I recently listened to a quick radio excerpt on KUOW where a UW professor talked about his three greatest heroes from, well, television shows. I thought it was very interesting; we often talk of heroes we have in real life, such as famous people who have done great things, or people in our personal lives who’ve made a huge effect on us. But just as much as real heroes, we also develop fictional heroes, and so below are the three fictional heroes who have changed my life:
3. Utahraptor, from Dinosaur Comics
Dinosaur Comics is quite possibly one of my favorite pieces of writing of all time. I can’t explain the appeal. It’s just a bunch of pictures someone probably drew on Microsoft Paint replicated over and over again with new dialogue. Still, Ryan North, being the rascally genius he is, has managed to create an entire world populated with incredible characters (including creepy raccoon and cephalopod neighbors) that continue to amuse and inform (yes, inform).
Out of all the characters, I love Utahraptor the most (trivia: he is widely considered the most salacious of raptors). The best friend and sometimes antagonist of main character T-Rex, he serves as a straight man foil to the more zany, easily excitable T-Rex. Whenever T-Rex appears with a crazy hypothesis, Utahraptor either (a) pokes holes in the theory, or (b) changes the subject to something else.
I can’t say why I look up to Utahraptor so much. I guess it’s perhaps because he’s erudite and well-informed. Much of Utahraptor’s charm comes from, however, his interactions with his best friend. Somehow, despite very different personalities, they’ve managed to forge a strong friendship. Having a friend like T-Rex (or Utahraptor) is an incredibly fulfilling experience (if not sometimes exasperating), but highly recommended. But don’t take my word for it!
2. Iroh, from Avatar: The Last Airbender
Iroh is the former Dragon of the West and one of the greatest generals of the Fire Nation, until his defeat at the seige of Ba Sing Se. Since then, he becomes the guardian, mentor, and protector of his fiery nephew, Zuko, and is just in general a totally cool guy.
He loves tea and the game Pai Sho, and is committed to finding and enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Underneath this seemingly bumbling, lovable character, however, is an incredibly serious and spiritual man who, when things need to get done, get them done. Despite his great strength (he is, after all, the Dragon of the West), he’s humble and kind to others. What’s most disarming about Iroh is his modest humor and his ability to admit his own mistakes, and yet somehow always end up right most of the time.
My wife says that if I don’t end up becoming Iroh — physique, awesome facial hair, wisdom and all — she will be sorely disappointed.
1. Koiwai, father of Yotsuba from Yotsuba&
Koiwai is a translator from Japan who adopts a precocious young girl named Yotsuba who goes on zany adventures. Working from home, he has a very close relationship with her daughter, and the author of the manga Yotsuba& does a great job detailing the ups and downs of parenting.
What’s so endearing about Koiwai is that he’s far from perfect. He hates wearing pants in the house. He’s constantly apologizing for being irresponsible. He allows Yotsuba to wander the neighborhood and get in and out of trouble (much to the chagrin of many parent readers, I’m sure). At the same time, however, he strives to be the best parent possible for Yotsuba, and it’s undeniable that the two have an incredibly strong bond. Most of this is probably derived from the fact that he is just as weird as Yotsuba is.
As an expectant parent, nervousness comes with the deal. Reading Yotsuba& and watching imperfect Koiwai build a good relationship with his daughter and work as hard as he can in becoming a great parent (while eschewing pants and challenging Yotsuba to fights with boxers on his head) gives me hope that maybe someone as strange as me could do a good job, too.
Who are your fictional heroes?