June 18, 2016, would have been Roger's 74th birthday. And so we are celebrating his birthday at his namesake website, RogerEbert.com, this weekend. Roger and I shared a fondness for the superhero genre, and quite frankly, Roger was my Superhero. In a previous article for Comic-Con, I described him as: the bespectacled, mild-mannered film critic who becomes Super Roger when yielding his Golden Thumb in favor of quality films, whether indies or blockbusters, or when advocating for the rights of those without power. The ordinary man who becomes extraordinary when he unleashes his ability to empathize with others, racing to the defense of people of another race or age or ability or economic status or sexual identity. The hero who can rouse the consciousness of others to come together around issues of social justice and fair play. And the man who had an inner core of steel, and a physical constitution so strong he eluded Death until he was ready to submit on his own terms.
What I love about Steve James’ documentary "Life Itself" is that you see all of the various incarnations of Roger as he goes from ordinary human to superhero: his boyhood; his passion for journalism; his sense of fair play; his carousing and falling to his kryptonite, alcohol, and how he ultimately defeated it; his relationship with his frenemy Gene Siskel as they changed the landscape of film criticism and how the public viewed films. And most important for me, Roger’s embrace of the unconditional love we had for each other. How that and our family life he so cherished strengthened his superpowers. How at the end of his life he morphed into this transcendent other, inspiring us to live better lives, hold our loved ones even closer, and strive to make this world a better place. What a Superhero!
I called upon our Far-Flung Correspondent Krishna Shenoi to create a visual representation of those words I wrote about Roger, and he did not disappoint. All of the Super Roger illustrations are by Krishna.
Another one of his super powers was singing union songs. See video below.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ROGER!
For more birthday articles, see Roger's Birthday: Table of Contents.