Shoutout to My First Superheros: Zorro, D’Artagnan, and Edmond Dantes

When you grow up as an only child, you get really good at spending time alone. Not to say that you’re lonely or anything; it’s quite the opposite. You can’t know what you don’t know.

In my case, a lot of my free time was spent transforming my grandmother’s closet into a one-person clubhouse and reenacting my favorite movie scenes in her living room. I couldn’t tell you how many times I rolled around on the couch pretending I was Tarzan sliding through tree branches.

In hindsight, I owe a lot of my imagination to my family who let it flourish, but my grandmother especially. She’s the person who would take me to Target to buy a new movie every Tuesday, like clockwork, and watched more hours of The Land Before Time sequels than I’d like to admit.

Out of all of those memories, one struck me recently when I was revisiting my origin story.

Before I knew the difference between Marvel and DC, or what anime even was, I was already running down hallways at top speed with a towel tied around my neck as a cape. But I wasn’t trying to be Superman or Batman. Nah, that wouldn’t come until later in life.

I was Alejandro Murrieta. I was Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan. I was Edmond Dantés. These swordsman, armed with their charm and wit, were my first superheroes.

In addition to the towel around my neck, I would wear my grandmother’s church hat, my aunt’s work boots, and carry around a fly swatter that would make a cool thwip thwip noise when I swung it around fast enough.

“En garde!”, I’d say as I carved invisible K’s in the air for hours.

Movies like The Mask of ZorroThe Three Musketeers (1993), The Count of Monte Cristo and The Man in the Iron Mask don’t get nearly the pub that they deserve today. As a matter of fact, some of them are actually pretty maligned today. Luckily, six-year-old Keith didn’t have the presence of mind to realize that Leonardo DiCaprio playing twin brothers was odd. [Although, the performance did earn him a Raspberry award for worst couple.]

I didn’t care because I got to see the D’Artagnan boss up! The Mask of Zorro blew my mind because the only Zorro I knew before that came on Disney Channel in black and white and was an unofficial sign to go to sleep. Now we’ve got Antonio Banderas? In the 90s?? Dude was unstoppable!

And The Count of Monte Cristo is the BEST REVENGE STORY EVERY TOLD. You talking about “five beats a day” for three summers while Edmund Dantes plotted for more than 15 years.

Those films opened up my eyes to newfound possibilities. Thanks to them, a little kid from the South Side got to dream about saving the world without having to wait for a radioactive spider to creep up and bite him.

It’s long overdue that superheroes get their pub through billion dollar movies that impact the entire world. But I wanted to take a moment to say thanks to the first heroes I had that taught me to do the right thing.

Maybe if the industry gets a little tired of stories about dudes in tights, we can revisit these stories and expose a new generation to the stories of Alexandre Dumas and many like them.

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  • Yemi

    Good post, Brotha.

    I am not trying to hate but I have to ask. Did you realize at some point that Tarzan was/is inherently racist, etc? At what point did that happen? What did it do to you?

    I ask because many children’s classic are INCREDIBLY racist and it was outright painful to discover it over and over again in different works. How did you deal?

  • lorie johns

    Hi Keith,
    “The Count of Monte Cristo” was a childhood favorite of mine, too, and so it’s doubly exciting to find out that its author, Alexandre Dumas, was a Haitian-French biracial writer who wrote prolifically and was extremely successful during his lifetime.
    Forgive me if you already knew this and simply decided that it didn’t need to be mentioned in your piece.
    Best,
    lorie

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