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HOMEMADE HEROES

METEOR MAN’S REAL-LIFE IDOLS

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Although his Meteor Man flies through the air and knocks out bad guys with superhuman strength, actor-writer-director Robert Townsend believes real-life heroes don’t require all that muscle. He points to two heroes in his own life: his mother, Shirley Jenkins, and his fifth-grade teacher, James Reed. ”My mom was a single parent who raised five kids on the tough West Side of Chicago,” he says. ”She told us that we could do anything we wanted, we just had to work at it.” As for his teacher, Townsend explains, ”I named the character in Meteor Man after Mr. Reed. He would come back to the neighborhood after dark to take me to speech competitions. My life went in a different direction because of him.” Townsend advises today’s kids to ignore gangsta rappers and bad-mouthed sports stars in favor of someone trying to make a difference. ”Meteor Man became a true hero after he lost his superpowers and looked inside himself,” he says. ”That’s how a real hero operates from the inside out.”