows and drinking tiny sips of water. The commercials played first. The screen was black as we heard the echoing voice of Loki, my sister gasped, images of New York being attacked faded in and out with small glimpses of characters we knew all too well. Then Nick Fury appeared on the screen and we knew what this trailer was for. My cousins jumped up, yelling for our uncle and dad to come quick and see. Someone grabbed the remote and rewound it. We watched and rewatched it three or four times. All of us jumping up and down, yelling, shaking each other in excitement. It was the first Avengers movie.
My love for Marvel began way before the first Avengers movie was released. I was about six or seven when I got my hands on my very first comic. I’d always been drawn to art, and I viewed comic books as another form of that. The drawings that seemed to move on the pages that were seamlessly interwoven into stories that ran issues long. How could I not become obsessed with it? There weren’t many women superheroes around back then. The only ones that could be found on the screen were Wonder Woman and Cat Woman – neither of which ever really drew my attention. Their stories were simple, one-dimensional. They wore tight suits and dated the “real” superheroes like Batman and Superman. But Marvel had women superheroes – even girl superheroes that were closer to my age like Torunn and Stinger (daughters of the Avengers). It was safe to say that Marvel had my entire attention from a young age. Action figures, comic books, printed blankets, posters – these are some of the things that took up my room. I even tried to create my own encyclopedia of made-up superheroes at one point.
Even now, as I write this I listen to The Kinks “Supersonic Rocket Ship” – the song that played in Avengers: Endgame during Rocket and Professor Hulk’s road trip to New Asgard in the Netherlands. I think of scenes from my favorite Marvel movies when listening to it and I get this giddy feeling. Marvel is one of those things that has never ceased to bring a sense of nostalgia. The same type of nostalgia I get when I smell a new book and I’m reminded of the overpriced elementary school book fairs (what kid can afford a $12 pack of miniature colored-pencils?) or when I eat mint chocolate-chip ice cream and am immediately transported to sunny days at the train park.
Marvel makes me feel like I’m a kid again. The same kid that sat in the movie theaters in May of 2012 and watched The Avengers for the first time, feeling like I was teleported into an entirely new world. Not many things make me feel this way anymore. This childlike excitement when a new trailer drops or as I enter the theater to watch the latest release. My current life revolves around college, internships, scholarships, and work. Days spent in class listening to hours of lectures and then at a receptionist desk answering questions that could easily be solved if they had just checked the website first. Nights spent chugging the most caffeinated tea I can find, munching on pop-tarts or ramen (the only food that seems to inhabit my room these days), up until three or four in the morning typing away on my computer or head bent over my desk as I write and rewrite my notes. My days at college feeling almost like that of a time-loop, cursed to repeat the same day of torture over and over again. The only thoughts rummaging through my brain being that of my lengthy to-do list and monthly budgets.
However, every once in a while I get a few hours to myself. No school, no work, just me. Sometimes I draw or paint. Maybe I’ll take a walk. But if I’m lucky enough that my roommate is gone for the night and my schedule literally has a tumbleweed rolling through it, then I plop down on my bed with my knitting needles and yarn, computer, snacks, the whole shebang, and cue up a Marvel movie. I’ve seen all of them more times than I can count. It was a tradition for my sister and I to rewatch all of them before going to see the newest release. I can even cite the Thor: Ragnarok movie from heart having watched it every night before bed during my freshman year of high school.
I recently convinced my doormates to rewatch all of them in order for the upcoming Doctor Strange movie. Every Friday and Saturday night we watch two Marvel movies. But as we’ve been watching them, I’ve realized that a large portion of who I am revolves around these characters and movies. Not just the random phrases that I say or mannerisms that I have – although I did come to notice that I say “Another day, another Doug” and “War is a universal language” quite a lot (the latter being said ironically when I destroy my little sister in a video game or a round of Uno). But my internal values and sense of motivation. Even the way I view what’s right and wrong has been shaped by these movies and comic books.
Last Friday we watched Doctor Strange. There was a scene that stuck with me. The Ancient One is speaking with Mordo, another master of the mystic arts, as he says that she gave him the power to defeat his demons. The Ancient One replies, saying, “We never lose our demons, Mordo. We only learn to live above them.” Something that I have struggled with my entire life is ‘living with my demons’. Trying to figure out if I should let them define me or if I should push them away and become someone new. I know I may be a bit too philosophical when interpreting a Marvel movie, but this is just how I interpreted these movies as I grew up.
I remember watching Iron Man for the first time, then seeing him in The Avengers and the movies that followed. He was a genius, a prodigy. He inspired me to pursue a life of higher education – showing me that I could help people whilst also throwing in the occasional sarcastic remark or witty comment. That I didn’t have to be this image of perfection and saviorism. I could be myself, baggage and all, and still help others. Tony Stark taught me that we all have character arcs, we all go through life’s challenges, maybe we don’t come out unscathed but the point is that we do indeed survive through it. We dust ourselves off, make a few changes, and keep moving forward.
In Avengers: Endgame Thor’s mother tells him, “Everyone fails at who they are supposed to be, Thor. A measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are.” Marvel has taught us that it is okay to fail. That even though we face all of these pressures to be perfect, the only way we will succeed is by being ourselves. That we are not perfect and that is what makes us human. The Avengers taught us that it’s okay to lose and how to overcome that loss. The Guardians of the Galaxy have taught us about family and doing the right thing. Black Panther taught us about the virtues of persistence and what it truly means to be ‘good’. Marvel movies have taught us how to be better people. How to become real life superheroes. Stan Lee, a creator of Marvel, once said, “That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.”