My Heroes Don’t Always Need to Be White Guys

Avengers NOW 2014!

Not nearly enough pundits are complaining about Marvel’s all-new White Power Iron Man.

For those just joining the fray: pictured above are the new incarnations of Thor and Captain America that Marvel Comics will be introducing later this year. A recently depowered Steve Rogers will be passing on the Captain America mantle to a black man, most likely his old partner the Falcon. Meanwhile, the Norse god Thor will be transferred into a female identity under as-yet-unrevealed but probably magical circumstances.

The media thought these developments were so vital to our nation’s integrity that I first heard the news from morning-radio DJs while we were on vacation last week in Minneapolis. If commercial radio thinks it’s big news, then clearly it’s Big News whether I agree or not.

In what may or may not be a similarly themed development, the media was alerted today that Hollywood A-lister Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has reached a deal to star in a film based on a DC Comics character to be named later this week. All hints seem to point toward DC’s Captain Marvel, a.k.a. SHAZAM!, whose skin tone doesn’t match his. Preparing their rebuttal days in advance of the official announcement, comics fans nationwide have rushed to brainstorm their list of nonwhite DC characters that the Rock should be allowed to play. How nice of them to be so vigilant in helping the major publishers keep their cross-media adaptations demographically unmodified. And all without being asked first or getting paid for the job.

It’s my understanding that certain loud, obnoxious parties are up in arms on message boards and social media and such, because How Dare They or whatever. Fortunately these overhauls bounced harmlessly off me and my not-so-fragile peace of mind. And here’s why…

My First Boss, 1950-2013

first bossAt age 16 the thought of a part-time after-school job never occurred to me until I received a letter one day from a man named David Sleppy, owner/operator of the McDonald’s down the street from my high school. His store had launched a new recruitment program that offered a higher starting wage to applicants who were on the school’s honor roll — $3.85/hour at a time when minimum wage was $3.35/hour. As an introverted, insular kid with no self-awareness and minimal exposure to social worlds beyond my own limited boundaries, it wasn’t tempting until I did the math and realized that $3.85/hour was greater than my $5/week allowance. I figured why not. And hey, the letter guaranteed the job. Back in those days, silver platters were my favorite way of receiving things.

Mom drove me down there the next day and I filled out an application, but left most of the blanks empty because I had no experience and no idea how to sell myself on qualities alone. I saw no blank that allowed me to describe myself as “smart” and “nice”. But it didn’t matter to me anyway. I had the letter.

When I handed it to the manager on duty, he said they’d keep it on file. He brusquely sent me on my way, despite the letter. I was crestfallen.

Later that same day, David called me personally and told me I was hired.

For me, that’s when life began.

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