The Price of Courage

I imagine that every child has fantasized about being a superhero at some time or another.  To fly like Superman or run like the Flash or have the cool car and gadgets of Batman sounds like a great deal of fun. 

But there’s another side to being a superhero and that is the secret identity.  Some heroes have gone to great lengths to make certain they will not even remotely be suspected of being their alter-ego in their civilian guises.  Sometimes their efforts to protect their identity cause them to pay a high price in terms of their happiness.

Several years ago I wrote an article on the use of mature themes in theatrical versions of 80s cartoon series.  In that article, I specifically referenced the lengths Prince Adam would go in order to preserve his secret that he was actually Eternia’s greatest hero:  He-Man.  This article will feature an analysis of the price Adam paid to protect his secret identity.

Adam is very fruitful ground for analysis as he is the only hero that I’m aware of who has actually had stories dedicated to the crushing burden of protecting his secret.  Also, unlike most other heroes, the danger consistently comes to Adam as he is part of the royal family so he is usually placed in a position of peril instead of seeking out wrongs to be righted.  Since he is pulled into conflicts on a regular basis, Adam often has to extricate himself briefly in order to switch identities which leads to the risk of his being perceived as a coward by family and allies.

Since he was part of the group often under siege, many have wondered why Adam bothered keeping it a secret that he was actually He-Man.  But there is an excellent reason for keeping his identity under wraps.  If his enemies knew his secret, all they would have to do is hold one of his friends or family members (or really anybody) hostage and threaten to kill them if He-Man ever appeared again.  Or they would simply find a way to get to and eliminate Adam before he could change.

Adam’s longing to share his secret so he could always be his true self was such an interesting study that it actually became a plot point on two separate occasions.  Once in the original 80s series and again in the reboot in the early 2000s.

In the 80s series, the topic was visited in the story “Prince Adam No More” which was written by Paul Dini who would go on to greater fame as the creative force behind Batman:  The Animated Series and he knew how to write a compelling story that would engage both children and adults and was unafraid to throw in an emotional gut punch along the way.

The thrust of the story was that Adam’s father, King Randor, was set to begin the annual tour of Eternia and he always chooses someone to be his royal guard.  Adam hopes, and is fairly confident, that he will be chosen.  While he’s discussing the topic with Man-At-Arms, the court jester, Orko, accidentally gets trapped in an Attak Trak and sets it going.  To save Orko and keep the palace from being destroyed by the rampaging machine, Adam transforms into He-Man to stop the tank.  After saving the day, King Randor comes out and expresses his gratitude that He-Man is always there for Eternia.

Later Adam and Man-At-Arms resume their discussion and Adam, again, expresses his certainty that his father will choose him to be the guard.  Man-At-Arms makes the comment that Randor hasn’t always been pleased with Adam and then Adam said something very telling.  He said, “You know, as Adam, I may act like a goof now and then, but, well, that’s only to keep my secret.  Besides, I’d never really do anything to make my father ashamed of me.”

Think about that.  Sometimes Adam would act a little lazy, be a little clumsy or seem to be a bit unreliable, but his statement makes clear that it is just that. . .an act.  Not only that, but he’s tried to be very careful to show these negative attributes in a way and at points where his father wouldn’t be embarrassed by them.

Eventually Adam and Man-At-Arms are called to the throne room where King Randor announces he has chosen He-Man to be his bodyguard for the royal tour and Adam is stunned.  Immediately, he says, “But, Father, well, I thought that you and I might make this trip together.”

His father responds, “Really, Adam?  But you’ve never shown any interest state affairs.  Sorry, Son.  I’m afraid on this trip I’ll need someone a bit more experienced. . .and reliable.”  To which Adam sadly responds, “I see.”

One can truly sympathize with Adam’s heartbreak.  Not only does it seem like Randor lacks faith in his son, but Adam has also been passed over for himself.  It isn’t He-Man who makes Adam worthwhile.  It’s the other way around.  It’s Adam’s courage. . .Adam’s nobility. . .Adam’s goodness. . .and Adam’s perseverance that makes He-Man a hero. 

It’s also important to remember that despite looking like a man in his early twenties (since Lou Scheimer, the series’ creator worked on the cheap and used the same cels for Adam and He-Man with subtle changes), Adam is only about 16 years old and of an age where he’d want his father to be proud of him.

Later that night, he voices these same thoughts to the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull as he tells her, “For a long time, I’ve had the power of He-Man.  But to keep that power a secret, I’ve had to pretend, you know, to be careless and irresponsible.  More than anything, I want to give up that disguise and make my father proud of me” before the most agonizing look of sadness comes over his face.  The Sorceress reminds him of the very real danger of revealing his secret and Adam realizes that he can’t endanger friends and family, but believes he can earn his father’s respect without revealing the truth.

Adam is able to reluctantly convince his father to let him be the guard as he needs to learn how to properly rule the kingdom one day.  Randor admonishes Adam that the trip is too important for Adam’s usual antics and Adam promises him that he can be relied upon.

While on the tour, Randor, Adam and Man-At-Arms are ambushed by Beast Man.  Adam bravely tries to stop him, but is overpowered by the far stronger villain and left stunned.  When he recovers, Man-At-Arms asks him why he didn’t transform and Adam admits he wanted to prove that he could be a hero.  Man-At-Arms reminds him that he was give his powers to help others, but that nobody ever said he could use them to make himself happy. 

Realizing his true responsibility, Adam changes into He-Man and rescues his father who actually joins him in the battle and admits he was a bit of a rowdy in his youth, essentially admitting he was a little irresponsible in his younger days.  He also admits he loves his son and, even though he’s a little hard on him, he is proud of him.  Learning this brings a great deal of peace to Adam.

It’s a truly great story that reveals the burden of Adam’s secret.  He has to pretend to be something he’s not to hide the hero that he is and he does it so convincingly that he’s afraid he had truly caused his father to be ashamed of him.  What a burden for a young man. 

I always appreciated the fact that, ultimately, Adam would be able to show himself to be more of a hero to his father in the series’ last hurrah, The Secret of the Sword when he brings his sister, Adora, back to Eternia.  Randor tells him, “Son, today you’ve made me the happiest man in all Eternia” before warmly embracing his son and you know that Adam has finally achieved his goal.

About twenty years later the idea was revisited again in the rebooted He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series in the aptly titled “The Courage of Adam”.

In this conception of the mythos, Adam was a little more deserving of his reputation of not being as princely as he ought.  Not that he was lazy or cowardly, but all he had ever known was peace so he wasn’t in a rush to learn the nuts and bolts of being a good ruler.  However, once Skeletor waged war upon Eternia, Adam unhesitatingly shows his bravery by accepting the mantle of He-Man to defend his planet.

This episode picks off immediately after the pilot. In that story, Adam did appear to run away from battle. But he ran to Castle Grayskull to accept the mantle of He-Man in order to be able to stop Skeletor’s onslaught. This illusion of cowardice causes the character of Teela, the captain of the guards and Man-At-Arms’ adopted daughter, to tease Adam and even his father believes that Adam, in his own words, “chickened out”.

Adam expresses his frustrations to Man-At-Arms who tells Adam he cannot reveal his secret.  As in the previous series, Adam realizes this truth and says, “Yeah, no kidding.  But that’s no reason that I, me, Prince Adam, can’t show that I’ve got what it takes also.  And who knows?  If I step up in battle, I mean REALLY step up. . .I’m no He-Man, but maybe he won’t be needed.”  And this is important because this statement shows that this isn’t about Adam earning his father’s respect as in the previous story.  This time, it’s about proving himself worthy to his family, friends and allies.

Man-At-Arms is quick to point out that as long as evil exists, He-Man will be needed.  However, Adam simply shrugs and walks away with a smile.  In his youthfulness, he’s clearly convinced that he can prove Man-At-Arms wrong.  But it also shows another facet of his bravery, albeit flawed by the impetuousness of youth.  So determined is he to prove himself an asset in his true form that he’s willing to sacrifice his awesome gift to do it which also puts his life infinitely more at risk.

Eventually he gets his chance when a character named Stratos seeks leave from King Randor to help his people negotiate with a difficult group of rivals.  Randor offers the services of one of the Masters to accompany Stratos and Adam immediately seizes the opportunity to volunteer.  Randor is quite pleased by this as he tells Adam, “It heartens me to see you showing some initiative, Son.  You have my permission to accompany Stratos.”  And the smile on Adam’s face tells you the satisfaction he gets from making his father proud.

Eventually Skeletor and his goons get involved and Adam fights against them as himself and acquits himself admirably until Skeletor conjures up an enemy so powerful that Adam must become He-Man to stop it.

The ending of this story is rather bittersweet as Adam looks sadly on the vista as Man-At-Arms seems to voice his thoughts, telling him, “You fought well, Adam.  But I think you now see that He-Man will always be needed.”

The episode ends with Adam continuing to look on the vista with a haunted look and one knows that he does understand, but the reality of having to hide his true self saddens him.

Being a superhero could be a great deal of fun.  But as we’ve seen, a lot of sacrifice goes into the decision to be a hero, especially when one’s identity must remain a secret.  Truly, there is a price for courage.

Wilderness in the City: Otter Creek Inn & Altoona/Eau Claire, WI

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Otter Creek Inn

Today the road has brought me to Altoona, WI.

Here it is, ladies and gents.  My 49th review and my first in the state of Wisconsin.  It is also the maiden voyage of my new 2018 Ford Focus on these excursions.

It was a bit overcast to start this journey.  I chased away the grays with a little conversation with Jesus and making liberal use of my free trial subscription to satellite radio.  Having the Beatles Channel is a little slice of heaven for a Fab Four connoisseur such as myself, let me tell you.

As I got deeper into Minnesota, the skies began to clear and the sun started shining down and the day had become quite beautiful by the time I crossed the border into Wisconsin.  Before I knew it, I had reached the Eau Claire suburb of Altoona and found the Otter Creek Inn.

The inn is located on a little acreage on Hansen Lane which you’ll find just before 10th Street.  I parked the car, stretched out the kinks in my hip, and walked up to the front door and rang the bell.  Almost instantly, I was greeted by the inn’s owner, Lisa Jenkins.  Lisa is actually a very new owner of the establishment.  The inn has been in business since 1987 and the original owners sold the property to Lisa over the summer.  Lisa shut down the inn for a few months for renovations before reopening it in November.

The inn still retains most of its originality and is more similar to a lodge than a house.  By that I mean, Otter Creek Inn is wide and long as opposed to being tall.  One of the first things greeting guests is the common area known as the Grand Room and grand it is.  Not only is the room massive, but it holds some games, some comfortable antique chairs, and a monstrous fireplace.  One will also find the breakfast options and can fill out what they would like to eat as well as time and location of the meal.

“Location?”, I hear you ask.  Unlike many other B & Bs, Otter Creek Inn does not have a communal dining room.  Rather it has several secluded areas where the guests can enjoy their meals in private such as a nook just past the kitchen or the 2nd floor balcony.  If you feel like it, you can even enjoy breakfast in bed.

Added to this sense of privacy is the fact that Otter Creek Inn is an adults only environment so you can really get away from it all.

Lisa led me to my escape for the weekend:  Dream Suite.

The room has blue flowered wallpaper, an incredibly comfy king bed, a 42 inch Smart TV, an electric fireplace, and a jacuzzi tub nestled in the floor by the bay window. It is also important to note that each of the 5 rooms contains a fireplace and jacuzzi which is a hallmark of the inn.

After I settled in, Lisa gave me a tour of the establishment where I snapped photos and got a little inn history.  Afterwards, I went to the hors d’oeuvres table where I had a little chip and dip and a Coca-Cola.  For the evening, a martini bar had also been set up for those who enjoy a good cocktail.

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Martini bar

I feel these long drives a bit more than I used to so I just collapsed on my soft bed, perused the movie menu, and just relaxed.  Before leaving for dinner, I filled out my breakfast choices and opted to enjoy it in bed.

Now most of my readers know that I tend to avoid chain restaurants, but even I had to yield to expediency on a Lenten Friday.  Luckily, there was a Red Lobster just a bit up the road.

The restaurant was packed and I was amazed that they were able to get me seated in about 15 minutes.  I looked through the menu to see what sounded appetizing, made my selection and waited for a server.

And waited. . .

Now I knew the place was busy, but I suddenly stopped to think that I had been seated for 10 or 15 minutes and I hadn’t even been brought water yet.  Just as I had that thought a young lady stopped by my table (I think it was the manager) who apologized for nobody waiting on me and she offered me a free appetizer or alcoholic beverage for the inconvenience.  I don’t know if she, herself, had noticed or if another patron pointed it out, but I thank whomever for the free cup of lobster bisque I ended up getting.

The bisque was rich and creamy and a dash of pepper added just the right amount of kick to it.  A garden salad and a half order of Salmon New Orleans with rice pilaf and mashed potatoes served as my main entrée.  The salmon was served in a creamy Cajun sauce and was garnished with shrimp.  It really hit the spot.

With a great meal in my stomach, I returned to the inn where I found a good meal really makes you notice how exhausted you are.  I dimmed the lights and filled up the Jacuzzi tub while an old episode of Law & Order played on the TV.

Now the jacuzzi tubs in this inn are just soaking tubs.  Soap flakes and salts are provided, but you can’t bathe in them as regular soap and shampoo aren’t good for the tub.  So I just sat and soaked, letting the jets massage my wearied limbs and the hot water unwound my mind.  Yes, sir.  I just sat and soaked until every joule of heat was absorbed from the water.

Then I got into my jammies and attempted to go to sleep, but it was too darn quiet.  I normally use a fan for some white noise and this room had no ceiling fan.  No problem, I just turned on the fan to the bathroom and, voila, instant shuteye.

I did some championship lounging the next morning.  Breakfast arrived promptly at 8:30 with my order of a small order of eggs benedict with ham, tomato, and onion served with a side of breakfast potatoes, cheese, and orange juice and hot chocolate.  It was 45 minutes of pure dining bliss and it was only as I was using my toast to get the last of the hollandaise that I realized I had forgotten to take a photo for the article.  But, believe me, it looked every bit as good as it tasted.

As I ate I watched The Mask of Zorro and then caught a shower and shave before heading over to visit the Leinenkugel brewery.

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Leinenkugel brewery

Leinenkugel is a family owned brewery (6 generations running) and was founded in 1867 in the small town of Chippewa Falls.  For $10 one can tour the brewery and have either 2 12 ounce lagers or a sampling of 5 5 ounce lagers.  Our tour guide was John, a former teacher, who was very knowledgeable about the Leinenkugel history and the process of brewing lager.  Most interesting was the revelation that Leinenkugel had to survive 2 threats to its existence.

The first, unsurprisingly, was Prohibition.  Leinenkugel managed to survive it by switching its manufacturing to ginger ale and non-alcoholic beer.  The second, and the bigger threat to its existence, was the great brewery purge of the 80s and 90s where many breweries started going out of business.  Leinenkugel escaped the purge by partnering with Miller which was a win-win for both companies and enabled Leinenkugel to continue thriving.

Leinenkugel is not only known for great lager, but also for being extremely charitable as they donate to or sponsor every charity within Chippewa Falls.  It is definitely worth a visit.

After my tour, I returned to the inn where I did a little writing and filled out a breakfast request for Sunday before I headed out to worship at St Mary’s.

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St Mary’s

It was a bit different, almost a blend of pre and post Vatican II.  Some parts of the service were recited in Latin and there was no sign of peace.  On the other hand, there was an excellent sermon on The Prodigal Son which Father argued should really be called The Merciful Father and it was definitely interesting food for thought seeing the parable from the point of view of the father.

After church, I went to downtown Eau Claire for dinner at Stella Blue’s.  This Cajun restaurant is easy to miss as it holds an unassuming spot in an unassuming building.  You’re probably likely to notice the parking lot first which is actually several blocks past the restaurant.

Despite a well-known reputation, Stella Blue’s has the look and feel of a hole in the wall eatery.  In my opinion that makes it better as those joints usually serve the best food.

It seemed to be my weekend for being overlooked/forgotten at restaurants as I once again waited about 10 minutes before a server got to me.  This time I got a free drink.  I started off with a gumbo appetizer and it was superior gumbo.  Theirs was closer to stew than soup and full of vegetables and even used bits of bacon instead of andouille sausage.  I mused about whether or not I should have just ordered the entrée version of that until they brought my main course of shrimp etouffee.  The spicy brown sauce was amazing, especially when mixed with the rice.

With another fabulous meal digesting, I returned to the inn.  When I entered my room, I picked up a white box which I had mistaken for a recharge port and found it to be a white noise machine.  Sleep would be easy to find tonight.

Another long soak.  A bit more writing.  Then I activated the illusory flames on my fireplace and set up the white noise machine to emulate the crackle of a campfire.  I almost felt like I was in the woods as the fictional fire snapped, crackled, and popped.

I enjoyed Sunday’s breakfast on the 2nd floor balcony.  Bacon fashioned in the shape of a heart along with pancakes with whipped cream, apple pie filling, chocolate chips, and maple syrup joined fruit, water, skim milk, and orange juice. Lisa was a most attentive host and even gave me leads on some new inns and a community theatre in Colorado (her old stomping grounds) which I filed away for potential future visits.

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Alas, all good things come to an end.  It was time to head back home.  But I enjoyed my stay in Altoona and my visit to Otter Creek Inn.  Not only is the inn a bit of big city wilderness retreat, but being near to the Eau Claire area means there’s plenty to do in terms of shopping, activities, and the arts. Otter Creek Inn is the perfect retreat for adults who want to get away from it all, yet still have plenty to keep them occupied.  It’s peaceful, elegant, and luxurious and Lisa will treat you like royalty.

Until the next time. . .happy travels.