Why do we need heroes?
That was one of the questions John David Anderson posed to Northwestern Middle School students Thursday during a presentation on superheroes, real-life heroes and how to write about them — something the author of novels for young adults and children has plenty of experience with.
“[Heroes] give us something to aspire to and they inspire us,” Anderson said. “It shows us we all have room for improvement. They show us there are some things worth fighting for. And they show us Spandex is cool.”
With his quirky sense of humor, Anderson easily connected with the seventh- and eighth-grade students. The Indianapolis resident has published two books, “Standard Hero Behavior” and “Sidekicked,” and he shared with students the basics of writing stories about heroes to kick off their March Madness reading challenge.
Anderson asked students to identify the superheroes in a line-up of images that included Batman, Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker and others. Then he showed them images of real-life heroes like Martin Luther King Jr., Neil Armstrong and Anne Frank.
He asked students to think about why the first set of heroes was easier to identify and what qualities people expect heroes to have. He explained Joseph Campbell’s monomyth that breaks down the hero’s journey into phases that include the call to adventure, a road of trials, making sacrifices and reaching an epiphany.
“The problem with heroes is they’re just so darn good all the time,” Anderson said. “But if you don’t want to write about a goodie-two-shoes hero, who do you want to write about? The anti-hero. If you’ve been following our culture, you know anti-heroes are becoming more popular. I want you to think about why our heroes are becoming more flawed.”