Admittedly, I was not a huge comic book fan growing up. Instead of focusing on the likes of Superman, Batman, and the such, I was raised on the small plastic blocks that would inspire a generation- Legos. It was not until the original Spider-Man came out, starring Tobey Maguire and directed by the ever-pleasing Sam Raimi, that I would immerse myself in the world of imagination; of great deeds that could be done by no mortal man.
However, I would quickly find myself being drawn into the comic book universe and all of the crazy, wacky adventures that accompanied it. As I progressed into this galaxy, I found myself being immediately drawn to one figure in particular: Captain America. A lot of people give Cap a lot of flak for various reasons, but he stood for everything that a child should look for in a role model. More than that, however, was the timing of my immersion. With the Iraq War expanding into a full-blown conflict, I, as many others, looked to a role model who would help make the world a better place. So I turned to Captain America, the epitome of an American hero who stood up for what was right, even in the face of death, and refused to turn a blind eye when things didn't go right.
Then there was what was effectively his complete opposite: Deadpool. Sarcastic and cranky, Deadpool served as a reminder to all of his readers that while the heroism of Cap was great, it was unrealistic. No, the most likely way that we would ever see a real hero would be in the form of Deadpool: always damaged, tired of the world around him, and only begrudgingly helping people out of difficult situations. While Cap still serves as my idea of a hero, Deadpool reminded me that they come in many different shapes and sizes.
My next two heroes must be discussed together, as they were never very far apart between the double-printed, glossy pages of heroic deeds. These two superheroes are the Joker and Batman. Although calling the Joker a superhero may seem like a stretch, in the world of Batman, he sometimes seems to simply be the result of a world too demented for the living. When other people ran away and cowered down, the Joker stood up for himself. More importantly, when other villains would try to take Gotham City, the Joker would often thwart their plans. While he would usually do so for his own gain, there is no denying that he often helped Gotham more than he realized. On the other hand, there is not very much to say about Batman. While a completely different character, he upheld most of the same characteristics and leadership traits as Captain America, and so gains his credibility in an almost identical manner.
The final hero on my list is perhaps the most obvious one: Spider-Man. A local hero, Parker would epitomize the typical American- hard-working, in-confident, and trying to look out for the best of others while trying to make it in the world. More than that, though, was how he faced adversity and failing with his head held high. Is there a comic book arc more tragic than that of Peter Parker, doomed to lose everybody he loves and be alone forever? If there is, it has yet to be written. While there are many stronger superheroes (ahem Dr. Manhattan) or much cooler superheroes (think Human Torch or Aquaman), there will never be a superhero that will resonate with a teenager boy and a middle-class American like Tony Parker.