COLIN DRURY: A hero that worries me - it’s Superboy...

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SO here we are, 2011.

The cuts bite, the Middle East burns and Australia is buried in a procession of Biblical catastrophes - flood, fires, Ashes defeats.

Disaster and despair lurk everywhere.

And yet I - like Adam Smith who grew half mad knowing a paper cut caused him more distress than a million men dying in an earthquake on the other side of the world - have spent the last week worrying about just one small paper cut of a story.

It is this: a 27-year-old boy has been chosen to play Superman in a new film.

Henry Cavill, a Brit actor last seen making girls go all unnecessary in historical-romp The Tudors (the emphasis being, definitively, on the romp), is to be the new Man Of Steel.

And that, readers, means, for the first time, Superman - the boss of all super heroes, the daddy of Comic Books stars, the man who makes the Incredible Hulk look like a big girl’s blouse - will be younger than I.

He joins a fast-growing list: George Harrison when The Beatles split, infamous footballer Robin Friday when he retired, Jim Morrison when he died, William Pitt the Younger when he became PM.

These are all my junior.

How, I wonder. Did. That. Happen.

When, on Krypton, did I get so old.

I ask her; she tells me not to worry about it; and then she carries on Googling images of Henry Cavill.

It’s not the first time he’s caused me something of an existential crisis, Superman.

There was the English lesson where me and 15 other students were asked to write 500 words debating two sides of a weighty issue.

One pupil focused on capital punishment, another analysed the Northern Irish question, a third considered whether The Beatles were better than Shakespeare.

My thesis argued, despite commonly-held perceptions, Batman would probably take Superman in a fight.

I don’t remember the line of reasoning I used. I do, however, remember the teacher’s red-penned comments telling me if I wanted to progress on the course I’d do well to start taking such assignments seriously. She concluded by reminding me I was 17.

Obviously not a comic book fan.

But, then, neither am I.

It’s just Superman is pure cultural osmosis.

Everyone knows his story. He’s a worldwide institution. Like the Olympics or disliking Germany. Even the guy living half way up the Amazon who can’t speak English and doesn’t know about electricity thinks Lois Lane’s hot.

And I like Superman. We have certain things in common - he works on The Planet and I on The Star; he comes from a small town in the middle of nowhere and I from a village out in the sticks; he sometimes saves the world and I sometimes save my washing to take home to my mam.

And I like him too because, even though he’s fictional, he is in fact a very real symbol of hope.

Because whatever burns and bites and gets buried in the world, as long as people read stories about aliens in tights doing nice deeds you know somewhere, somehow, something’s all right. You know people aren’t so bad.

That still doesn’t make it any easier being older than him, though.