A kid in a cape

superhero cape

Why superheroes?

When I was about 9, my mom made a Robin outfit for me: yellow vest, black mask, green cape. I made my own bat-a-rang, using layers of cardboard taken from shirts back from the dry cleaners, cut to a pattern and laminated, secured to a length of clothesline. It easily reached the branches of the front yard maple, and proved a great aid to climbing. Pretty cool for a kid with hopes and dreams. There’s something about a cape that unfurls possibilities, opens a door into a wider world.

Then I grew up, left most of that behind. Then the movies came out, and the kid was back, agog, because this time around, the wild imaginings of DC and Marvel had been augmented by Tolkien and Revelation, Pascal and Annie Dillard. This time, the kid had developed a sense for the depth of stories, for the deep story; saw threads, heard tones, caught whiffs.

Not all stories with capes and masks work; some are badly drawn and cheaply done. But some—in some, every one taking part believes. Stories like these are arrows, aimed higher up and further in. In them, earth and sky crack open.

We sat through the latest installment of the Batman saga, nearly three hours that seemed hardly more than 15 minutes. The credits rolling, my brother gave his instant assessment: Immersive. It’s pandemonious, rolling, grim, dark. Rain falls, clouds scud, heroes and villains dress in black, most of the cops and citizens wear somber clothes and expressions. Things blow up, fall down, get bad.

In part two, things got bad and stayed bad. But in part three, amid all the bleakness, hope wriggles out. There’s light at the end of a tunnel, or top of the well, and possibility out on the edges, despite the steady, emphatic battering. And then it ends, and the ending not only ties up the series but also plants a few seeds.

It is not saying too much that the title is significant, nor that one of the few splashes of color on display comes from what might show up at Easter. It is not saying too much that reconciliation plays like a cello under the mayhem of piccolos and timpani.

And it is, perhaps, also not saying too much that kids in capes are on to something.

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