I am a child of the 80’s. I grew up in a time when Saturday morning and the two or three hours after school were for cartoons.
When I was young, five or so, I loved the Superfriends, Spiderman, and The Incredible Hulk. As I got a little older I loved He-Man, then The Transformers, and then I got into comic books. My favorite titles were the same as the cartoons I watched when I was younger - Superman, Spiderman, The Hulk, The Transformers.
I remember wondering when I was a kid how come Superman didn’t just grab Lex Luthor by his shirt collar and throw his ass into outer space, or how come when bad guys kidnapped Lois Lane, Superman didn’t just punch them in the face and make their skulls explode.
I mean, here you had a guy who was basically invulnerable, could fly, and was stronger than any human on the face of the earth. He could do whatever the fuck he wanted and no one could stop him.
But he didn’t, why didn’t he do these things?
Superman respected the sanctity of life. He respected his fellow sentient beings. In the Superman stories, he never acted like anyone was less deserving to live than he was.
Here was a guy who for all intents and purposes was a god, yet he was a total boyscout. He used these powers to try to stop corruption and crime. I remember actually coming to this realization when I was 8 or 9 and was very impressed at this character trait.
My young imagination would go nuts, Superman could kill Lex Luthor any time he wanted, easy as swatting a fly, but he didn’t, because he had morals, he had respect for life, I respected that and decided that it made him a “good” person, and in turn made me realize as a young child that just because you could do something, it didn’t necessarily mean you should do it.
Then, when I was about ten years old, the Transformers cartoon premiered.
The one character that really stood out to me (and I’m sure countless others) was Optimus Prime. He was like the alien robot version of a John Wayne character.
Optimus Prime would kick ass when he needed to, but he was always kind and supportive with his fellow Autobots and humans (at least in the cartoon), he showed a great respect for life (if it wasn’t the Decepticons).
He was a bad ass 50ft tall warrior made of metal, who also had a kind gentle side, but was firm when he needed to be, almost like a patriarchal type figure to the other Autobots.
Often times Optimus Prime would use his smarts and the resources of his fellow team members to defeat the bad guys, and not just his gun.
I was very impressed by these characteristics as well, and as strange as it sounds, as a child I wanted to have these characteristics in myself. These cartoon characters were my heroes and I wanted to be like them.
They taught me that you could be “tough” when you needed to be, and gentle otherwise, they taught me to respect the sanctity of life and that no matter how much power you had, that you should be respectful of other living, sentient beings (or in my case, other people).
I learned more about morals from Superman and Optimus Prime than I ever did from going to church.
The 29-year-old racecar driver and builder was cruising downtown Columbus, Ohio recently in the 365-horsepower, turbine-powered machine he’d built himself. The car was completely legal except for one thing: No front license plate.