I read the latest volume of Bakuman this afternoon (fantastic series, still really enjoying it!) and, in it, Moritaka falls ill from over-working himself. He's hospitalized but is insistent that he continue drawing from his hospital bed, his rationale being that his and Akito's story is just starting to gain traction and tack off with the fans and he doesn't want to jeopardize that by putting it on hiatus for any length of time. His editor-in-chief refuses to run any of the story until Moritaka gets better, thinking that will convince the artist to recuperate. Moritaka, against nearly everybody's wishes, continues drawing anyway and churns out several chapters from his bed. He is so determined to become a great mangaka that he refuses to let anything stop him.
It reminded me of Monkey D. Luffy, the protagonist from One Piece. He's essentially a pirate with super-powers, but part of the character's charm comes from his almost single-minded (and, in some ways, simple-minded) determination to achieve his goals. In fact, most of his crew are all working towards incredibly lofty dreams, and none of them refuse to quit for anything.
The Thing is much the same way. Fandom has always wanted to put him in the "muscle guy" category, but his really strength comes from his willpower and courage. It's not that he's strong, it's that he will continue to fight and struggle regardless of what his chances of winning are. There's that Lee/Kirby issue (FF #40) where Dr. Doom hits him with some gravity beam, and Ben struggles to stand up against some huge magnification of his own weight. Doom is incredulous. And not only does Ben get up, but he manages to trudge across the room and crush Doom's hands.
A lot of great heroes are like that in some way. Green Arrow is another favorite of mine because he can be just to stubborn a bastard to quit. He's not even super-powered and knows his out-classed by even Batman, but he holds his own in the Justice League because of his willpower and spirit.
I do what I can to exercise and, not surprisingly, it becomes tiring after a while. After 20 minutes of non-stop laps in the pool, and I start swallowing water when I try to breath, I figure it's time for a break. Or when I've already run around the neighborhood enough times to rack up 5-6 miles, and I start to consider whether I should continue for the other 6-7 I had planned on. I'm not facing life-and-death situations against super-powered villains, but it's still a struggle. And that's when I pull my heroes out.
"C'mon, Sean! You're not even half-way done! You think being tired would stop Luffy?!"
"You know what Ollie would say, don't you, Sean? He'd say, 'If Arthur can do this, I sure as hell better be able to!'"
Oh, sure, I'm totally aware that these guys are all fictional, and their writers can have them miraculously summon any amount of willpower they need whenever they need it most, irrespective of how plausible it might be in reality. And that's why I don't always succeed. That's why my 13 mile run on Saturday became a 12 mile run that I had to walk for the last mile and a half.
But a lot of the time, being able to call on those heroes for inspiration helps. It gives me something to strive for, even if the end goal is ultimately unrealistic. And that's why my 13 mile run on Saturday didn't end at mile seven, when I was drenched in sweat and my soaking-wet, now-considerably-heavier-than-normal shirt had chaffed enough that I had started bleeding. Luffy and the Thing and Green Arrow were there telling me to keep going, despite the pain, despite the exhaustion.
I was really disappointed with my performance on Saturday. I didn't complete what I set out to do. But, on the other hand, I did a lot more than I felt I was capable of doing at the time. Maybe it's a bit cheesy. Or juvenile. Or simplistic. I don't know. But those heroes that I read about in comic books really do urge me to continually move forward and do better than I might otherwise do without their "encouragement." It might sound trite to say that heroes inspire people, but I think it only sounds trite because a lot of people who are called heroes don't really deserve that title. But the good heroes? The really good ones who do deserve that title, even if they're only just well-written? Well, they inspire me at least.
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