Friday, February 7, 2020

Heroes are ordinary people who make themselves extraordinary

In October 2006, I discovered a show called Heroes on NBC, along with about 17 million other people. I was a little late to the game: there were five episodes that were released, and I voraciously watched all five. I liked it from the beginning, but I was totally hooked when Future Hiro showed up and delivered that famous message, “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World”. Simple and direct, but cryptic and confusing. And ultimately exciting!

I quickly searched for information about Heroes online, and I came across Heroes Wiki, a fan-based encyclopedia modeled after the successful Lostpedia. Editing the wiki quickly became an obsession for me to chronicle every detail of an amazing show. I became an admin on the site, and Heroes Wiki became the go-to source for fans of Heroes, averaging about 60 million hits a month at its peak. Even NBC started to take notice. They wanted to recreate our success and so NBC started their own wiki, but it never reached the success that the original Heroes Wiki reached. So instead, NBC decided to partner with our site, giving us a small amount of money to pay for the servers, and the rest of which we donated to worthy charities.

In chronicling information for the wiki, I decided it would be a good idea to reach out to some of the writers, crew, comic book artists, and even actors to get insights. I conducted 27 interviews over the years, sometimes getting good insight into show, sometimes understanding an actor’s motivations, always geeking out on a show I’m passionate about. One of the comic book artists, the incredibly talented Jason Badower, really appreciated my geekiness, and would throw Easter eggs in some of the Heroes comics for me, like naming nightclubs and hotels after me, or naming a character after me. What an awesome guy Jason is!

I got a call one day from a producer I had interviewed, and they wanted me to appear as a guest host on a new show they were starting on G4 called “The Post Show”. It was basically a recap of Heroes that aired after each episode. I was on four times, usually talking about what I predicted would happen next, or debating topics and conspiracy theories. What a trip that was, to set up a little studio in my living room, with a backdrop of original prints that Jason Badower made for me, and wearing my Heroes Wiki shirt! Total geekdom!

The producer wanted to hire me to do some digital writing for some of the online content on NBC, to help expand their expanded universe. I wrote texts that would go out furthering the story, online messages that helped guide fans, and content on some of the ability choosers that NBC created (kind of like the Sorting Hat at Pottermore). I did a ton of research for NBC, which was easy since I was drowning in information I had collected over the years. NBC asked me to write a choose your own adventure type story, which I did. I may or may not have named a character after my daughter! As a 6th grade teacher, it was fun to see the writing process in action, to watch all the drafts get passed back and forth, and to see how decisions were made for clarity, for creative content, and for legal reasons.

Heroes starts with Peter Petrelli asking the question that guides the entire series, “You ever get the feeling like you're meant to do something extraordinary?” I love this question, and I think it’s one that most people have asked at some point in their lives. I know doing research for NBC and writing about obscure characters in an extended universe might not be everybody’s idea of a super fun time, but for me it was! I didn’t save the cheerleader or save the world, but I was lucky enough to be hired to do something extraordinary.

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