In the midst of a dark point in the Marvel Universe Live! show, I leaned over and asked my son, “You OK?”
“Yeah, dad,” he said. “The Avengers are going to win in the end. They’re the good guys, and the good guys always win.”
The Marvel Universe Live! show couldn’t have come at a better time for my son, Felix. At five years old, he’s fascinated with superheroes, whether they be Finn and Jake from the series Adventure Time, Obi Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker from Star Wars, or any of The Avengers, who he watches in cartoons. The Marvel Universe Live! show brings to life The Avengers (along with Wolverine and Spiderman) in a battle against Loki and a host of super villains, like The Red Skull and The Green Goblin. There were motorcycle stunts that had me gasping, intense fireworks and mini-explosions, expertly choreographed hand-to-hand combat, and at one point evil scientist Aldrich Killian gets so hot on Extremis serum he walks around on fire!
Felix sat wide-eyed the whole time, and what was interesting, though he told me he loved it, he wasn’t smiling. No. This was very serious stuff to a five-year-old. Would The Avengers be able to save their friends, the X-Men Storm and Cyclops, trapped by Loki in glass spheres? Was Iron Man going to recharge his armor in time to join the fight? And was Bruce Banner going to be able to keep his temper under control and avoid becoming the Incredible Hulk?
The Hulk is a favorite of Felix’s, perhaps because he also struggles to control his temper. Bruce Banner works diligently to keep the big green guy inside of him bottled up, and then, when The Hulk does bust out, Banner tries to direct his destructive fury toward good and not chaos. This is never easy, and not always possible. In the show, Loki convinces The Hulk (who is portrayed by a man in an oversized animatronic suit, so he’s appropriately huge compared to everyone else on stage) to turn on his friends. “They fear you,” the trickster villain tells the monster. (I’m paraphrasing.) “Really they should treat you as a god.”
Spoiler alert! After a brief period of indiscriminate smashing, The Hulk gets himself under control and turns his huge muscles on Loki, the real enemy. Just like Felix tries to bring the wrath of his temper down on a pillow and not mommy or daddy. Though the subject matter is fantastical, the lesson for Felix is real. He’s got a little Hulk inside of him too, that he takes special measures (deep breaths, counting back from 10) to control.
On the grander scale, Felix is trying to make sense of the world, to figure out morals and ethics, what’s right and what’s wrong. The Avengers and other superhero stories demonstrate how a person should use their skills and even their temper responsibly, to help and never hurt others. When watching the old 1980s cartoon, Spiderman and His Amazing Friends, Felix has seen how people who have unusual abilities (in this case, mutants) or seem different from others are treated unfairly and made fun of by their peers. He’s frowned as countless villains, like Loki, squash innocent bystanders because they’re filled with hate and prejudice. At the Marvel Universe Live! show, Loki told the audience that he despises how people smell, and he ridiculed them for being like sheep, herded to their seats. This made a big impact on the boy. Felix’s serious face broke into a smile and he clapped the longest when Thor took his brother to an Asgardian prison in a blast of bifrost.
It’s easy to laugh off how kids can get obsessed with superheroes, but that obsession indicates something deeper. Though they cloak themselves in the fantastical, superheroes address the most human of issues. Superhero tales are our new mythology and fables. They help kids see the inner benefits that come with working together on a team, using their talents for constructive purposes, and gaining mastery over their inner demons. They all, in some way, impart that with great power comes great responsibility. They also give us hope, that if we work hard and direct our energies in the right direction, then everything will work out OK in the end. Or, to quote Felix, that the good guys will win. These days, that’s something everyone needs to keep in mind, parents and kids alike. So it’s comforting having shows like The Marvel Universe Live! to bolster our confidence in the human spirit.
Image courtesy of Marvel Universe Live!
Editor’s note: This blogger received complimentary tickets to attend the show. His opinions are entirely his own.