Probably more than you think…
When I was watching the new Man of Steel movie the other day, the struggles of Clark Kent (aka Superman) reminded me of another fictional character who is especially close to my heart—my own vampire James Wentworth. But what could Superman have in common with a vampire? After all, he’s Superman.
The new Man of Steel movie, or at least the first half of it, is about how Clark Kent struggles through the world knowing how different he is from the humans around him. How does he adapt to those differences? In the film, Clark becomes a wanderer, directionless, hopping from job to job without any real goals, not too sure where he belongs. He overhears conversations he may not want to hear, and then what does he do with the information? How does he stop others from doing bad, and how does he protect those around him without alerting everyone else that he has special powers?
It’s the same struggle James deals with, particularly in Books One and Two of the Loving Husband Trilogy, Her Dear & Loving Husband and Her Loving Husband’s Curse. James is a vampire with extraordinary strength and superhuman senses, and he knows he needs to hide the truth of what he is, that he is undead among the living, to get through his nights without being run out with torches and pitchforks, or whatever it is they would use these days. Unlike Clark and his Kent family, James doesn’t have to speculate about what might happen when humans are confronted with things they don’t understand. James has seen it, he’s lived through it, from the Salem Witch Trials, to the Cherokee expulsion on the Trail of Tears, to the internment of thousands of innocent Japanese-Americans during World War II. He knows all too well how madness infects people when they’re confronted by something new or confusing. So James has kept himself in the darkness, literally and figuratively, wanting to remain part of the human world yet holding himself aloof from it for fear of the hysteria the knowledge of vampires would bring. Both Clark and James are afraid to be themselves. Yet they want to blend in. They want to seem like everyone else.
What is the right thing to do? Is Clark’s adopted father, Jonathan Kent, right to tell his son to wait until the time was right to make his mark on the world? James would be perfectly happy never making his mark anywhere but in his university classes with his students or at home with his beloved wife Sarah. He doesn’t feel destined for greatness, as Jonathan believes Clark is. James doesn’t want the spotlight. All James wants is to help others as quietly as he can and live in peace with his family. In the end, in Book Three, Her Loving Husband’s Return, James makes a great sacrifice to get the life he’s always wanted. Clark has to sacrifice as well as he comes to terms with his destiny as Superman. And also like Superman, James’s struggles only increase as others discover who and what he is.
Both Clark and James are afraid to be themselves for fear of what others will say. Their coming of age stories about how they learn to make peace with their places in the world can be understood by everyone. We are all different in one way or another, which is why coming of age stories are so important—they remind us that no matter who we are we can find a meaningful place for ourselves if we’re willing to try. Whether you’re an alien, a vampire, or whatever you happen to be, you can make peace with yourself and your place in the world. That’s a lesson we all need to learn.