Elliott, comic book geek and Hero Within fan, shares his unique origin story and those that have inspired him:
Who were your childhood heroes, fictional and in real life and why?
The big heroes for me when I was a young child Shazam. (Captain Marvel) and Steve Austin the Six Million Dollar Man. When I was growing up cartoons and Superheroes were not a click away like they are today with YouTube, Netflix and so on. They were not hot properties like the MCU. So Saturday morning was King. In 1974 CBS aired The Shazam Isis Hour. For 2 years I would live for Saturday morning, And Shazam. My first day of kindergarten I wanted to wear my Shazam cape because I was afraid to go alone but I knew Shazam would be brave and be able to go. I was Shazam for halloween and one first place in the school's Costume contest. We lived in a town the population of 300 so it was very small most of the kids had the plastic mask with plastic suit costume that were sold by Sears Catalog. But I had my mom sew a lightning bolt on the chest of my red turtleneck I wore a pair of my older sisters red tights and my cape and a pair of cowboy boots. Way before Cosplay I was 5 and killing it. Ha! Then there was the Bionic Man. Steve Austin was this guy who was planning on going into space and then almost dies, but they rebuilt him they had the Technology. Technology had turned him into a Superhero. He was confident, calm and was looking out for the little guy despite what the orders were. At least that is how I remember him. That was the first time I was shown that a hero doesn't quit. That a hero comes back from the brink of death and disaster and uses what they gained from the experience to help others. I would use this lesson later in life. My Real life hero was Muhammad Ali. Being a Brown face in a small Minnesota town was a thing. I was adopted. My adopted family was a white family. This in itself was never an issue. Race was never something I looked at until I was in my teens. But I knew I looked different than everyone around me. I saw this guy on TV. I didn't even know what boxing was but I knew he was “The Greatest” And I knew his skin was like mine. Him hair was like mine. Then all of a sudden this guy was on Saturday morning Cartoons! I am the greatest- The adventures of Muhammad Ali was pretty cool.
But when I was 8 years old I saw Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali Comic book it was over he was my Hero!
In your opinion, who do you think is the most important hero in pop culture today and why?
To me Right now it's Sam Wilson. The first African America Marvel hero (The Black Panther is wakandin) He came from the inner city (Harlem) he has endured the test of time to be elevated to wear the revered mantel of Captain America. He was an angry kid he looked for an easy way to manage that anger and try to leverage some sort of power in his life by turning to crime. He then turned his life around and used his power to become a Hero. So for a moment for millions of Black Americans could see themselves in a larger than life character that looks like they look. I don't expect a lot of fans to understand how powerful that identification can be because it is not something they have ever had to consider. But for those of us who get that distinction it is huge. More than being a Hero African Americans can look up to. He is a Hero We all can look up to. The next statement sums up why.
“Because Captain America is not just for the good days. He can't be. I can't be. If Captain America can't stand for the dream on the very worst day--when America is fallen--then there is no Captain America. Because our worst day is only where we start from. Where we rise from. And if the man in the flag is too special to fall and rise and struggle with the rest... Then God help us all. If I've got to work harder now? Prove me more? That was always true. And that's a weight I'm proud to carry.
-Sam Wilson, Captain America
How has our modern era of heroes inspired or influenced you?
For most of my life I have been challenged by Mental Illness. So in my own way I have a villain of my own to battle everyday. Heroes remind me that I always have to be ready for whatever my foe (my illness) has in-store for me. Heroes have influenced me to always look out for the little guy. But Mostly to never give up. If you have to go down. Go down swinging!
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