Disclaimer: They belong to DC. I went to Wiki for the key points on Heroic Epics.
Thanks to Kathy for the beta!
"A dreamer born is a hero bred on earth and up in heaven"—Mary Chapin Carpenter
A Dreamer Born
Tim Drake chewed on the end of his pen as he prepared to tackle his literature assignment. Sometimes, it felt as though he'd never left school. At other times, trying to pretend that homework and grades, and college applications were the most important things in his life felt as much like an act as Bruce's playboy routine. In the last year, he'd seen so much, done so much, and endured so much, that he didn't think he could ever really go back to civilian life again.
He steeled himself and looked down at his textbook. He was expected to read the introduction to the poetry unit tonight. Tim sighed. His teacher was fond of pop quizzes. While the world was hardly going to stop spinning if he bombed this one, he could still feel the old work ethic kicking in, forcing him to at least try to absorb the lesson.
He skimmed the overview, highlighting the topic sentence in each paragraph… and the key points… and the minor points. In short, he managed to drown ninety per cent of the section in canary yellow.
Tim sighed. He'd rather be down in the cave helping Bruce prove that Aurik St-Amand was laundering conflict diamonds through unsuspecting dealers. They had to get that evidence. The diamond traders were an extremely close-knit group. Convincing them that one of their own was knowingly passing off blood diamonds as legitimate would be nearly impossible without ironclad documentation. Instead of finding the proof they needed, he was stuck upstairs trying to memorize the key differences between literary and traditional ballads!
Irritated, he glanced down at the next section. An epic is a long narrative poem… That would do. And the salient characteristics of said long narrative poem were, an imposing and noble hero—usually historical or legendary… Tim smiled to himself. That basically described most members of the Justice League, including Batman—although Bruce would never admit it. (Alfred might, though.)
Next characteristic was a 'vast' setting—one that covered large territories. Well, that did eliminate Bruce—unless you really wanted to stretch the point that Gotham was a huge city. Certainly each district had its own unique character, but Tim somehow didn't think that qualified. He blinked slowly. On the other hand, traveling to other planets and other times likely would fit the paradigm—which would certainly cover his own activities as part of the Teen Titans. He smiled. Sh'yeah right. The Titans were a team of heroes—better make that 'aspiring heroes'—but there wasn't anything epic about them. Epic heroes didn't get acne, or worry about fitting in at school, or have to clean their rooms. They just ran around doing point number three: feats of immense bravery. Did Beowulf ever worry about how to slip off to pound monsters, then sneak back into bed and hide his armor before his father came upstairs? Doubtful.
The fourth element was the insertion of supernatural forces. Gods, angels, and demons didn't really play a big part in the team's activities, Tim thought. Well, unless Kid Devil counted. Were Martians 'supernatural'? Or metas, or… Or Cassie's sandals of Hermes, gauntlet of Atlas… powers of Zeus… um… moving right along, here…
Action-packed, adventurous, and exciting narrative style. Tim winced. Maybe back in the day when most of these epics were first written—but, as much as it embarrassed him to admit it—and as much as it would likely horrify Alfred—the Iliad was a slog of a read for him. He reread the point. Cripes, it almost sounded as though Homer had been writing the comic books of Ancient Greece. If he mentioned that in class, he'd probably give his teacher apoplexy.
Finally, Tim read, the narrator was supposed to be more or less objective. No mindless cheering section. Got it. Funny, though. Tim could have sworn that there was a decided lack of objectivity to the heroic epic. You had your hero—who was virtually perfect—except for his one tragic flaw that would prove his undoing. Was it 'objective' to remark that the hero had a flaw? Tim would have called it obvious, but maybe it wasn't. Maybe that was the point: that heroes could have flaws and foibles like ordinary people. That sometimes—Tim bit his lip as he again saw in his mind's eye a dark-haired teen in blue jeans and a black T-shirt with a red 'S'—a hero could lose and be no less a hero for the defeat.
And maybe, Tim reflected, sometimes the rest of the world needed to realize something he'd learned early in his career—and apparently forgotten: it had nothing to do with a costume, or a mask, or supernatural abilities, or a utility belt full of gadgets. A person had to make himself a hero—despite his weaknesses, despite the odds…
Tim glanced at the clock.
…Despite the fact that the Batmobile was probably going to leave without him if he didn't finish reading the assignment fast.
He sighed. Every objective had its obstacles. Tim picked up his highlighter again and prepared for battle.