How to Write a Superhero

BY ANDY NALEWSKI

I live the writer's nightmare. For a damn month, I’ve sat no less than six hours a day staring at that blinking cursor on the blank page. Nothing. I smoked pot. Nothing. I drank. Nothing. I thought it might be the medium, so I went to pen and paper. I just doodled cats and cute little things. I haven’t a single fucking ounce of inspiration.

I’m looking around my room right now, and it really reflects this. It’s messy - devoid of any cleanliness or organization, just like my thoughts and passions. There are some inspiring bits, things I usually look at when I’m trying to get an idea; the walls are lined with super hero posters. I look at Superman the most. I bought a print off of this old guy at a flea market. He looks so strong in the picture, so determined. It usually helps too - he’s got bullets bouncing off of him, and he doesn’t bat an eyelash. He has no fear, no worry, because he knows that he won’t get hurt. That’s how I want to be. Confident and unafraid. But I’m no Superman. I’m just a below-average guy sitting in his room with the twin bed and the amenities given to him by his folks.

I had this character, though, someone like that. Someone strong, unabashed, and ready for life. He started the day with twelve fucks, giving them only to the needy, and most of the time he ends up gaining a few more in the end.

That guy’s name is Quinn Cross. He sounds like a cop, right? Some detective that does big cocaine busts, then sneaks a little from the evidence bag and has a good time. No, no. He’s a good man. His story starts early, or that’s how I’d like it to, anyway. 10 years old, effeminate, awkward, and a recluse. He goes through a lot of heavy shit early on. Fuck. I’ll never get any of this down on paper.

So, the kid was beaten as a child. His mom was a bitch, a really big one. She drank heavily, and one night she came home to a less than clean house. Quinn made a PB&J and left the bread out on the counter. Being a stern mother, she promptly took a baseball bat to his body, and just kept wailing on him for about thirty minutes. She took him to the hospital when she sobered up, told them that he was in a fight, and made up a story and all of these facial features of the attackers on the spot. She did that a lot.

DCF got involved a while later, when he was around eleven. They tried to get him to spill the beans, but Quinn was scared. I told you he was like Superman, but not yet - I’ll never get to that part. Anyway, he was scared, not of his mom, but of losing her. Despite being an abusive bitch, she was his whole world. Then he met a girl.

The girl and him got close, started holding hands, then kissing, then other things. It wasn’t just for the sex though; he loved her. Eventually he told her things, confided in her. She took his hand and guided him to a better place, but he was only there for a little bit. Once he went home it was back to normal. One day, he decided he wanted to be in that place all the time.

He got beaten again, and he went to the hospital. The mom said all the usual things, but this time, Quinn spoke up. Well, not right away. First, he clocked his mother in the temple as hard as he could. Then, he said “She did it. She’s always been doing it.” They took her away. He got shuffled through foster care, had a tragic upbringing with no one to call his own, yadda yadda. That was his first defining moment. I said he was gonna be Superman, and he’s gonna get there, but not yet. This was only the first step.

So, the kid makes it through high school. It’s graduation day. He’s gained a lot of confidence, and a decent life. He didn’t need to apply for student loans; he’s got scholarships galore, and he’s ready to kick more ass than he ever has in his life. He’s in line to walk up and get his diploma. He looks up to the bleachers where all the parents were sitting; he half wishes his mom were there, or some version of her that he would want, or just someone. His girl wasn’t there - they broke up a few days before. It hurt him a lot. So he’s looking up there, and he doesn’t see anyone. There was this giant mirror in the gymnasium, though, and he see’s himself. He’s like “I’m here for me. I’m congratulating myself.” It wasn’t what he wanted, but he never felt like that before, like he was worth something to himself. He did after that. He walked up with gusto, grabbed the diploma, held his hands high, and promised himself to kick ass. That was his second step to becoming Superman.

So he gets to college, and he goes to pick a major; he didn’t know what at first, but it was a pretty easy pick after a little bit of thinking. He wanted criminal justice, and sociology. He wanted to help people in the situation he was in, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be the one to make the arrest, or the one to help the kids through the tough times. He didn’t pick between them at first, he just took a double major, thinking he was going to change it.

It was a lot of work. He wanted some side cash - he didn’t need it, because of the scholarships, but he wanted to have a good time every now and then. So he got a job. A shit job, but a job. He did his best to juggle it with his school work and his social life, both of which took off like wildfire, and he did a damn good job, but his grades weren’t good enough. He lost a few of his scholarships and had to apply for student loans, and had to pick up some extra hours, which didn’t help things. Then there was the second girl - this one was trouble.

He’d been drunk and stoned before, like so many other kids, but it kind of took a hold of him. Any spare minute he got, he’d take shots and toke, and eventually he started coming to class like that. The girl was always on something (some of the heavier shit he knew not to try, thankfully), and it started to hold him back. Now this one was different; they really, really, really worked together. Great chemistry, understanding, and above all, they loved each other. He still regrets letting her go. He wanted to help her, save her from her addictions, but it was just too much of a toll. He learned to care about himself earlier, when he graduated highschool, and he thought about how it would affect him.

In the end, he decided not to be selfless, to shun the white knight again. It broke the girl, for a time. They later chatted on whatever social media was popular when they got older - oh fuck, who am I kidding? It’s going to be Facebook. it’s always going to be fucking Facebook - and they made up and told each other about their lives, and how good things were happening, but at the time, it broke them. Their hearts were gushing blood, and it seemed like every happy moment they had was nothing.

He got off of the stuff. His grades improved, and he spent more time with the people he needed to. He started seeing one of the school’s counselors, and they talked. This guy wasn’t the same as his friends, though. He had never been to a counselor before, and talking to him seemed ridged. Then they got to talking about the past, about his mother, and the foster care, and the counselor told him about his own experiences - they were a lot alike. Eventually, they started hanging out outside of the little office; they had a few beers here and there, and vented to each other about their work. The counselor told him how hard it was doing his job, especially when it seemed like he couldn’t help the poor souls that walked into him. Quinn started asking about it more, and he eventually decided it was a shitstorm - a shitstorm that he could handle, and one that he would like to help settle, but not the thing he wanted to do for the rest of his life. He switched solely to criminal justice, and minored in psychology, in case he had to comfort someone. I told you that he thought about himself more now, but he still had a heart of gold - he still wanted to help people out.

He gets out of college, and goes to the police academy. He passes with flying colors, a real prodigy. Thing is, he lived in a city, a particularly bad city, and most of the guys on the force weren’t the kind of guy he was. He ran into all sorts of shit; murders were the first. He was on patrol and saw a shooting. He chased after him best he could, and he called an ambulance to the location. He didn’t catch the guy, and the woman died of blood loss before the ambulance got there. He didn’t forgive himself for a long, long time. It was just awful. He followed procedure, but he really wanted to let the bastard go and help the woman. He felt like it was one more person he let down, one more mistake that would never go away. He thought of his mom, and the girl from college, and his counselor friend. He felt like he let them all down then, by not being what he needed them to be. He lost a lot of character that night, and it took years to get it back.

He figured that he had failed as a cop, and as a person, so why bother? He took bribes, slept with hookers, and snuck drugs from the evidence bag. Still, the guy had morals. He saw a man beating a woman in an alleyway one day; he didn’t use his gun, but he beat the shit out of the motherfucker, cuffed him, and testified against him in court. Him and the woman got on well after that. They started seeing each other, and eventually, they tied the knot.

The wedding was beautiful, but standard. The bride was dressed in white, he had on the tux, yata yata. It was cool after that, though. She was a lawyer, and they kind of tag-teamed; it was like a cop drama really. I know it’s kind of cliche, but that's how I want it. See, the thing about Quinn is he has ups and downs and turn-arounds, and all sorts of other shit, but he’s always doing good for himself and others. At this point, he was really close to becoming Superman.

Then the wife gets pregnant. He was overjoyed, and so was she. They picked out the baby names, bought a house, finally, and painted the room pink once they found out it was a girl. Then the girl came out, and she didn’t move. There was dead silence in the hospital room that day, save for the beeping of all the instruments, but no one heard them. Quinn held the girl’s little hand gently. He felt the greatest feelings of love and loss at the same time.

His wife got depressed. Really, really down. She tried to kill herself once, and Quinn was beside himself, but only for a moment. The guy really stepped up when it all went down; he had made a lifelong commitment to this woman, and he planned on keeping it. Shit, I really wanna get this down.

They tried again, a boy this time, and he came out healthy as a horse. It was great, and they loved him, and they bought a new fancy car - shit, could he afford one on his salary? Fuck it. I know I said he wasn’t a detective, but fuck it. I’m making him a detective. He gets promoted, some big fucking bust case, cocaine, sure, why not? He’s a big shot, the best the PD has to offer. He did a bunch of shit and lived happily ever fucking after.

A lot of people like Quinn would think it was their fault, like all the shit that happened to them was on them. But not him. He values others, but most of all he values himself. He’s by no means a narcissist, just a good guy with good self esteem. That’s what I want outta me. I got friends, family, things Quinn could never keep. But I don’t love myself the way he does. If I could just be like him, just be like I want, I could probably get off my ass and write this story down, make a living, and have some pride in me, like I have pride in him. That’s why Quinn is my Superman; he grew up in torture, and fought his way out, and continued fighting through the ups and downs, and it made him into the best guy I can think of.

I think I’m going to write it, because when I write it, I’m saying it to myself in the loudest voice possible. If I can get this down, I can start to recognize my own strength through the strength Quinn has. So, I’m going to do it. The cursor isn’t going to blink anymore, and the pages are going to be filled with the story of a champion.