Almanac Book Review – Quentin: Not All Superheroes Wear Capes by Quentin Kenihan

Quentin: Not All Superheroes Wear Capes

Quentin Kenihan




Quentin Kenihan was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, meaning his bones would break easily. When Kenihan was born he came out of the womb already with broken bones. Born in Melbourne, Kenihan and his family moved to South Australia to further his medical treatment. It was a decision that certainly helped him have a slightly better quality of life, but also led to some fracturing in the family. When Kenihan was seven Mike Willesee made a documentary about his plight and the nation watched. And cried. Now Kenihan is 41, and so far, has lived about 41 years longer than any doctor thought he would.


The Willesee documentary and Kenihan’s subsequent television appearances kept his plight and story in the minds of most Australian’s. He was our little Aussie battler, the boy who was told he shouldn’t, couldn’t but persevered regardless. Not All Superheroes Wear Capes is his story; dark, emotional, uplifting – a story of courage and determination but also drug addiction, family battles and devastating depression.


It’s easy to be critical of Kenihan’s parents, and in fact Quentin is at times throughout the book, but the reality is they had no rulebook when he was born, no guide for a child like Quentin. While it astounds that Kenihan’s mother seemed to spend so much time interstate or overseas during those years (both parents were journalists – his mother a writer for New Idea Magazine), that may have been part of the coping mechanism. There is no question that Kenihan’s disability caused enormous difficulties in his parents’ marriage, which led to separation and constant arguments. Stuck in the middle were Myles and Sia, siblings who also had to adapt to their brother’s condition. Kenihan’s on-going care would have been very expensive and the constant care exhausting. But none of that is Kenihan’s fault.


By the time Kenihan was of adult age the stark reality of life ahead was all too obvious. That realisation and the constant hospital visits and pain led to addiction to pain killers and the use of alcohol as a relief valve. An interest in film and television was an escape from the rigours of life, and Kenihan devoured movies and decided he wanted to be a part of that world. Since the late 1990s he has been involved in the writing, producing and directing of movies, as well as writing and starring his own Adelaide Fringe show. There have been triumphs, and some failures professionally. But the underlying theme throughout his story is his willingness to keep going, to fight his inner demons and to refuse to let a disability stop him from not only functioning as a ‘normal’ adult but carving out a career in the entertainment industry. And it hasn’t hurt that mates like Russell Crowe and Ray Martin have been able to guide and cajole Kenihan when he’s been at his lowest. Those times include suicidal idealisation and the addictions.


Life at 41 is no easier than it was sitting with Willesee as a seven-year-old. In fact, it’s significantly harder. His health and body continues to fail him. According to Kenihan he may not see his 50th birthday. But then he wasn’t supposed to live 24 hours, and he’s proven all and sundry wrong on that one.


Not All Superheroes Wear Capes is a timely reminder about courage and determination; that’s three-o’clock-in-the-morning type of courage that few of us possess. It’s a reminder that nothing can (nor should it) stop someone achieving their goals, reaching the dreams or having a life of real meaning, irrespective of the challenges thrown up.



FAlmanac banner sq


Leave a Comment