JOSHUA VAIL

Hopefully by now, anyone reading will have seen Wednesday’s front page and be aware that I’m moving on from the Tribune to begin the next stage of my life in Arkansas. For anyone wondering, yes, there is a woman involved, but that’s not the whole point. 

By way of explanation, I’m going to talk about a reporter who is not me and also not real. 

When I was a very little kid, I had a t-shirt with Superman on it. 

As a (usually) mild-mannered reporter, you can imagine I might identify with that character now, but at the time of one of my earliest memories I was frightened by him. Superman was in an aggressive pose and he was smashing a rock to pieces. I hadn’t really absorbed complicated ideas like superheroes. All I saw was a strong man in a weird outfit breaking stuff. 

My dad explained that this was not an image of fear, but of safety. He told me a story from his own childhood that helped me understand that Superman was smashing that rock to protect people in its path. 

I forgot my fear and that story pretty quickly, and didn’t recall it for a long time. 

It came back to me a few years ago, about a year after I started at the Tribune in 2011. 

It was the first time I had disposable income to spend on new issues of comic books. Also, DC comics had just started a line-wide relaunch, restarting each and every series with a new Issue One and starting their characters over with a clean slate. So I decided to pick up the first few issues of some of the new series, and one of the first that I read was Superman. 

Clark Kent was reintroduced as a reporter in his early-to-mid 20s, trying to maintain a career while navigating a changing political reality, adult concerns and the various pieces of his life. In his Superman persona, he was unsure about the course he should pursue as he matured into a hero. 

I could relate. Obviously, I’m not an alien visitor from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, but I’d recently moved to a small town and was trying to find my own balance between my responsibility to work, myself and my ideals. 

A Superman who was also trying to find his place in the world appealed to me on a deep level, at that time. 

A few years later, DC pivoted again and began to reintroduce the version of Superman from before the 2011 reboot. This version of Superman and Clark Kent was first introduced in 1986, the year before I was born. This Clark was a full-fledged adult. He had a few more years on him than the version introduced in 2011. He knew what he wanted out of life, he was certain in his career choices and he had confidence in his methods and aims as a hero. 

I can’t say that I identify entirely, but I aspire. Superman has always been portrayed as an aspirational figure for using his considerable strength to do good and to help and protect others, without preference or judgment. But I think there’s another aspirational message in the story of Superman, at least in my readings of the character. 

The Superman that has been portrayed in DC comics for almost my entire life knows what is important to him and devotes everything he has to his goals and values. He has much more to devote that most of us, being able to push planets around and such, but the message is valuable no matter how much power you have. 

For a lot of reasons, staying in Chanute is not the best way to pursue my goals and values as they’ve evolved over my time here. As much as I’ve enjoyed my time here, and the people, and working at the Tribune, it’s time to move on. I’ll miss everyone here. 

Friends on Facebook can keep up with my continuing adventures there. Anyone who wants to keep in touch or let me know about goings-on in town can also contact me at joshua.vail@outlook.com

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