Friday, May 1, 2015

Assemble & Unite: The Voice of The Father

     Of the many attributes that is emphasized in the comic book universe, one of the greatest is the role of fathers; from Dr. Erskine and Steve Rogers to Professor Xavier and Logan. Fathers are an immensely important role in the shaping of up and coming superheroes. They are the voices of reason, discipline, understanding and courage. Many of these father figures are well loved and admired and there are some that are very misunderstood and heavily misinterpreted.

     I really hadn’t grasped this remarkable concept until I was writing my movie review for Captain America: The First Avenger. Once I came to that realization, I noticed that the father figure is present in every single comic book story. Mothers also play an important role (such as Martha Kent and Aunt May), but it is truly the father that calls out the hero in the ordinary man; the father’s words that becomes the hero’s actions; the father’s sacrifice that becomes the hero’s salvation.

~ ~ ~

Capt. Steve Rogers// Captain America
Dr. Abraham Erksine & Colonel Chester Phillips 

     Before Captain America was even a recruit, he was just a kid from Brooklyn. His father died in the First World War (one of the reasons he is anxious to enlist) and chances are Steve never knew him (Steve is born in 1918, the year WWI ended). His mother was left to raise him on her own, but she must have given him a good childhood filled with memories and stories of a father only known in old pictures.

Dr. Abraham Erksine
     Flash forward roughly 25 years later and Steve Rogers, a scrawny, sickly, asthmatic guy has failed to enlist in the U.S. army for the fifth time. In spite of his outward flaws, Steve has intense bravery, fortitude and the desire to fight back. By fate or by luck, he is seen by a soft-spoken German scientist, Dr. Abraham Erksine who views him as a potential candidate for a special serum that can turn a man into a weapon. No one else sees this potential, especially the overbearing Colonel Chester Phillips, but Erksine succeeds in turning the kid from Brooklyn into the greatest solider for the war and the world.

     Before the procedure, Steve asks Erksine why he chose him of all people. Erksine answers, it was because of the goodness he saw in Steve. It may not seem a good reason, but for Erksine, who has dealt with life in Nazi Germany, he is searching for a good heart and a good soul, for through true goodness, can true courage abound.

     Erksine called out the hero in Steve Rogers, before Steve even knew he possessed it. When Erksine is shot by HYDRA, he dies in Steve’s arms, his last words, “A good man.” His sacrifice for his belief in Steve Rogers became the foundation for Captain America of which the salvation for humanity was finally built.

Colonel Chester Phillips
     The father role may seem to be lost, but it is surprisingly replaced by Colonel Phillips, the grouchy creator of the Strategic Science Reserve. He is as opposite from Erksine as one can get. Erksine was a scientist who works alone, Phillips is a soldier who commands an army. Erksine sees the internal, where Phillips only sees the external. When Steve asks to join the SSR, Phillips cuts him off by saying the one man cannot win a war.

     When Steve finds out that his best friend and most of his unit (the same unit his own father was in) has been taken prisoner by HYDRA, Steve defies Phillips orders to stay there and do nothing. Phillips may seem heartless at the decision of telling Steve to stay, but the man is a soldier who must learn to make hard sacrifices. After Steve’s successful return, Phillips finally realizes his full potential and gives him a place in the SSR.

     Colonel Phillips may not be the warm, generous type the Erksine was, but he gave Steve a real sense of duty, hard work, and responsibility. He was a disciplinarian who didn’t marvel and wonder at Captain America, but rather saw him as a kid who got a lucky break. Phillips brought out in Steve a sense of rebelliousness that can be useful in times of desperation and afterwards, that rebel heart in Steve Rogers never died.

~ ~ ~

Tony Stark//Iron Man
Dr. Yinsen & Howard Stark
     “So, you are the man that has everything and nothing,” quotes Dr. Yinsen when he and billionaire, Tony Stark, are trapped in the Middle East and forced to build weapons for the enemy. For Tony, this seems to be the story of his life. Born into a wealthy family, his father, Howard Stark was a genius inventor whose weapons helped win WWII. Now his son has followed in his steps, expanding the business to an international level. Yes, Tony has money, privilege, cars and jets; access to anywhere he wants, Tony has everything, but happiness.

     His parents died when he was young, but the damning part wasn’t their death; for Tony it was the fact that he felt that his father never loved him. The lack of parental and especially paternal love in Tony’s life caused him to wear an invisible mask that hid his anger and resentment for the father who chose work over his child. Tony works, but only when it brings him a profit. When he’s off the clock, he’s out partying and well, wasting his life.

Dr. Yinsen
     Life gets a massive wake up call when he is taken hostage while in the Middle East and is told to use his own weapons to break down and create a master weapon. His only companion is a practical scientist, Dr. Yinsen who saves his life by helping him make an arc reactor for his heart and assists him in building the first Iron Man suit. During their imprisonment, Yinsen asks Tony if he has a family, when he answers that he has no one, Yinsen sums the man’s whole life in ten words. Tony is surprised at his bluntness, but says nothing.

     On the day of their escape, Yinsen is struck down and lies dying. Tony tries to save him, but even he knows it’s too late. Before Yinsen dies, he says in his last breath, “Go home and don’t waste your life.” The death of the man who has been the only real friend and father compels Tony to fight for his life and return home, but not as the same man. Tony goes home and starts working on the new Iron Man suit in plans to return and protect the refugee people and gain justice for his mentor’s death. Yinsen called out the hero in Tony and told him that his happiness was for him to make, not for others to make it for him.

Howard Stark
     Although there is a change in Tony due to Yinsen, he still harbors resentment against his emotionally absent father. In the second movie, Tony falls off the deep end due to his failing health, but is brought face-to-face with the reality of his overworked father in old film reels; a frustrated man who had the genius to change the world, but was held back by the technology of his time. In the last reel, Tony is surprised when his father has left a message for him, telling him that he, his own son, was his greatest creation and left behind for him a pattern to decipher that would change his son’s destiny and give him a new chance at life.

    For the first time, Tony finally hears what he has longed to hear his whole life; that he had always meant something to his father. It may not have been a lot, but it was enough for him to pick himself up and live. If Yensin helped Tony discover his destiny, then Howard Stark helped Tony continue his legacy. Sometimes it takes a walk through the dark for a person to find their own light and at times, we must look to the past to find our future.

~ ~ ~

Thor, the God of Thunder
Dr. Erik Selvig & Odin Allfather

     Sometimes to understand who you are, you must leave everything you know. For Thor Odinson, that way of thinking becomes his ultimate salvation. A great prince who is powerful but arrogant gets a crash course in reality when he pushes the limits of his father to far and is banished to earth.

     Now alone with no powers and no use of his mighty hammer, Mjelnor, Thor must learn to survive on his own. Except he may not be entirely alone. When he comes across brainy astrophysicist, Jane Foster and her mentor Dr. Erik Selvig, he finds an unexpected familial foundation.

Dr. Erik Selvig
     In Jane, a woman who isn’t to different from his own strong and independent mother as well as his childhood friend, Sif. In Erik he finds an unusual father figure who finally gets through Thor what his father has spent centuries trying to teach him. Erik himself is skeptical of this stranger who reminds him of the great hero in stories he grew up with up in Scandinavia.

     Erik was a close friend to Jane’s father and keeps a close eye on her. When he becomes concerned about Jane’s wellbeing after she and Thor get into trouble with the government, he believes that Thor is nothing but bad news. One night in the bar changes that. Thor tells Erik about his mistakes that led him to where he is and wonders where he is meant to go in life. For Erik, who seems to lonely most of the time, he may see a lot of himself in Thor and realizes that Thor wants to atone for whatever mistakes he makes.

     Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is just be there. Erik realizes that this guy has a great amount of potential and understands that he has learned a great deal about life in his short time in New Mexico. For Thor, Erik is a kindly man who already possesses a father’s heart, due to his relationship with Jane and he finally sees that his father’s lessons are universal. Erik’s is a mortal with no strength or superhuman abilities, but believes as deeply in moral responsibility as Odin does, as well as the position of loving and caring for others.

Odin Allfather
     After Thor succeeds in fulfilling his father’s desire for him to be a worthy man, he returns to Asgard with a different perspective. Odin is beyond proud for his son and believes him to be a better and wiser king than him.

     In the second film, Thor goes above and beyond his father’s expectations in bringing peace to the Nine Realms and Odin believes it’s not long before his son takes the throne of Asgard. All that he has taught his son, reinforced by Erik Selvig, have become the cornerstones of Thor’s life. Odin is a powerful warrior, a great king and a good father whose hard decision of banishing Thor to earth made personal inward war for his son that forged a warrior whose worth was the stuff of legends.

     When Odin’s wife is murdered, he goes into an intense state of grief and despair and his judgment becomes clouded with anger and revenge. Thor must make the hard decision of whether to go against the law of his grieving father and bring justice to Asgard or to remain the obedient son he has finally become. Unlike the first film where Thor’s betrayal of his father’s trust was made for adventure, now Thor betrays that trust again to protect his father, the realm and the throne.

~ ~ ~

Professor Charles Xavier
Founder of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters
and creator of the X-Men

     For someone who grew up with an abusive step-father, Charles Xavier has the inner gift of paternal love and devotion that seems stronger than his own mutant abilities. It’s the primary reason he started the school back in 1962 with his adopted sister, Raven (Mystique), Erik Lensherr (Magneto) and a small hand selected group of young mutants all desperate to be accepted without bearing the shame of who they are.

     Charles is a man on a multi-fold mission, help young mutants, train them to live successful lives, and have them use their abilities to protect humanity. It has been his bedrock principle since he was commissioned to find other mutants. Although he has extraordinary mutant abilities with his mind, his greatest ability is truly in his heart, the ability to see the potential in others, to be non-judgmental, to live everyday with the mentality that life is about others, not just yourself and above all, there is always hope. 

     In Days of Future Past, Charles falls off the deep end, due to the war in Vietnam and the loss of his students and teachers he had planned on training. In one last desperate attempt, Logan demands that Charles' read his mind and sends him to talk to his future self. Never has Charles Xavier been better explained than in this one scene.

     If you don't read anything in this post, then at least, please watch this video!!! It has the most beautiful universal message that society needs today. 

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