We’re seeing a lot of super hero movies lately, aren’t we?
With the veritable empire of films Marvel keeps putting out every year, and the sweeping popularity of the recent Christopher Nolan Batman movies, its hard to ignore the tight grip super heroes have on the popular conscious. In fact, they’ve always had a pretty tight grip. Comics have been big since the early 1900s. Some super heroes have been around since before World War II. Some became big as a result of it, like Captain America.
But looking at the relationship between Super heroes and history is a post for another time. Today I want to talk about what makes a super hero.
In a lot of ways, super heroes are the easiest to define of all the protagonists. They are individuals with amazing powers, or a lot of money, who decide to use their talents to protect others against crime or, more often, super villains. Super heroes become super because of their abilities and heroes because they accept their responsibility to society.
And there’s the key word: responsibility. No doubt if you’ve seen Spiderman, you’ve heard the immortal line from Uncle Ben: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Cliché as the phrase may be, it does define the super hero.
Super heroes start in a lot of different places, though usually from a low point of some sort. Some are bullied outcasts, like Peter Parker and Steve Rogers. Some are lost, billionaire, playboys like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark. Some are just aliens like Superman. But what links them all is the moment they decided to take a stand and own their gifts. Peter Parker starts stopping crime. Tony Stark starts designing tech to help him get rid of the dangerous weapons he used to sell. Superman starts just… saving everyone. Unless of course you watch the newest Superman film where thousands died in the collateral damage of the climax.
If you think about it, responsibility also defines the villains super heroes must face. They are individuals with great power, intellect and skill who chose to use their abilities for their own gain. Or just for funsies, in the Joker’s case. However, because the superhero plays by a set of rules, that puts them at a disadvantage when facing the villain. They must take the higher road. Usually this higher road involves a no killing policy. Of course, not that all super heroes are like that.
But the most of the classic super heroes, they must overcome a villain abusing their power and keep to their principals in the process, never backing down from protecting others.