Half My Heart is Filled With Marvel References

When I was six years old, the DVD collection that my Dad had in the downstairs cabinet became of interest to me. I sifted through the many different covers of various movies mainly consisting of superhero titles. It was the copy of Spider-Man with Tobey Maguire that caught my eye. The intricate detailing of his red and blue spandex suit with black outlining looked like the web of a spider. I’ll never forget how you could see his reflection in the skyscraper he had climbed with his ability to stick to walls. I wondered who this guy with the bug-eyed red ski mask was. When I flipped the DVD over, and staring me in the face was the famous “upside down kiss” between Spider-Man (Peter Parker) and MJ, it was a done deal; I had to know what this movie was all about, and naturally I then made the whole Marvel franchise my only personality trait for the next 15+ years.


If you think you’re a Marvel fan, you obviously haven’t met my Dad. His childhood was based on the sole belief that he actually was one of the Avengers. He spent his days saving up for comic books, action figures, and Marvel-themed Slurpee cups from 7-Eleven. He had hundreds of comic books featuring Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and even some of the lesser known heroes like Submariner and Quicksilver. He loves to tell the story of how he would run around my grandmother’s house with a red cape, and pretend he could fly. It really must’ve got to his head, because he vividly remembers jumping down his stairs as a kid and free falling into a tuck and roll, something I’m sure my grandmother must have loved! I can’t imagine how fulfilling it must have been for him to watch something he adored from such a young age turn into a global phenomenon and come to life before his very eyes as an adult. Characters that he read about on a page, that he made fight each other in his imagination were now on giant movie screens being played by successful actors like Robert Downey Jr. and the special effects weren’t imaginary anymore. Instead–they were mind blowing.

When I watched Spider-Man for the first time, I felt like I found my niche. Superheroes. How incredible was it that your average nerd could go from student by day, to spider by night? Talk about a convenient way to travel; forget the subway, swinging to work on spider webs was definitely in. My Dad could barely contain his excitement at this pivotal moment in his life: the moment where his love for superheroes was passed onto me. He still talks about the light behind my eyes, the first time we sat together on the couch and watched it the whole way through.


Tobey Maguire as

Spider-Man (Peter Parker)

When my Dad started renting the X-Men movies from Blockbuster, I couldn’t wait to watch them. He ended up having to buy all of the DVDs because I wouldn’t let him return them. The X-Men are a group of “mutants”, which are basically human beings that are born with an extra gene, “the X gene,” that gives them a unique superhuman ability. There’s a scene towards the end of  X-Men the Last Stand where a mutant called Juggernaut, who has superhuman strength and durability, (he’s like a mix of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and the Kool-Aid Man) is outsmarted by a mutant who can walk through walls.  My Dad thought this scene had the funniest line anyone had ever recited. I can vividly picture myself sitting on the couch, way past my bedtime, joining in on his laughter as he rewinded the scene where Juggernaut yelled, “Don’t you know who I am? I’m the Juggernaut BITCH!” My eight-year-old self had no business in repeating that line, but my Dad cared more about the laughs we shared as he watched the characters he grew up reading in comic books make it onto the big screen, and fuel my childhood with the magic behind Marvel.


Juggernaut from X-Men The Last Stand played by Cain Marko

After that, my Dad and I had an unspoken tradition of watching every new Marvel movie together. My younger sister, Cierra, was never really a huge fan of Marvel, but she was roped in regardless. My Mom could never keep up with the elaborate plots that the Marvel Universe had crafted over the years, so most times when she agreed to come, she would end up falling asleep. Over the years I think my Dad and I have converted Cierra and my Mom into minor Marvel fans. Sometimes Cierra will agree to go to an opening night showing, as long as I pay of course, and there are occasions when my Mom will enjoy a Thor movie as long as Chris Hemsworth takes his shirt off at least twice.


Once the Marvel Cinematic Universe was established I was in fourth grade. My Dad took the whole family to see The Avengers on opening night, and I left the theater thinking I was the next Blackwidow. I made weak attempts at cartwheels and “acrobatics” in the parking lot, and yet my Dad still cheered me on. We always looked forward to the debrief after a Marvel movie. Aside from Cierra’s incessant eye rolls, and my Mom’s confused follow-up comments, it was the time where we could finally rave about the action scenes, discuss callbacks, or my Dad’s personal favorite: the cameos- when an unexpected character makes a surprise appearance. Huge deal. Like when Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire reprised their roles as Spider-Man in Tom Holland’s Spider-Man No Way Home, I genuinely remember my Dad jumping out of his seat with excitement. On the rare occasion that I do see a Marvel movie without my Dad, his first question is always the same, “Were there any cameos? Wait, don’t tell me, I wanna be surprised.”

Marvels The Avengers (2012) Promotional Movie Poster


I tended to keep my Marvel fangirl obsession private because superheroes were stereotypically a “boy” thing and god forbid a girl enjoys a good Captain America flick- suddenly I’m in an interrogation room and must prove my allegiance to Stan Lee by naming every Marvel character ever created. I learned I didn’t have to prove myself to anyone to know in my heart that I was a true fan, regardless of being a girl.


The more Marvel movies we watched the more we started to speak in Marvel quotes. My favorite one comes from Avengers: Age of Ultron when Steve Rogers (Captain America) accidentally scolded Tony Stark (Iron Man) for using the word “shit” when he bumped into a forcefield. Tony and the team laugh at Steve, and it becomes an ongoing joke that Captain America doesn’t like bad language. My Dad likes to keep the joke alive every now and again, always channeling his inner Steve Rogers, “LANGUAGE!”. Now, this secret language isn’t just reserved for my Dad and I, on the contrary, it relates to the actions of everyone in the house. My Mom throws something questionable into the sink, “Who’s putting coffee grounds in the disposal? Am I running a bed and breakfast for a biker gang?” (Tony Stark, Captain America Civil War). You’d think it’s a rare one, but my Mom is the type of person who doesn’t learn from her mistakes. There’s something so funny about that quote, it’s so niche. No one would remember that quote watching Avengers Civil War once or twice. Cierra and I have reserved most Spider-Man quotes for our own inside jokes. Our favorite is, “I’m gonna put some dirt in your eye” (Peter Parker, Spider-Man 3) which we use out of context all the time, and it’s never not funny. I usually counter with the classic, “Oh look at little Goblin Jr. Gonna cry?” (Peter Parker, Spider-Man 3) and finish it off with an intense stare down. The crazy eyes are the most important part.


I grew up with these movies, just like my Dad grew up with the comics. We share a mutual love for the same characters, and although some have come and gone, the memories will forever have a long lasting impact on me. My Dad’s influence on my favorite movies has been the best part of my childhood, and it has truly brought us closer as I’ve grown up. There is no better feeling than sharing the love for something so special to you, with someone so special to you. I always know that my Dad will be down for a Marvel movie night, and he is the first person I go to when I hear any news about new content or recently dropped trailers. The world of Marvel Entertainment has come a long way and I hope it continues to grow, so that maybe one day I too can share it with my future family. For now, I will continue to rewatch my favorite movies all for the 100th time and quote them line by line, right alongside my Dad.

BriAnna Sankey

My name is BriAnna Sankey and I’m a senior writing arts major with a minor in creative writing and a concentration in publishing and writing for the public. I have always loved writing since I was young, but I feel that at Rowan I have fallen in love with it even more. I never imagined being confident in writing in so many different styles, and the world of creative non-fiction is now one of my favorite places. I write to share my ideas that I am proud of in the hopes of inspiring others.