So Long To Heroes
by Ernest Lilley
SFRevu Column ISBN/ITEM#: 0506EL
Date: June 1, 2005 / Show Official Info /
Superman was having a bad day.
Doing honest work to pay off his legal bills was eating more and more into his time, and worse, half the people he saved on a daily basis seemed more resentful than pleased to be snatched from the jaws of certain death, violation, or crippling tragedy. Yet worse was the realization that a little common sense would have kept most of the others out of danger in the first place. But really, all that was old news.
What really had the Man of Steel down was a bunch of nagging thoughts about his folks on Krypton and how he'd been unable to do anything to save them. Sure, the Kents were swell folks, and he loved them deeply, but abandoning his folks when they really needed saving left a planet sized hole in him.
So, in full adulthood, couldn't he deal with some angst? Sure, but the kicker is that he'd come to realize that all this heroism wasn't the sign of a healthy mind. He was out there flying around in a circus suit trying to save people who had been dead since he was an infant, and this whole thing was a classic case of transference, plain and simple.
To make matters yet worse, the long term statistical analysis run by the superheroes league supercomputer made it abundantly clear that he (and his friends) we're enabling the people he was trying to help. And they knew it.
His friends were pretty much gone. Had been for some years now. Clark had stood at their bedsides while they each slipped away. Perry struggling against the cancer that ate him away, Lois suddenly, from a heart attack in the middle of a sentence. Jimmy was still around, though a bit frail, so he went to talk to him about superlife what he was going to do next
"If you?re doing to give up the whole secret identity thing, stand over there" directed Olsen, waving a vintage camera loaded with high speed black and white film at Clark Kent "while I set up this tripod."
?I know the two of you are never seen together, but if I set this camera up for a 250th of a second exposure, how about you stand there in the gray flannel outfit for about half that, and the spandex for the other??
?Won?t you see through both images??
?Most folks always have.?
So Jimmy snapped the picture, Clark/Superman sat on the sofa changing from one outfit to the other fast enough so that all you?d notice was a warm breeze and a the smell of freshly ironed flannel, and they talked of the past, present and future.
?I?ve wondered if I should just go back and steer my rocket away from Earth, let it all happen some other way. Let you figure it out for yourselves.?
?Could you go further back than that and save Krypton??
?I don?t think so. Causality only stretches so far. But that seems like a sort of cowardice, undoing everything because I?m not happy with how things turned out.?
?So? What then? Go on taking up the slack for everyone who didn?t look both ways before crossing??
?I can?t stand by and watch and do nothing. I?m just not wired that way. But I?m not really doing it for them, and in the long run, I?m not really doing you all any good here.?
Looking at the man on his couch, flickering from gray flannel to supersuit and back again, James Olsen sighed.
?So, I guess you?ll be taking off, then??
?For a while. If I?ve done any good here, it will show up on its own. I think it?s time for me to spend some time in the ?dark night of the soul? part of my journey?and see what?s on the other side.?
?Can?t say I?m surprised. We?ll all miss you, of course. Some folks will be pretty sore about it.?
?I?ll bet. Tell them goodbye for me, will you Jimmy??
?Sure. Anything else??
?Yeah. Tell them, I was only a hero because they asked me to be one. It?s nothing they couldn?t do for themselves.?
?Um, you?re forgetting that you?re the only one with superpowers.?
?Super-powered maybe, but nowhere near all-powerful. There?s a lot I can do, but there?s a lot I can?t. The difference between us is really in degree?and someday?who knows??
?So, if we?re going to be our own superheroes, any advice??
?Pick a code. Live by it. Do you best. Try to be fair.?
?Not Truth, Justice, and the American way??
?That was mine, and I?d say it was the same thing, but you?ve each got to find your own. Just remember to take care of yourselves and to care about each other and you?ll be ok.?
Hands were shaken. Jimmy stood by in the living room of his home and watched his friend walk through the open French doors onto the balcony.
?Uh, Superman?? Jimmy called after him. The Man of Steel turned back, standing in the slanting sunlight. ?Just?thanks. For everything. And, hey?take care of yourself.?
He?d come in through the door wearing his old gray suit, but Jimmy noticed that the thick glasses were still sitting on the coffee table. Clark had already left, and now his other friend was taking off too.
The blue and red speck dwindled into a late afternoon sky and Olsen watched it until it was gone, blinked a few times, shook his head a bit?and smiled.
?Guess I?ve still got a story to file.? He mused as he fed a fresh piece of paper into an old typewriter in his study. Feeling the keys drive home with their solid clunk, clunk, clunk, always pleased him more than watching characters appear on a screen. Listening to the keys strike the paper with satisfying force he thought about power, and responsibility, and friendship.
?Over the years, we taught Superman what it meant to be human. Now we?ve got to return the favor and learn how to be heroes in return. It isn?t easy, but what worth doing is? I don?t know if he?ll ever come by this way again, but if he does, I hope he find that we've grown into equals and to be friends worth having. We've got a long way to go, so we?d better get started.?