I watched the 2000AD documentary on the Channel 4 website the other day (Future Shock! The story of 2000AD, available for about another couple of weeks if you’re in the UK, available to buy or rent through iTunes etc after that or elsewhere). For the most part it’s a pleasant hagiography that’s mostly a string of creators telling us how they created things and how good it was in the olden days. And, to be honest, that made for quite comforting viewing. The thought process was “2000AD was good / I used to read 2000AD / I am good” and that’s always a nice thought. The only real revelation I got from the film was a brief aside from Neil Gaiman who said that the overriding message of the comic was “don’t trust your heroes”, which rang very true and seemed like a particularly British thing to teach children and one of which I sort of approve (not wholeheartedly, of course, because I’m British and we don’t do that sort of thing).
A friend of mine that I lost touch with for a few years became a big cheese in Vice’s video section. When I asked how it was going he said it was great and that he was meeting a lot of his heroes. At the time I thought that was a little weird, but I put that down to the passing of the years and then distance that had grown between us. But Gaiman’s comment in the documentary and the celebrity deaths of 2016 have led me to wonder: who are my heroes?
And I realise that I don’t have a clue. I wrote in a previous post that I thought the art was more significant than the artist (or, to borrow the motto of the mysterious club on the Stephen King novella The Breathing Method, “it is the tale, not he who tells it”). And in writing that I’ve realised that I automatically assumed that my heroes were, or should be, artists and creators. Perhaps that’s why I can’t find any. (My friend worked for Vice documentaries and met people like Václav Havel, although I remain slightly unconvinced he knew who Havel was before being briefed, but anyway…) Although some say that any act of creation requires bravery, I’m not sure that heroism is the same thing. Heroism is rescuing someone from drowning, or protecting others from tyranny and persecution or intervening when you see something intolerable that everyone else is ignoring. Writing a pop song or a comic book doesn’t seem like enough to match up to that, but nor can I think of any examples. Perhaps that comes from not growing up religious. Maybe if you learn from birth that there is an amazing person who did incredible things (Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha) then it’s perhaps easier to foster that kind of adoration towards others. The amazing figures that I grew up with were all explicitly fictional (Batman, Superman, Spock) and I knew on some level that they were pawns of the people who created them. Perhaps that’s the mistrust that Gaiman talked about and perhaps it’s a good thing. But while it’s perhaps sensible not to trust your heroes, is it really so sensible not to have any at all? Blind adoration inevitably leads to disappointment and disillusionment, but perhaps no adoration leads to a lower expectation of what is possible in life. Without someone to look up to, we don’t have a destination to head towards.
So, I’m just going say D.B Cooper, the midair robber who stole $200,000 and parachuted out of a plane. He didn’t change the world, but had chutzpah, didn’t hurt anyone and disappeared in mysterious circumstances. That sounds like a life worth living.
Your aspirations could be worse