What makes a superhero and a superhero story

I’ve been made familiar with the Hero’s Journey prevalent throughout many different stories from different times and cultures.  However, I didn’t realize until Vonnegut’s explanation how incredibly common the type of stories we grow up with are.  Some of my favorite superhero stories are of heroes that have been beat down, broken by the weight of their past sins, only to rise later, stronger.  I think the stories we have to see depict people in worst situations than us so we can watch them overcome obstacles to find success as reminders that we cannot give up.

I watched the first episode of the Superman cartoon and could not believe that it was made in the 1940’s.  A couple months ago I had watched a video essay on the golden age of cartoon Superman where the narrator spoke specifically about this show.  From the video I learned that one of its creators created the machine that used for rotoscoping, an animation technique that animates over live action film to make the movement of the characters more realistic and natural.  The show so well-made and well directed, with the lighting on point, that it is such a pity that many people only remember the 1960s’ Superfriends as the first time Superman or any of his Justice League companions.  It was so bad–just so so bad.  And as a quick aside, the fact that they have Lois being an aviator is awesome and should be brought up more.

Your friendly neighborhood Cheerleader

My character’s superhero name is Cheerleader, real name Katelyn Smith.   She used to live as your average high school student who only cared about her friends, her grades, and her cheering.  But all that quickly changed.   When she was 15 she was attacked by an evil alien princess, Katie accidentally killed her in defense.  Per the princess’s tradition, the person who kills you earns the powers and abilities that you possessed in life (she came a very violent planet).  Katie didn’t know what to do with her new powers of  energy conversion.  The kinetic energy generated from her movement instantly converted itself to electrical energy.  She had difficulty at first controlling it, accidentally electrocuting those around her.  But with time she managed to get a hang of them.  Her other power was super strength which she hadn’t discovered until months later during a kickboxing class.  She has not hit anything yet with the maximum amount of force for fear of the potential damage it could cause but that doesn’t mean she her hits are soft.  With her incredible powers, quick reflexes and easy flexibility, Katie decided to become a superhero, taking on the moniker Cheerleader.  Initially she just wore her high school cheering uniform but after getting it ruined a couple of times, Cheerleader decided to make her own costume specific to her extracurricular activity.  In the first couple of months of really working as a superhero, Cheerleader was vying for a position as a member of one of the professional hero groups but no call came.  She grew more frustrated until at 18, established her own hero squad.  The original group was composed of only five members but over time, it grew into an organization rivaling the size and status of the more established hero organizations.  Katie had to take some time away from being a superhero to attend college but she realized going to school and not working at what she did best only left her empty and unfulfilled so she quit to reclaim her position as founder and leader of her group.  She still wears her original uniform though she gets angry at anyone who assumes she’s in high school, the irony of which is not lost on her.


A day in the life of the Terrific Dazzler

I really enjoyed this writing assignment since I’ve always been a creatively-minded person.  When I was younger I used to make up characters that I would draw and write stories about them.  My favorite types of stories to write and read always involved magical powers so having the chance to write something about a superhero’s day was really fun.  My superhero is named The Terrific Dazzler; she used to be an archaeologist but during an excavation the ancient Egyptian sun god Ra cursed her with the powers to control light.  Now she works as a superhero in Tokyo, Japan, fighting human traffickers.  I hope I didn’t go too overboard with this assignment and reading it is enjoyable.

I have not gotten enough sleep for this.  But none of us have.  Nervous energy flows between us, our minds racing, flipping through the calculated steps of the plan.  I’m to enter first, blind them, then the rest of the team with the police are to storm in to arrest the criminals.  Chiroko, my field mate, nudges me and asks in Japanese if I’m ready.  I nod—I have no other choice but to be ready.  There are lives on the line.

At 5:02 am exactly I break down the door of the brothel.  My body, bright as the sun illuminates the cramped, dirty space.  Young girls’ faces, none older than 15, squint up at me in awe, mouths agape.  The men some only a few years older than the girls but most grown adults, with bleary eyes and faces contorted, jump up and sprint for the doors.   They’re not quick enough for my team.  Faces and bodies smack the floor as police tackle the traffickers.  The high-pitched screams of young girls fill the space.  I soften my light so the girls can see better.  I sit down near the closest girl to me.  She’s perhaps 10, wearing a pale yellow dress that doesn’t fit her.  Tears stream down her face.  I ask her in Japanese, what her name is and she tells me, barely audible.  So I ask her if she wants to see something magical and she nods her head.  I hold out my hand and from it a white horse jumps out of my palm and gallops around the girl and I.  She giggles with delighted awe, reaching out to grab for the horse but her hands go through it.  Her eyes meet mine, a question forming.  It’s just light I tell her.  Soon enough the other girls group around us, laughter lights up the dingy space.  I wonder when the last time they’ve been this happy was.

Chiroko and I head for a ramen place for lunch.  We’re both tired and cold, needing something warm to forget our morning.  As we sit down, all eyes are on us.  Despite my heavy coat covering my hero costume, none can mistake the white-blonde hair, too light eyes and a soft light glowing from my body.  I stick out like a sore thumb.  My hair used to be dark, my eyes used to be hazel.  But all that changed a few years back when I upset the ancient Egyptian god Ra while excavating a tomb of the Old Kingdom.  I remember the voice, old yet timeless and the blinding, too-bright light, hot and boiling.  He cursed me then to possess his powers, powers too great for a human to hold without going mad.  Or dying.  Against all odds I did neither and found myself in Tokyo, Japan, having reunited with an old college friend who was doing work on human trafficking.  I was barely a hero then, much less a superhero.  But I needed something.  I needed to feel like I could do good—save someone—with these powers.  I used to hate them; they didn’t feel right in my body, like another person, another soul, took over when I used them.  It’s been years of work (and some therapy) to get used to actual light emitting from my body but I finally feel complete.  I’ve virtually forgotten what my life was like before these powers.

After lunch I can finally head home.  My apartment is small—quaint is how my mom describes it with a tight-lipped smile.  But it’s sufficient and it’s mine.  I take a hot shower, put on a sheet mask and lay down on my sofa, listening to music to drown out my thoughts. After 20 minutes of the mask, I take it off and rub the serum into my face.  It’s supposed to be anti-aging.  Then I wait to put on moisturizer and SPF.  An unconsidered side effect of my powers is sun damage.  Growing up I never had any freckles or got sunburn but now freckles cover my face and body with more popping up every week no matter how much sunscreen I put on.  I’d be fine with it but her in Japan, the flawless complexion look in very in.

Suddenly the ringing of my phone pierces my peaceful relaxing.  I answer it with a quick hello.  A deep voice, heavy in authority replies on the end.  It’s my squad captain, Orochi Mau “Terrific Dazzler, I have a mission for you.”  “Yes sir,” I say, stifling a yawn.  “Tonight a cargo ship will arrive at Dock 11.  They’ll report that they’re carrying produce but we’ve gotten intel saying they’re bringing more than just that.  This must be quiet, you cannot notify the dockworkers, we suspect they’re in on it.  The ship arrives at 11pm sharp.  Be there beforehand to stake out the area.  You will not have backup.”  The call ends and I’m left alone again.  I check the clock, it’s about four so I’ll have time to eat at least.

Another ping emits from my phone: an encoded email with the intel I need.  This is not my first mission by myself but it seems to be the largest.  They’ll be a lot of bad guys to take out and people to keep safe.  I can’t help the growing knot in my stomach.  To get my mind off things, I watch television until about seven o’clock.  The night has set in but in Tokyo the light pollution means darkness is never an absolute.  Time to get ready.

I pull my suit on, one leg at a time and zip up the back.  When I first became a superhero my costume was pants and a heavy jacket but soon enough, I was supplied with a real costume from an organization for real superheroes.  It’s too dark and tight for my taste but I had no real choice in the matter.  When it comes to costumes, it’s take what you can get and don’t complain.  Fortunately the suit came without any gaudy embellishments or large lettering on the front.  It’s a dark royal blue with a slick finish that prevents light from showing through.  The final step to my costume is the most important. After Ra cursed me, I collapsed and found hours later, almost too late, with a scarab jewel clutched tight in my hand.  I keep it with me as a reminder of the ancient sun god and the burden I carry.

The journey to the docks takes hours. Once I’m there I set up a post on top of one of the shipping crates, about ten feet above and well hidden from any eyes below.  The clock slowly ticks by.  Slowly men begin to arrive, trickling in some alone, some in groups, to wait together for the arrival of the shipment.  Ten minutes till 11 the sound of a ship’s horn sounds through the night.  Only a few more minutes left.

Men are yelling back and forth, hustling to get the ship docked.  Things proceed as normal, the crane lifting crates from the ship’s deck and placing them in the yard.  On the eighth crate, the crane diverts its course and lowers the crate, slowly, carefully on the ground in front of the men.  Now’s my chance.

I leap down from my post, hitting the ground and rolling, pop up and run.  “Hey!”  My voice screams.  The group of traffickers turn, guns cocked and quickly aimed at me.  Shoot, I should not have yelled.  One of the traffickers yells, “It’s the White-Haired Devil! Shoot her!”  Light radiating from my hands are precise lasers into the eyes of my enemies.  The smaller the beam, the more it hurts.  Soon there are screams and men clutching at their faces in pain, collapsing around me.  The smell I’m never used to, one of burning flesh wafts the air.  In a matter of minutes the 11 traffickers are on their knees or cradling their heads, pleading for it to stop.  I yell out with my best enunciation that they are all arrested for human trafficking.

“Hey!” A woman’s voice comes from behind me.  I whirl around to see Chiroko with Chief Mau. All round us armed police emerge from the shadows, ordering the traffickers to put their hands up.  I hear more yelling and see police on the ship, arresting the ship’s crew.

“Did you think we’d really leave you alone?”  The Chief asks me once they’re in ear shot. I can’t help but grin.  Chiroko gestures to the crate and I nod; I had almost forgotten.  We pry the doors open and give earnest smiles to the dozen women and girls huddling together in the dark.

“You’re safe now, there’s nothing to be worried about.  We’re with the police,” I extend my hand for help and comfort.  One of the women, holding tight to a baby replies, “Who are you?”  I give her a smile.  “I’m the Terrific Dazzler.  But you can call me Kara.”

This picture is worth a couple of words

While scrolling through my computer to find a random photo to write about for this final assignment, I came across this picture.  Brought back a couple of memories.

This is me three years ago when I was a freshman here at UMW, home for my first fall break.  I had brought my roommate back since she lived out-of-state and we had become quick (yet volatile) best friends.  Out of some odd desire I decided to take her to my elementary school.  We spent an hour or so walking around and hanging on the jungle gym sets.  As we walked past a small garden area I saw it: the student mural put up in fifth grade.  Now, I’m (still) quite proud of this mural because it started a tradition with each fifth grade class where they would decorate something of the school.  My sister’s class, two years after me, painted ceiling tiles.  But my class, because we were the first, got the best placing.  It’s a large tile mural in the shape of a postcard with students’ self-portraits outlining the card.  This photo is of 18-year-old me looking at how my ten-year-old self thought what I looked like.  There are some false notions in this piece.  My hair was light then but I wasn’t blonde and I didn’t really have that prominent of freckles either, though I desperately wished for that to be the case (still do).  I remember I had just gotten glasses and had trouble getting used to how my face looked with them on.  In an effort to come to terms with my changed appearance, I included the glasses though I wish I hadn’t because god they just throw off the whole portrait and my eyes (I’m quite sure I did the glasses first then the eyes—what an amateur mistake).  I also remember layering the paint on and on because the skin tone was not quite right, clearly forgetting everything darkens in the kiln.  So I ended up with a portrait that makes me as red as a lobster.  I know the specific cross necklace depicted in the painting as well because I wore it in my fifth grade school picture and nearly every day of that year.  It’s small and gold, given to me by my mom.

It should be noted—since it’s not clear in this picture that I had to sneak into this area to take the photo.  I squeezed myself through the small gap between the chain-link door and fence, technically trespassing but hey, it was sort of worth it?


“This life is yours. Some of it has been given to you; the rest you’ve made yourself.”

The child, no older than ten years, quietly read his fortune while the rest of his family laughed around him, trading fortunes back and forth, giggling over the ones that were spot on or way off.  His mother, seated across from him reached her hand out across the table.  “What does your fortune say, love?”  He glanced up at her but said nothing, only shaking his head in response.  Her face clouded, eyebrows scrunched together in worry.  “What’s wrong, honey?”  Again, no response.  His eldest sister sat next to him and peered over his shoulder at the small slip of paper he held in his hands.  “It says ‘This life is yours.  Some has been given to you; the rest you’ve made yourself’.”  All laughter stopped.  His mother with a tight smile offered her best reply.  “It’s a rather nice fortune, isn’t it my love? Can really mean anything, you know.”  But everyone was thinking of the same thing.  The boy felt sorry; he never wanted to ruin the mood.  This was their first family dinner out in such a long time!  It was supposed to be fun!  Now he had to go and ruin it like he always did.  A knot of guilt nestled in his stomach, his cheeks reddened and he felt the beginnings of tears well in his eyes.  His oldest sister snatched the fortune from his hand and crumbled it in her hand.  The boy cried out, tears now flowing freely from his large dark eyes.  His sister regretted it immediately; she had miscalculated, thinking getting rid of the thing that bothered him would solve everything.  She uncurled her hand and tried to smooth out the small piece of paper the best she could before handing it back to him.  The siblings looked up at their parents, unsure of the next step. Their mother was holding back her tears while their father stared intently at them, equally unsure of what to do.  Finally it was his second oldest sister, just begun her first year of high school that smiled back at him with comfort in her eyes.  “You know what that means Andre right?”  She asked, an eyebrow raised.  “It means that your life is what you make of it.  You have the power to choose how to live it and what to do with it.  And…seeing as now you have a little more life given to you than what was granted initially, that’s a big deal dude.”  Andre nodding his understanding, placing his small hand on his chest, feeling the surgery scars beneath his shirt.

For this writing assignment, I chose to do was the fortune cookie one (three stars).  When “This life is yours.  Some of it has been given to you; the rest you’ve made yourself” popped up I immediately thought of a quick story about a boy who maybe had more life given to him by another person.  So I wrote this short story about a boy who had received a heart transplant and dealing his newly held future.

A Haiku about Writing Haikus

In this writing assignment (rated three stars), I wanted to write a poem about how difficult the writing process can be.  It was really what I was experiencing while writing this long haiku; counting on fingers the words and syllables in hopes that what I want to say will get across.

I called on a spark,

Some sort of great idea.

And yet, nothing came


Late into the night,

Inspiration set me free.

I plead with the muse


But she shakes her head,

Laughs in my face, steals my peace;

No care for poor me.


To leave me counting

On fingers, the syllables

In hopes this makes sense.

Weekly Summary

This week I felt that I was getting into the proper swing of things; my blog and social media profiles have been up and I feel more comfortable using them.  My favorite of the assignments I did this week was composing a playlist around the concept of hero introductions because I love how music plays a role in film and television (and in my personal life).  My daily creates took some work; I sidetracked myself trying to merge two photos together using Photoshop–a program I have never used before.   So a lot of time was wasted on something that, while I worked hard on, I was unsatisfied with the result so I scrapped it.  I think the daily creates I chose to do were creatively challenging enough but they didn’t consume my time like they are supposed to.  My other two assignments I chose because they were interesting and forced me to be more reflective.  For the bucket list, I do have a large running list of things I eventually want to do in life but never a reason for why I want to do them.  So the fact that we had to explain our reasons for what is on the list helped me realize that it is not about the quantity of goals you have but rather the quality and the goal’s personal importance.  I know from this week and for the weeks ahead, I have to work on my participation, like commenting on others’ blogs.

Hero Intros

My House Sigil

Bucket List (to be edited later) (in life)

Hero Intros


I put together this playlist with superhero-type characters in mind.  I really love how in movies certain songs are played along with the introduction of a character and at the climax of that movie.  These are meant to be character and moment-defining songs that stick in your head.  The songs that I put on this playlist are meant to those types of songs.  I initially was imagining songs that heroes can fight to  but that can vary too much or just be cliche.  There are some fight-y songs on this playlist that I feel can serve as character intros.  I imagined that most of the characters I would use these songs for would be teenagers coming to terms with their powers, how to use them and what to use them for.   Rather than melancholic melodies I chose songs with a strong beat and some screaming; really good songs to listen to when you’re walking somewhere and want to feel *powerful*.

My House Sigil

So I’ve only ever read watched the first two seasons of Game of Thrones.  It was in high school and I binge-watched the 20 hours worth of television in a single weekend.  Seventeen-year-old me was quite proud of this accomplishment.  Despite not watching the episodes, I’ve kept up with the plot over the years just for fun.  The characters are fun and intriguing and the costuming is beautiful.  I also really like the mythology and the importance of house ties in the show so I was quite excited to do this assignment.

Originally I wanted my sigil to be one dealing with water because I come from a family of active swimmers.  I love swimming and the water; it brings me a sense of self and calmness.  However I didn’t find any symbol that was satisfactory.  I wanted the sigil to be more in line of the style of Game of Thrones and I liked the look of the swords together.  I chose the varying shades of blue to be reminiscent of water and the tag, “Together we strike” brings a sense of fearless togetherness.  I’d like to imagine that if my family’s house existed in the Game of Thrones universe, it’d be small, close to the water, more defensive than aggressive but unrelenting when provoked.  In other words, we’d be extinct by the end of the series.

Bucket List (to be edited later) (in life)

1. Travel: cross-country and abroad (though I must obtain a passport first) and go on a cross-country road trip. Eventually I plan on visiting Colombia and Finland where my mother and father claim descent, respectfully.
2. Finish all the movies on my Watch List (it totals 103) I made this a while ago, not for myself but I have a few other running lists of movies and shows I have to start or finish watching. Don’t ruin The Wire for me please.
3. Complete undergraduate and graduate school. Hopefully, I’ll get a job that will pay for grad school.
4. Get a cat and name her Layla
5. Get a dog and name her something relating to a book character (yet to decide who).
6. Get another cat and name him Milo
7. Take a month-long vacation with someone you love. Preferably abroad in Italy. I like the idea of staying there, drinking wine and eating tortellini to my heart’s content (or until I get a heart attack).