The Boy in the Blue Cape

Southport Avenue, Chicago, IL
I used to live in Chicago. It was only for a couple years between college and real career, but I loved it.  There's something about being in a city that I find completing.  It has to do with possibilities and options and there being so much to look at.

One day I was walking down Southport Avenue with my friend Carrie.  We were passing a children's bookstore when the door burst open and this little boy wearing a blue cape came bounding out.  He was wearing that kind of outfit that clearly communicated that he had been allowed to dress himself that day.  He had on layered t-shirts, rain boots, bright tie-dyed pants, a paper crown, and he had a wand.  He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and turned our direction.

"Who wants to be turned into a superhero?" he asked in an almost accusatory fashion waving his wand over his head.  We paused, looked at each other, exchanged knowing smiles referring to just how freakin' cute this kid was.  We looked back at him just in time for him to say, "Well...who does?"  His mother/nanny/caregiver type person had followed him out of the store and was patiently looking on with a "he does this" sort of resolve plastered across her face.

I had, in fact, wanted to be a superhero for just about as long as I can remember.  This is nothing to be taken lightly however, so I inquired, "What kind of powers would I have?"  He responded quickly, as though this list had been predetermined and he was saying it for the hundredth time.  He said:
  • "You'll be faster."
  • "You'll be stronger."
  • "You'll be able to do more of the things that you like to do."
"Not bad," I thought.  I'd accept that.  I was about to tell him that I would in fact like to be turned into a superhero when he added, "Before you decide, I have to tell you something else.  Once you're a superhero, you can turn OTHER PEOPLE into superheroes too!  But you have to be careful who you choose."

This was heavy.  Powers?  Responsibility to others?  More powers?  Was I ready for this?  Had I grown into a strong and stable enough adult to handle such gifts?  Wait a minute.  Bruce Wayne isn't stable.  Peter Parker is a neurotic mess.  The X-men boast an entire laundry list of neurosis, psychosis, and various issues.  I quickly decided that I'd be fine.  

"Sure," I said.  I'll be a superhero.  "Me too," my friend Carrie added.  And with a wave of his wand, we were superheroes.  "Do you feel different?" he asked.  Sadly...I didn't.  This was worrying because I had hoped that super-strength would kick in immediately as I was feeling tired from the night before's adventures at Rush & Division. "Not yet," I confessed. "Don't worry," he said, "you will."

The Boy in the Blue Cape, 2002, © E. Bell
And that is how I became a superhero.  I've often thought that this story would make an incredibly fun picture book, so maybe this is how I can work my way into illustrating children's books.  I sketched the boy in the blue cape once, which you can see to the right.  He needs to be more compact ..I drew him a little lanky, but I think it would be a good starting point for a character design if I were to ever try to illustrate this story.

Sometimes I wonder, in some less magical and more literal way, if the gifts bestowed to me by the boy in the blue cape weren't real.  I have gotten quite fast at doing things.  Had to.  Only have so much time in a day.  I'm pretty strong.  I can handle most things with the appropriate amount of emotional and physical toughness.  And I do often get to do the things I like.

I admit that up to this point I've not really exercised the ability to turn others into superheroes.  Or have I?  Every day I try to convince people to be faster and stronger and to devote their time to things that they care about.  So...does this mean I am a superhero?  If so, I'd better go find a way to use my powers for good.


  1. Really enjoying the posts, I'm reading them daily.

    You're a superhero.

    For sure.


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