Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Importance of Fathers In Comics

The running joke in comics is that you can only become a hero when your father has been killed. Surviving fathers can be a royal pain, as any decent Greek or Shakespearian actor can tell you. There will always be generational warfare; it makes for a certain degree of sense. The old must always give way to the new, but it doesn’t mean that the old needs to go meekly into retirement. They can have their plans, and their own young can get the way just as anyone else can. You also have the problem that the young will rebel against the old; they will fight for their rightful place in the sun as they should.

However, sometimes dads and sons get along, and that’s something we need to consider here. You need to look at the occasional father that acts as friend and mentor of his son, just in case it happens. So let’s look at some examples of fathers that did right by their kids.

Jonathan Kent: May as start off with the best. Jonathan had a tough row to hoe; you know that punishing little Clark had to be tough. Nonetheless, through some no-doubt creative parenting, he was able to raise Clark into a responsible citizen of the United States. Jonathan is one of those characters that they did right on a number of levels; he’s not only home-spun but not a hick, and someone you would not mind having a beer, not wine, with. He leads you to the right answer without forcing it, and he has more power over guilt than a Jewish mother. Although he seems to have one of the highest mortality rates of any non-hero (he’s died at least four times), he nonetheless seems to be one of DC’s major presences.

Reed Richards: Although he has a reputation for misogyny thanks to some older comics, Reed is nonetheless a great parent, and not just because he has some of the best toys and he can turn into a slide. The classic issue here is X-Men vs. Fantastic Four #3, where one of his old journals has been found and the team is undergoing an existential crisis. Franklin is having a nightmare, and Reed calms him by giving his rendition of “Saggy-Baggy Elephant” followed by one of the most severe ticklings ever. That he can switch between the analytical scientist and loving father says a lot about the strength of the character.

William Hunter: Most comic book fathers are idealized in one way or another and have great kids; Mr. Hunter is not one of them. Missing an arm, he is a widower and father to Timothy Hunter, greatest mage of his generation. Tim is not the greatest son; he sucks at school, he runs away constantly, and has some issues with authority. However, William still supports him, no matter how weird, and makes sure that Tim always has a room to come home to. Although he isn’t always sure what to do about Tim’s comings and goings, he nonetheless adapts to his son, providing a great base for his adolescent son.

In short, if you want a great father, make sure that he supports his son, that he adapts to his son’s unusual abilities, and that he’s someone you wouldn’t mind having a beer with. It helps if he is the receptacle of wisdom, but he can get away with knowing someone who is. Not all dads need to total jerks with a desire to rule/destroy the universe, but we can discuss those jerks at a later date.

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