I could sit here and tell you how Heroic Inspirations by Michael Critzer should be your next read, and I could pitch what this book is about or how it might pique your inner sci-fi, fantasy, or superhero interests. But you don’t know me from Tom, Dick, or Jane so why should you trust my opinion? You can’t, however, I am not going to pitch the standard book description—you can get that information from the book jacket above or in the trailer at the end of this article. The only way to truly do Heroic Inspirations any justice is in showing you how I was changed by reading this book.
“Truth in Tribulation”
I wasn’t expecting the chapter on Wonder Woman to have such an impact on me, but I also find it a tad hilarious because for the past month I have been researching the history of Wonder Woman for an upcoming article. One of the major themes in the Wonder Woman chapter is “rebirth.” Critzer presents George Perez’s reboot story where Wonder Woman faces her first foe Decay:
…Decay taunts [Wonder Woman] and creates a path of destruction to draw the Amazon out. Finally, Wonder Woman is so angered at the loss of life she takes the bait and offers a direct attack, stating the monster has produced an ‘all-consuming rage’ in her.
The monster boasts that the rage has made Wonder Woman blind and vulnerable to ‘the death grip of Decay’….
Wonder Woman stands badly in the grasp of Decay, as her body begins to weaken and age. She is only saved by refocusing on the truth, not the partial truth that the challenge of Decays exists, but the complete truth that decay is the precursor for rebirth. She binds Decay with her lasso of truth…. Wonder Woman watches the chaos slowly wane as her lasso pours rejuvenating life into all Decay had destroyed….
The battle serves as a parable for Wonder Woman’s message. Decay is a picture of the challenges we face in life. According to their scale, the trials we encounter seek to break us down in mind, body, and spirit…. We don’t have to deny the reaction. Grief and anger are natural. They can cause empathy and lead to bravery. Expressing them is essential to recovery. But we should adhere to the ‘golden mean’ of moderation if the challenges we face are not to be our end….
…But just as Wonder Woman wields her lasso, we can encircle our challenges with the complete truth of their nature. We can see them as stepping-stones in the growth and renewal to come…
Critzer takes Wonder Woman’s story, even if you are unfamiliar with the comics, and presents the information in a way for anyone to understand. Then he breaks down the major themes and what the reader can take away from the hero’s journey before he presents the reader with a series of ideas to think about. At the end of every chapter are a set of questions directed at the reader.
In Wonder Woman’s chapter, Critzer asks the reader to identify a major struggle that they have overcome, then he asks the reader to evaluate how the struggle or challenge has made the reader stronger or wiser. But the thing that broke it all down for me was when he stated, “Struggles like us to focus on their destruction: betrayal shatters our faith, rejection shatters our self-worth…” but then he asks the reader to look at how those struggles strengthen us—to feel the pain and anger of each emotion but to view each trial as an opportunity for growth.
Connecting with My Inner Hero
I connected with the Wonder Woman chapter on a personal level because I overcame one of the greatest trials in my life, recently, and I am still fighting the great fight. I started my journey to overcome drug addiction, an addiction that was brought on due to different prescribed opiates for my chronic back pain. The first half of my story was published here on GeekMom: “A Thousand Voices: One Warrior’s Call to Arms.” But that was just the beginning of my journey—my inciting incident for all of you book nerds.
I wrote “A Thousand Voices” for a reading that I signed up for at my master’s program back in May of 2016. I was in an emotional state at that moment and I just wanted someone to listen to my story. I wanted someone to fight for me because I was too weak and broken to fight for myself. Shortly after returning home from residency, I focused on searching for a doctor to take me on as a patient since I just moved from Virginia to Florida. However, no one wanted to take me on as a patient because I was on prescribed opiates. Since the waiting time for an initial doctor’s visit was 3+ months I ended up coming off of opiates cold turkey—I don’t recommend this method without medical supervision but in my case I had no other choice.
While coming off of opiates, I had a complete meltdown and attempted suicide again. I ended up having to quit my job at a local university and drop out of my third semester master’s program. My spirit was broken and I was ashamed that I wasn’t strong enough to keep fighting. Being emotionally unstable, I was afraid of what my peers, mentors, and advisers thought of me, but most of all I was afraid of what my family thought of me because they were exposed to a greater amount of the self-destruction that summed up my so called life. So when Critzer summed up Wonder Woman’s struggle and examined how the trials we encounter seek to break down our mind, body, and soul…I cried. No, not just cried, I ugly cried! I was Wonder Woman in the grips of Decay.
I was in extreme pain and vehemently angry at the medical field because I spent so many years going from one doctor to the next and no one could figure out how to make the pain stop. All I wanted was to feel normal again, to be able to hold down a job, finish my degree, and support my family. To be strong. After several ER visits, I finally found someone who would take me on as a patient and I was preparing for a double fusion in my lower back in November of 2016—something every other doctor told me I was too young for—when I discovered I was pregnant.
Little did I know that I was also in the moment of my rebirth.
Times of great stress are signals for growth and when Wonder Woman faced her adversity against Decay, she found a moment for growth, or rebirth when she used her Lasso of Truth. My Lasso of Truth came in the form of life, literally. I had to face a great deal of pain for the sake of my unborn child. I spent over a month in bed suffering from agonizing back and leg pain, anxiety attacks, and depression. And because morning sickness doesn’t suck enough, the anti-nausea meds I was prescribed didn’t work so I spent a lot of time on the bathroom floor. While in those moments of anger and fear, I was filled with shame for being angry or upset that my original path was blocked and I had to endure another road block. I was enduring the same problem but with different circumstances because I was unaware of my moment for growth. It is easy to look back upon those moments and identify the issue and solution, but while in the moment the struggle is blinding. As Critzer states in his book, I had to embrace the pain and anger surrounding my struggle in order to grow.
In my second trimester, I was able to look past my circumstances and accept my story. I knew decay existed but I wasn’t able to see the whole truth as Wonder Woman did, until I was past the pain and in a more stable emotional state. I saw my moment for growth. I have always felt physically strong, but when I lost my ability to maintain a job and support my family financially I thought I lost my self-worth. My moment of growth was not in gaining back my physical strength and returning to my past lifestyle. My moment was accepting my situation.
I am currently 28 weeks pregnant and healthy. I still don’t know where I stand with my back surgery but I have learned to listen to my body and embrace a slower recovery rather than numbing the pain with meds. Like Critzer stated, “everything in moderation.” I am even mentally strong again. My journey has been long and I know it is far from over, but I don’t blame the world for my problems anymore. I have accepted the adversity placed in my path, gained a new perspective, and I look forward to the new life ahead of me. More importantly, I accept my failures and weaknesses for what they are—a signal for growth and rebirth.
Even though I lost my physical strength, something I can now admit after reading the Wonder Woman chapter is that Wonder Woman is not just a symbol of physical strength. Wonder Woman is a symbol of all forms of strength, and in my moment of growth learning to accept my weaknesses is my strength. My weaknesses don’t define me. What defines me is how I face my weaknesses, accept my circumstances, and brush myself off and face the challenges before me. My strength comes from a place of brokenness, but it makes me stronger as I face the next challenge in my life.
There are 30 different hero stories and each have their own struggle, from PTSD to letting go of the past. No matter what you are going through in life, Heroic Inspirations has a chapter for you. From Marvel to DC, Michael Critzer explores multiple superhero stories and compares them to the human condition. I don’t know that I have ever been passionately moved by a book as I have been moved by Heroic Inspirations. So, if you believe my story and see how this book opened my eyes, then I dare you to take a chance and read Heroic Inspirations for yourself. You never know what you will discover until you take the challenge and compare your story to those of the superhero stories in Michael Critzer’s book.
For a limited time, Critzer is offering a free e-book of his Heroic Archetypes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is a great addition to your copy of Heroic Inspirations. Check out Michael Critzer‘s website for further details.
As an added bonus, check out Critzer’s YouTube channel Professor Geek. It just so happens that he recently released a two part analysis on Wonder Woman.
To purchase a copy of Heroic Inspirations on Kindle, click here. Or get the Nook version here from Barnes & Noble. For a hard copy of Heroic Inspirations visit Hero House Publishing and order your copy today.
We want to hear from you, the reader. So consider sharing your story with us. Which hero’s journey can you relate to and how does that story speak to your circumstances?
Discover the hero inside with the help of Heroic Inspirations by Michael Critzer. I did.