Having a small boy in my house means that I have become an expert on superheroes. I can recite Wolverine’s biography (to sum up: he had a troubled childhood) and tell you what happens when Spiderman dons that crazy black suit. In the comic books, there’s so much anxiety about the nuclear age, and a world ridden with crime that the stories often feel a bit dated. They don’t really touch on fears of terrorism or earthquakes or tsunamis (yet). I am impatiently looking forward to the day when he can read his own darn comic books, though, and I can once again return to my ignorant state about the world of Gotham. I honestly prefer reading mysteries.
I was never a big superhero fan. Quite frankly, most of the female superheroes come of as pandering after thoughts to the males (Spiderman/Spider woman, Batman/Batgirl, etc.). I wasn’t fooled for a minute. I got my fantasy heroes in my childhood mostly from fairytales and Ursula LeGuin.
But there is one superhero I’m tremendously fond of these days. You might not know about her, unless you watch PBS Kids on a regular basis. Her name is Word Girl. She is a smart-mouthed kid who yells “word up!” as she takes to the sky. She battles super villains using her impressive vocabulary, and with help from her sidekick, a monkey named Captain Huggy Face, who eats everything. Her parents, of course, have no idea that their daughter Becky is a superhero. My son loves the show, and doesn’t even seem to notice that he’s learning something when he watches.
The actual show is charming, but that’s not why I like Word Girl. I like her because I think of her as the patron superhero for all writers. Stuck in some paragraph where you can’t find the right word? Call Word Girl! She’ll rush to the rescue and provide just the word you were looking for—and your novel is magically written! Hurrah! She will magically end writer’s block, sluggish plot twists, and abrupt unsatisfying endings. And she will also keep the streets safe for writers so engrossed in their own stories that they don’t notice cars, asteroids or muggers.
Isn’t it time we had our own superhero?