Men and women in tights are becoming an integral aspect of our pop culture. It’s true that I’m regularly asked, “They still make comics?” But thanks to cinema and television the comic book industry, which yes is alive, has recently seen a boost.
But why are superheroes becoming popular again, and why do they never go away? Why do we love stories about men and women in ridiculous outfits beating up bad guys?
“Why do we love stories about men and women in ridiculous outfits beating up bad guys?”
Because they show what we can be. In the DC Universe, there are heroes and villains with supernatural abilities which can level entire planets. And yet Batman, who has zero superpowers, is considered to be one of the people you just don’t mess with if you like your face un-pulverized. Bruce Wayne has no special powers. And that is what makes him special.
He is the epitome of a person’s potential, both physically and mentally. Technically, with enough training and a fortune, anyone could be Batman. And while it isn’t salubrious to dress in black and go out into the night to punch bad guys, there are certainly worse men to model yourself after than Batman.
Because they humanize the divine. In case you were unaware, Superman is basically a god. His strength has never been given an upper limit. Some have tried to define it to an extent, but then he simply breaks that barrier by flexing a bicep.
There are other hyper-powered heroes, but Superman is the first and best fits the celestial symbolism. And it is a common metaphor to compare the Man of Steel to sun gods and Jesus, even going so far as to have him die to save humanity and be resurrected.
The point of this is that Superman is a tangible divinity, and he is a kind and caring god whose job is to protect his citizens, punish evil and save us. Especially from ourselves.
As All-Star Superman #10 shows, it’s one thing for a therapist to help you, and it’s another when Superman hugs you at the precipice and tells you everything isn’t as bad as it seems and that your life has meaning. Superman is everything we want God or a god to be.
Think of any superhero. Thirty or 40 years ago, that character was either completely different or had yet to be created. Superhero comics have a unique literary quality in that they can change. Superheroes are entirely reliant upon the person writing them; the next writer who takes over a title can theoretically retcon everything that came before him. So superheroes are culturally relevant no matter what decade it is.
Because they evoke a spirit of adventure. Superhero comics are fun. From the deepest reaches of the ocean to the fathomless depths of space, superheroes explore the farthest corners of our imaginations and are kind enough to bring us along.
Superhero stories are for everyone who ever wrapped a cape, or towel, around their shoulders, closed their eyes and jumped so that for one second, they believed they could fly.