From out of chaos rose the greatest and most feared of all watchmakers. The son of a watchmaker, he lived his life in subtle innocuity; a quiet simple existence. He was never very talented at anything other than watch making. He threw his whole self into the craft and became an artist. But his soul remained unfulfilled. He longed to be a great man; he longed for fame and charisma. As he sat alone in his small shop tinkering with the tiny parts of a timepiece, he pondered how his life was emulated in that small object. He was meaningless; as small and unnoticed as the watches he fixed. If only he could fix himself! If only he could look a woman in the eye and have confidence, style, charm! If only he could be an important man with a name that people would remember. Gabriel is hardly the name of powerful man. And yet there he sat, quietly working with cogs and wheels, dreaming of a life out of reach, bogged down in a fog of ennui.
Bells jingle as the front door opens and a tall dark-skinned man enters carrying a book. Irritated at the unwelcome interruption, Gabriel looks up.
“May I help you?” He asks.
“Are you Gabriel Gray?” The stranger replies.
Standing, Gabriel responds, “Yes, and you are?”
Breathing a sigh of relief, the stranger says, “I am Doctor Chandra Suresh, and you are not who you think you are. I need to speak to you about a gravely important matter.”
And so the two sat and talked and Dr. Suresh revealed to Gabriel the amazing truth about his life. A light began to glow behind the eyes of the watchmaker. His soul started to open up.
Chandra’s research into a deadly genetic disease that killed his daughter led him to a powerful discovery. There were people, he postulated, that had a mutated genetic code that gave them unbelievable powers – beyond any that humans have ever known. It seemed like a fairy tale, but it was true and all that the good doctor needed was a willing patient to provide him with the evidence he sought. His genetic research had led him to Gabriel and now he wanted him to join him in his lab.
“I just need a small amount of your blood so that I can test my theory against your DNA. If I am right, you are destined for amazing things. You may have powers that you have yet to discover!”
Gabriel found this prospect irresistible and agreed to go to the Doctor’s lab and participate in his experiments. In fact, he was flooded with hope, anticipation, and a hunger that had, until now, been only a fantasy. Little did the Doctor know what he would be unleashing on the world.
Back at his lab, Dr. Suresh excitedly shares all that he has discovered about this new evolutionary process and even goes so far as to divulge the whereabouts of other people he has uncovered who have shown signs of super-human powers.
To Gabriel’s intense and crushing disappointment, the DNA tests they perform are inconclusive and Dr. Suresh ultimately turns his attention away from Gabriel. “Gabriel, I simply must focus on those gifted individuals who can further my study and prove once and for all that we are indeed evolving into much more advanced humans than we ever thought possible. I cannot waste my time with you. I’m sorry.”
“Perhaps I can help you in your search for Specials,” Gabriel pleads. Reluctantly Chandra agrees and gives him an address to follow up on and instructs him on what to say during his interview with a man named Davis.
Upon arrival at his first interview, Gabriel discovers that he has found someone who incredibly has an amazing ability. He can move objects with his mind; no less than real telekinetic power. Gabriel finds himself overwhelmed by a need to have this power. What is so special about Davis? Gabriel is far more deserving. Overtaken by some force outside of his control, he slices through the skull of the poor unsuspecting Davis; killing him and stealing his power.
He feels alive in a way he has never experienced before. He has POWER! He is a special. He returns to Dr. Suresh and reports that Davis turned out to be a dead-end. No powers there, just a regular ordinary human.
Over the next several months, Gabriel tracks down and interviews potential Specials. If they have superhuman abilities, he kills them and takes whatever powers they display. It doesn’t take long for the Doctor to figure out what is going on and in a heated confrontation is killed by Gabriel.
Gabriel is now a completely different person. He stands straight up, no longer does he hide in his little shop, no longer is he a watchmaker. He has a greater destiny now. He is Special. His lifelong dream of being a great and powerful man is being fulfilled. The new man deserves a new name and thus Sylar is born.
Driven by the insatiable hunger to acquire more power, he tracks down and steals the abilities of each person on Dr. Suresh’s list obeying what he deems to be an “evolutionary imperative”. As he incorporates each new ability into his being, he exudes an evil that people turn away from. A hardness overtakes his eyes. He has a singleness of purpose that eliminates the need for any human contact, aside from those he will kill. He becomes a bloodthirsty killer who lives under the radar and is so powerful that no one can stop him. Once he acquires the ability of a certain young girl who has cellular regeneration, he will be completely unstoppable. His search for her will never end until he is successful.
There are others who know about this genetic mutation happening in humans. They also seek out people with special abilities to test them and in some cases, such as with Sylar, to imprison them. But Sylar stays one step ahead of them all the time.
In Sylar a killer has been created and the world is not safe.
The warrants and messages found in the creation myth of Sylar are meant to guide the reader to think of the deeper implications. The warning about how unchecked power corrupts is an old message. Also found in this myth is the warrant about not being selfish, as well as admonition about the ills of addiction. Finally we find messages telling us to be self-accepting.
This creation myth is a cautionary tale about power and corruption. Starting off as a mild-mannered man, Gabriel dreams of having power; of being different – special. Upon being given an opportunity to finally attain that goal, he is overcome by his compulsion to get more and more power. He represents the corruption of power found in our modern culture and he becomes a killer in his pursuit of that power. Lord John Acton, a 19th century historian and moralist is famously quoted as saying, “absolute power corrupts absolutely”; this is a clear message found in the myth about Sylar.
Another aspect of this myth is an underlying warrant about selfishness. Most of us are taught to share. We are told that it is wrong to be selfish and to seek out only our own profit. Sylar displays selfish interests and a disregard of others, thinking only of himself and his insatiable desire to acquire more power. This is again told in a cautionary way. The underlying message is that unwavering pursuit of selfish self-interests leads to corruption.
Another interesting aspect of this story is that his need to kill and take people’s abilities can be seen as an addiction. He gains pleasure from doing these things and hence feels more powerful. The pleasure he gets reinforces his desire to commit these acts more and more. Just like being addicted to a drug brings pleasure and makes a person want more of that drug.
A final underlying message is about accepting oneself exactly as you are instead of trying to be like everyone around you. Gabriel could not accept that he was a simple watchmaker. He couldn’t be happy with who he was. He dreamed about being greater than that and wanted to take on the qualities and abilities of other people. We’ve all known people who go through life emulating others instead of developing their own sense of self. This is what Gabriel does when he becomes Sylar and with each new kill and acquisition he gets further and further away from who he is until he is completely lost to himself. He becomes a menagerie of other people and Gabriel disappears. The warrant here is to accept and love oneself instead of judging yourself based on what other people are doing.
Creation myths play important roles in teaching about culture and answering the questions of who we are as a people. The conglomeration of warrants and messages in the creation of Sylar teach the reader to be cautious about attaining too much power, about corruption of the self in that search, about selfishness, addiction, and self-acceptance.
Sylar is a character from my favorite TV show – Heroes.