Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Evolution of Bucket-Man

About three and a half years ago, when he was six, my son A created his own superhero. He and his brother were living with his mother in Rhode Island at the time, and I was visiting. I happened to have a video camera with me to capture the birth of Bucket-Man.

Like most kids his age, his invention was mostly an imitation influenced by available materials. He was obsessed with Spider-Man and knew the three Sam Raimi movies scene for scene. He also had a big blue plastic bucket that could fit on his head like a hat. Bucket-Man was pretty much Spidey, but with buckets. That is, he saved the city by using his "bucket webs" and  his "bucket climb." Apparently he could shoot buckets from his wrist and use buckets to climb walls.

He looked like this:

...although I think in his head he looked closer to the image here (I have since learned that bucket-headed superheroes are rather common creations for kids).

In the three years since then, A has done a lot of growing. He'll be ten in January, and those chubby cheeks have thinned out quite a bit. He has lived with me for three years now and is in fourth grade. However, when he and his friends play superheroes in the schoolyard, he still plays as Bucket-Man.

But Bucket-Man is not quite the same. A recently told me that he has been making an effort to flesh out Bucket-Man and make him less like Spider-Man. He doesn't want his character to be a simple imitation, but an original superhero. The bucket is not actually a bucket, according to the revised story. It is a bucket-shaped alien that came to Earth and attached itself to a regular kid's head one day, like a parasite. It gave him special powers related to buckets - he can make them materialize and capture bad guys, for instance - but it also exacts a toll on him. See, in a Moorcockian twist (though he has never been exposed to the Elric story), the bucket creature is actually evil and tries to influence Bucket-Man to do bad things. One of the many plotlines A has created for Bucket-Man involves defending the planet from an invasion of other bucket creatures, presumably because they would make everyone evil.

The development of Bucket-Man into this sort of semi-tragic superhero has been gradual, and it has been interesting as a marker of A's mental development. Layers of complexity he could not have understood when he first created his character have made the character more interesting. He only has a couple more years before his obsession with superheroes is replaced by the hormonal craziness of adolescence, but it should be interesting to see how the character changes from here. Perhaps a love interest will creep in, or maybe some deeper levels of angst, or more exploration of the huge gray area between good and evil, which is something of which A has become precociously aware.

I look forward to finding out.

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