This year's movie offerings has seen a collection of superheroes acting less than nobly.
From the inability of Batman and Superman or Captain America and Iron Man to solve their conflicts without fisticuffs, to the team of supervillains Suicide Squad taking center stage, to the R-rated antics of Deadpool, the superheroes of the silver screen seem to have fallen from their position of role models.
On Wednesday, though, comic book heroes had a chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of children as they visited the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster, during Superhero Week at the organization's summer camp.
All week, the children there have been reading comics, learning about art and discussing their favorite superheroes. On Wednesday, they had a special visit from Batgirl, Captain America, Daredevil, the Flash, Nick Fury and Supergirl, all of whom came by to sign autographs, answer questions and talk to the kids. Throughout the day, they focused on the importance of studying hard, serving others and being healthy.
The week of events came about with the aid of Tom Gordon, a comic book collector who volunteered his time and network of comic friends, including Baltimore Comic-Con manager Marc Nathan and Josh Geppi, of distributor Diamond Comics. The pair helped Gordon find the costumed heroes for the event and donated comics to hand out to the children throughout the week.
Erin Bishop, marketing director for the Boys & Girls Club, said some children attend camp for the entire summer, while others pick and choose the weeks that interest them the most. She said Superhero Week and Survivor Week were the two most popular events of this year.
"It's not just fun, it's a way to improve reading and literacy," Bishop said. "It's summer, and they're looking for fun things to read. We thought this would be a fun way to encourage that."
Gordon said times are changing in regards to comics. Although there was once a stigma against them, it's becoming more acceptable to use them as educational tools.
"They are a great way to promote literacy," Gordon said. "There's historical and science facts in a lot of these. They don't just make fiction anymore."
Seconds before the super friends entered the room, the group of screaming children chanted for their favorite superheroes. Suddenly, the Flash entered the room, not quite at supersonic speed, but at a pleasant jog. The Flash introduced the rest of the crew, each of whom entered to screams of approval.
As the superheroes' first act, the Flash deputized the children as Junior Superheroes, telling them it's a great responsibility. He said the most important things for a young superhero are studying hard, exercising and eating good foods.
They then began a question-and-answer session with the children.
During each of the questions, the heroes tried to steer the answers back toward clean living and good citizenship. One child asked Daredevil how he got his name. He explained how bullies taunted him as a child by calling him Daredevil as a joke and, when he got his superpowers, he embraced it to take away their power over him.
While Captain America explained how he got his powers through a combination of the Super Soldier Serum and Vita Rays, the Flash made sure to mention that he had to train and work hard to understand his new powers.
The children hung onto every word of the costumed crusaders, and when the time came for the superheroes to sign autographs, they were swarmed with children. Each child was given a copy of "Batman/Superman" Vol. 1, No. 1, by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness, in which the Dark Knight and the Man of Tomorrow team up to fight Metallo, an evil brain trapped in the body of a robot with a heart made of Kryptonite.
Some of the children raced through their issues, looking mostly at the pictures, while others took a moment to read slowly through the story.
Alexa Peach, 10, took her time, savoring the story. She said her favorite superhero is Wonder Woman.
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"I like that she's a girl, and she's really good and strong," Alexa said.
Bishop said Wonder Woman was surprisingly one of the top favorite superheroes among the younger set. Other favorites include Batman, Captain America and Iron Man.
Robert McGhee, 11, said his two favorite superheroes are Captain America and Iron Man. He said they're both inspiring.
"I like that Iron Man builds his own armor. I like computers and tech, and it's cool he built a suit with [artificial intelligence] in it. That's really impressive," Robert said. "I also like Captain America because he always saves the day and has a cool shield."