On Alienation and Superpowers

On Wednesday I found myself in a large room full of librarians listening to their geek master speak. Michael Uslan, the man behind the Batman movies, was the keynote speaker at a conference I attended and he was absolutely engaging and inspiring. But I didn’t get any of the jokes.

Let me explain…

Batgirl was a Librarian!

Batgirl was a Librarian!

For many of us, it seems, being a librarian is like belonging to a tribe, one with a shared cultural vocabulary. And, so often, I feel that I belong to the people of Artsy Land and I’m just visiting this nice place called the Librarian Ship. A familiar scenario for me is being out for drinks with some fellow librarians and someone makes a joke referencing one of the following: science fiction movies; young adult novels (damn you Harry Potter!); comic book lore. Then EVERYONE laughs (except me). I missed the reference because while they were watching that particular Star Trek movie, I was busy reading Vogue.

But back to Michael Uslan — even if he hadn’t recently written a book, he would’ve been a perfect fit at the library conference. All the members of the audience seemed to have an in-depth knowledge of each Batman film, of Batman comics and cartoons, and of  comic book characters and plot lines in general. They nodded their heads, asked relevant questions and, like I said, they got all the jokes. I think what I’m trying to get at here is that I don’t fully get the appeal of superheros and fictional fantasy worlds.

And it’s not like this stuff is underground; geeks are taking over the world. Just look at how many people attend Comic-Cons everywhere! And it’s also not so difficult to figure out that if you’ve always felt like an outsider then the usual superhero lore is extremely appealing. Superheroes are the ultimate outsiders, after all. While I’m only familiar with the most widely known comic book heroes, even I can see that they tend to be damaged people who find that they have a special talent for fighting evil, which of course alienates them even further from the mainstream (but simultaneously makes them super hot).

If I think about it though, I do sort of understand it. After all, I too have felt like an outsider (hello, I feel like an outsider within my own profession much of the time!), but it’s just that the sci-fi/fantasy/comic worlds don’t spark my imagination. During the period in which we all experience peak levels of alienation, the teenage years, what drew me in were vampire stories. I read Anne Rice, watched vampire films, and I even read books on the history of vampire folklore.

Reading Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire

Reading Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire

As a pale-faced girl with long dark stringy hair, I was drawn to the pasty-skinned dark-haired undead. Vampires were beautiful, mysterious, often tortured souls. They wore black, I wore black. They were intense, I was intense. They drank blood, I… Hum, ok, maybe not that last one. In any case, I was definitely drawn to their lurky myth. Vampires were my superheroes. Also, note that this was before vampires became cuddly creatures that don’t feast on human blood and that sparkle (seriously, Twilight? — sparkle?!) in the sun.

Buffy meets Dracula

Buffy meets Dracula

One thing geeks and I can agree on: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It has all the dark elements I love, plus all of the smart geeky stuff. She’s the one girl chosen in all the world to fight evil. Her Watcher is the school librarian. She doesn’t want to be an outsider but she’s forced into it by destiny. She has a tortured love for a cursed vampire named Angel. She looks weak yet she’s super strong. And, of course, the coolest characters are the vampires. And there’s a “bad” slayer named Faith who is excellent, as well.

Today, if I could have any superpower, I think I would choose invisibility. Again, maybe I just like to lurk in dark corners and be a voyeur, or maybe that’s the ultimate introvert superpower: observing.

Which superhero would you be, what’s your chosen superpower?


  1. I’ll get back to you on that! Just as a side note, I also attended the Batman talk and I had to say that I did know most of what he was saying because I also followed Batman quite seriously—only difference between me and Uslan is that I actually LOVED the corny Batman shows in the 60’s and I had a crush on Robin 🙂

  2. I know! It was comic relief for sure—but let’s not forget that there were some pretty great actors in that show too (so if everything else about that TV show was not very serious, at least the acting talents were).

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