I’ve always tried to be the hero. Since I first picked up a comic book or a novel, I was trying to be that guy who saved everyone—the dog, the damsel, the world. Growing up, I pretended to be Sgt Rock and Sgt Fury from comics. I was Thor and Captain America and Captain Marvel. I had power and needed to save those weaker than me. I read Hemingway and Tolkien and Brooks and learned other ways to be a hero, establishing that heroes didn’t need to be perfect. In fact, Hemingway taught me that heroes were rife with faults, which fit me perfectly.
So as I grew, so did my hero complex. By the time I was 25, I was in the Army, assigned to Special Operations, knee-deep in an Asian hell-hole acting as heroic as Sgt Rock did behind enemy lines in Issue 308, when trying to outrun his enemies. By the time I was 30, I was in an Iraqi hell-hole being the hero pretending to be Sgt Fury with a team of commandos. By my 35th birthday, I marked the 17th year of being a professional hero during 911, while America’s trust in the universe as a fair and honest broker disintegrated, like our two great towers in New York. That Marvel decided to kill Captain America after this is an amazing commentary on America’s reaction to this event, and cemented him in my psyche as a pure, unblemished hero, who would not go to all lengths to save those in his care.
At the age of 39, I retired a hero, well-used, a little broken, and more than a little lost. It was in those quiet moments when I was no longer being asked to travel the world when I reflected on the toll it had cost to live so much for others. I’d lost a marriage. Friends. Family. A dog. And like many of my fellow heroes, I’d missed irreplaceable moments with my son and daughter. Most of all, I’d lost myself.
So how was I to find what I’d lost when I didn’t even know where it went? When you misplace a set of keys, you’re usually told to check in the last place you remember putting them. But what do you do when you’ve lost who you were so long ago, that you don’t know who you were before you assumed the mantle of would-be hero? My only choice was to remake myself and it was through writing that I found myself most able to accomplish this.
Fans and reviewers note that many of my stories and novels have underlying themes of redemption and responsibility. I usually toss off an answer that is closer to the truth than I’d like, but not as close as it should be. Like in this venue, I don’t do any X-rated public soul searching, but rather provide PG-13 versions with enough narrative for most people to find relevant and understand.
The reason for those themes was in response to my need to be a hero.
To what end must someone be responsible?
Is there a limit to responsibility?
When someone fails to save someone are they guilty of something?
How can one redeem his- or herself when they fail to save?
My writing takes these questions and more and provides a canvas for me to work through them. Lucky for me the narratives have been entertaining enough to be read. Even luckier is that with each story, with each novel, with each narrative, nor matter how long, I get closer to finding that little boy I was so long ago before I drank the hero Cool-aid. And as far as I’m concerned, I’ll keep writing, if only to work on myself, to help myself—to save myself from myself.
And most of all, to find that little boy with aspirations to be something that wasn't exactly heroic.