Comics / Spotlight / Progressive Panels

A Boy’s First Superhero: A Christmas Tale

By Andy Frisk
December 20, 2009 - 17:28

On December 15th 1978 Superman The Movie debuted. I was just a few months past my fourth birthday, and while my Mom ensures me that I was wide eyed and awake with awe as I sat in her lap at the theatre, I don’t remember that first viewing. I do remember when Superman The Movie aired on cable about a year later and I sat, wide eyed in awe again I’m sure, on the floor of my parents’ living room watching the film. From that moment on I wanted nothing less than a Superman toy, preferably a Superman doll, for Christmas. I wanted a Superman doll and would settle for nothing less. The incredible feats of heroic adventures I would conjure up for Superman to overcome once I had a precious Superman doll in my little hands would make my life complete, or so my young mind believed. It was a belief, and a truth, that to a 5 year old mind was more real than anything else in his little world. I had discovered my first, and to this day favorite, fictional superhero. What took me years to realize, and what I’m still in the process of discovering to this day, was that there was already a living, breathing superhero in my young life who was more real, and caring, than any fictional superhero. That superhero was my Dad.


Christmas, in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, was often a difficult time for many families in Western Pennsylvania, and for ours it was no different. The economic and emotional bedrock of many communities were the steady jobs (and therefore steady incomes) that work in the blazing steel mills of the region, especially Pittsburgh and its surrounding cities, provided for many thousands of men and their families. These jobs were leaving though, cheaper labor was to be found overseas and the mills were relocating or shutting down. Kids that were accustomed to bountiful Christmases soon faced the promise of much thinner ones. The money wasn’t there for the extras, and that meant there would be much less, if any, Christmas presents. Fortunately, we were better off than thousands of families in the area, but times for us were definitely tough as well. I’m sure that my non-stop requests for a Superman doll became irksome after a while, but I’m sure my parents took my and my brothers’ want lists for Santa in stride, albeit with perhaps a little heartache, for what parent wants to potentially face a heartbroken child on Christmas morning? Somehow and someway they managed to scrimp and save and therefore provide each one of their sons with their Christmas hearts’ desire, including my much begged for Superman doll. I’ll never forget tearing the wrapping paper from the box that contained my 12 ½ inch Mego Superman doll on Christmas morning! All of us managed to unwrap and discover our wishes fulfilled that morning, but I can say with sincerity that my Superman doll was the most cherished gift of all. Although I'm sure that I in no way cherished my present as much as my parents cherished the look of joy on our faces.

The Mego Superman 12 1/2 inch doll. A 5 year old's only Christmas desire.

It took many years for me, as mentioned, to come to the realization that the power behind my joy and the launching of a life long love of Superman, and by proxy comics books, which lead to a love of reading, and then writing, didn’t lie with the Superman doll, or Superman The Movie, but with the man who bought it for me and took me to the movie, my Dad. The giving of a much desired Christmas present, a simple act of parental love, would help shape and positively influence a lifetime. Nearly all parents have this power in their children’s lives, but many sadly do not realize it or make the most of it. My Dad did, in my and my brothers’ lives. I can’t imagine the scrimping, saving, and sacrificing my parents had to make during those very lean, but very developmentally important, years in order to provide their children with memories of Christmases that were to us incredibly bountiful and worry free. Those Christmases were super heroic gifts that only could be given by a boy’s first superhero, his Dad. Superman might be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but Dad could put a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and amazingly, given the economic situation of the time, presents under the tree. If those are not feats of true super heroics then I don’t know what are.

Two very happy and blessed boys on Christmas morning!

This Christmas will be the fourth since Dad lost a heroically fought battle with cancer. Still, when out Christmas shopping for gifts, I involuntarily and subconsciously still shop for a gift for Dad. I’ll pass by some sportsman equipment or history DVD collection and think, “That’d be a great gift for..,” until reality rushes back to me. It doesn’t make me sad to have these involuntary reactions. They actually serve to remind me of the first superhero I ever loved, and they ensure his spirit is still very much alive inside me. Superman is my favorite fictional, costumed, and super powered hero, but Dad was, and always will be, my favorite, real, and most beloved superhero. Merry Christmas Dad.

Last Updated: February 5, 2023 - 09:06

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