Chapel Address: Tuesday 2 February 2021   |  By: Louise North, Principal and Head of the Senior School

If you were a Marvel or DC Super Hero, who would you be?

If your teachers were Super Heroes, which ones would they be? Groot? The Scarlet Witch? Thor? Gamora? Hulk? Wonder Woman or Dr Strange?

Perhaps your Housemasters and Housemistresses might be the Avengers?

Or depending on how many negatives or detentions you’ve been given, you might be thinking about Baron Zemo, Chief Nasty of the Masters of Evil.

So…What is it about a DC or Marvel Hero that draws people to them?

I asked the staff here at school to tell me who their favourite hero was. I was inundated with answers, for example: Mrs Rutterford, our Head of Admissions, is a Black Widow fan, Mrs Regan, Miss Wessels and Mr Boyd Williams love Spider-man. Mr BW describes him as an awesome, cunning, kooky fighter and also a total science geek. Mr Gange apparently has a Spiderman costume in his fancy dress collection, (who’d have thought it?). Mr Gange loves Spiderman because he always puts others first and saves people every day.

Mrs Bloore used to transform into Wonder Woman when she was young and loved her super strength and magical powers, her empathy and supreme wisdom. On TV she had a lasso that made people tell the truth when she caught them in it, which Mrs Bloore also wishes she had. Mrs Clarke loved that Wonder Woman was physically and mentally strong, did not take any rubbish from people, was kind and also looked amazing! Miss Green loved the Amazonian backstory behind Wonder Woman and also admires the powerful women in Black Panther.

Dr Noble chose Rogue from the X Men as she was one of the most powerful mutants of all time. She could gain powers from other mutants just by touching them and Dr Noble is inspired by the idea of being able to heal just by touching someone.

Mr Lloyd, Mr Sedeno and Miss Tansley all love Superman. Mr Lloyd because he is compassionate and can fly. Miss Tansley has always rooted for the big guy powered by the sun who can disguise himself simply by putting on a pair of glasses and Mr Sedeno says that according to a university study, Superman is the most powerful of heroes.

Mr Gandy’s all-time favourite is Batman and Mr Pirvu on the other hand admires Iron Man because he is the closest to a normal human being of all the heroes, his superpowers are created by harnessing his intelligence and his affinity to technology could be so beneficial for humankind.

If I had to choose between DC and Marvel, I would always choose Marvel. And the Marvel Universe is on my mind particularly at the moment because Marvel have just released WandaVision on Disney Plus. WandaVision is an American TV miniseries based on the Marvel Comics characters Wanda Maximoff /or the Scarlet Witch and Vision. It is set in the MCU and

Although I haven’t watched it yet – other than a sneak peak at a couple of spoilers – I’m looking forward to seeing it.

Stan Lee, the co-founder of Marvel Comics back in the 1940s, died in November 2018.  Alongside Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Stan Lee created hundreds of Marvel characters, goodies and baddies, and over a period of 70 years, 32,000 comics were published. These days you are more likely to buy a graphic novel than an individual comic, but the Marvel Universe is about more than comics; there is a whole industry out there, making films, creating merchandise, writing stories and importantly keeping our imaginations alive.

The other reason that the Marvel Universe is on my mind is because right now I think we could all do with a bit of superhero magic, to spur us on, keep us from plunging into lockdown misery and to inspire us to believe in better things. Marvel Heroes, I believe, can teach us an awful lot.

Marvel Heros have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My brother and I loved Spider-Man, and over the years, I have bought Marvel graphic novels, Marvel Hero Lego, Marvel Hero bags, Marvel Hero Top Trumps, Marvel Hero plasters, Marvel Hero PS4 games, Marvel Hero films, Marvel Hero socks, Marvel Hero T Shirts, Water Bottles, Birthday Cards.. I just can’t get enough of Marvel.

Stan Lee made it clear from the outset that in the Marvel Universe, life is not always fair, and the innocent sometimes suffer. Happy-endings are not guaranteed, and we see this for the first time when Spider-Man’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacey dies at the hands of the Green Goblin. Love isn’t going to last for ever like a fairy tale.

I think the reason we like the Marvel Heros so much is because they have flaws, they have suffered, and they do have weaknesses – just like us. So, their human characteristics, as much as their super-powers, make them who they are, and we can relate to them because of it. Stan Lee once said “I just tried to write characters who are human beings who also have superpowers.”

So, Spider-Man’s drive to fight the bad guys comes from having indirectly contributed to the death of his Uncle by turning a blind eye to a thief.

Dare Devil is blinded in an accident – ironically whilst saving a blind man from being run over.

Steve Rogers is just a scrawny kid before he takes the super soldier serum and turns into Cap.

Tony Stark is a greedy arms dealer before becoming Iron Man.

Dr Strange is a selfish neuro-surgeon until an accident changes his outlook on life.

Star Lord’s mother died when he was very young and he was kidnapped by Yondu, on a spaceship.

Wolverine and Rocket Raccoon were both experimented on by shadowy government forces.

Then there is Hawk Eye who is let down by his mentor the Swordsman and tricked by the woman he loves, Black Widow.

…all of them have gone through traumatic times, which influence the way in which they behave as Heroes.

Similarly, in our lives, there have been, there are and there will be traumatic moments for all of us. Moments that stop us in our tracks, that change who we are and alter our perspective.

These moments can knock us for six, but they also remind us not to take people or things for granted, they remind us to seize the moment and be less afraid, they teach us not to give up, that time doesn’t stand still and that we should pursue our dreams; that the opportunities of today may not be there tomorrow.

All the Heroes use armour in one form or another. I believe that we all need our own, personal armour to get us through the challenges we face each day. We all need something to help, something to protect us, something to fall back on when things start to go wrong.

So, we may not have Cap’s Shield, Thor’s hammer, Star Lord’s helmet, Spidey’s webbing, Dr Strange’s Magic or Hawk Eye’s arrows, but you might have a lucky charm that you carry with you, you might have a prayer or a mantra that you recite when you are feeling nervous, you might feel armed and ready when you’ve put your make up on, you might even have your lucky pants, you might give yourself a look before you go out in the morning. It might be something else entirely, but make sure you find your very own armour– something to give you the protection and courage that you need to go and face your challenges.

There is something else that our Marvel Heros teach us through their stories; they rarely overcome evil on their own. Think of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four or the X Men. All stronger together than they are alone. Or how about when Iron Man comes to Spidey’s rescue in Spider-Man Homecoming and puts the Staten Island ferry back together or in Guardians of the Galaxy where to start with Rocket Raccoon despises Star Lord, Gamora and Drax hate each other, but, by the end, they work together to defeat the evil Ronin.

That idea of working together, of being stronger together applies to us too. Don’t forget who’s around you, don’t forget that often two heads are better than one (apart from when you are doing your Coursework), don’t forget that talking something through can help you to see the wood from the trees, don’t forget that someone else may have a different idea that might help.

And finally, my favourite Marvel character is Groot. Why? Because he makes the ultimate sacrifice at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy and saves his friends as they fall from the sky. He wraps them up in a bundle of branches and leaves and cushions their fall. I love Groot. He can only say one thing, and in fact that phrase, I am Groot, means whatever you need it to mean. He communicates with his actions and his expressions and no matter how horrible some of the Guardians are to him, he never waivers because they are his friends and he forgives them.

I don’t think anything can top that.

As Stan Lee said “the definition of a hero is someone who is concerned about other people’s well-being and will go out of his or her way to help them—even if there is no chance of a reward. That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.”

I believe I am looking through the screen at my fair share of Super Heroes. Be inspired, be inspiring and in the words of Stan Lee: Excelsior.

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