The Doc Speaks: Why do we want heroes?

Moments like this is what makes heroes for me.

This all stemmed from a thought in my head, which is by no coincidence the title of the post.  This was after weeks and weeks of dealing with miserable work, feeling like I haven’t been getting anywhere, contemplating quitting my job, and just dealing with depression in general.  The world kinda sucks and you wanna know what?  We could all use a hero to help us out, ya know?  Now, I’m not just talking about the kid who collects extra lunch food for the homeless guy that hangs across the street, the clever tech hacker that thwarts cyber attackers and scammers, or the friendly neighbor who helps get your cat out of a tree.  Sure, these people are heroes in their own right.  I’m referring to incredible beings with equally incredible power who devote themselves to virtues of righteousness and justice.  Why do we want them?  In addition, why do we escape to fantastic worlds where people with incredible powers and over-the-top costumes fight the powers of darkness?

Escape from a world where we can’t have these heroes; escape to a universe where we feel safer and protected at the hands of caring individuals rather than cold governments or indifferent corporations.  While that’s not to say that numerous companies and politicians aren’t incapable of kind thought and helpful actions, they’re usually hindered by competitors or their own flaws.  Back peddling, we seek out worlds where literal forces of heroism aren’t just tangible, we ourselves can witness them in plain sight.  In a sense, they take the best qualities of everyday service towards our fellow being and intensify it in ways we wish we were capable of.

When one talks about the origins of comic books, one thinks of the bronze age.  A time of experimentation mashing pulp literature and visual form to create something for all!  Now, content like political cartoons and illustrated works have existed as a means of conveying narrative, but this brought it to a new form.  Here a new form of science fiction was truly born to the masses, the super hero.  While the target audience was certainly younger, this didn’t stop older readers from taking just as much inspiration for ages to come.  In fact, comic books began to incorporate more intelligent and fascinating themes as time went on.  In fact, one of the most famous comics that lead to the mid-50s censorship bill was made as a push to fight back and end racism.  Judgement Day gave us a tale where we as humanity can get past the social construct of race and also showed us how completely absurd and terrible racism is while showing us how damaging the concept of race can be.  Fast forward past the gradually declining censorship that almost brought the industry to its knees and we have heroes more humanized by how they try to contend with everyday problems.  Heroes conflicted by wars, dealing with personal trauma, and what have you.  Most of the time, they find ways to still aid others and get past it; an inspiration for countless people contending with the heartbreak and frustration of our real world.  While some could argue that it tears down the mythology of the flawless hero, it could be comforting to know that the caped crusader protecting your world knows what you’re going through.  Of course, this is a fiction character, but it’s one of many ways fiction can speak to and with us.

On the subject of our real world, there’s one thing I wish to get out of the way here…  Quite simply,reality really sucks unless you’re one of the lucky few.  If you are, good for you!  Either that or you’re just kidding yourself.  Now, serious cynicism aside, the harshness of reality causes most of us to seek some sort of escape.  This can take the form of some seriously damaging and lethal life choices or perhaps something tamer, like a hobby.  Even though folks say “crack is cheaper”, the world of hobbies is still a beneficial one; creating boundless sub-cultures, fantastic creations we wouldn’t have seen otherwise, lasting friendships, and much more.  Of course, hobbyism has its own beefs too, but I’m neither going to focus on nor dwell on them.  Hobbyism is a culture all its own, flourishing and growing alongside the property it supports.  In many cases, the creators and the fans work in tandem to help create something truly magnificent and the world of heroes are no different.  Of course, previous works have made their way into creating new legions of heroes to take up the mantle.  Take the newest run of Marvel’s Squirrel Girl.  The creators are huge fans of campy silver age fun, making her an antithesis to gloomy heroes, the previous “dark age” of comics, among other starker aspects of the comic world.

Now, with any hobby, a massive group of people is formed around it.  This can take the form of numerous identities; religion, philosophy, guild or of course, a fandom.  While fandom is not solely just related to the realm of comic books, it’s certainly one of the older fanbases in existence.  It’s definitely a sight to see all of these people from all over the globe coming together simply because of the stories and characters that greatly inspire them.  This could be for meetups, perhaps conventions.  The power of these heroic beings pushes us to do our own events, even works of charity making homage to their greatness.  In a sense, superheroics are more than an escape into a fantasy, they can help shape the world we live in.  Dare I say, these characters can inspire us to be better people.

Sure, the notion of a fictional story inspiring us to improve ourselves may seem silly to many, but stories have lived with us and inspired us as long as humanity has had something to share.  Stories are culture, spreading and sharing of ideas, and other means of communication.  Whose, why would it seem strange that they can give us the courage to do what we think is helpful and right?  While not related to comic books, TheSpoonyOne’s video on playing Paladins certainly comes to mind.  He states that there’s nothing wrong with playing Good (if not Lawful Good) characters in D&D, that they can perhaps make us think about our own choices and perhaps provide some inspiration for bettering ourselves.  Not to mention, countless bloggers defending superman got me thinking that it’s not so bad to take a few pointers from the caped man in blue himself!  After all, numerous posts (including the main image above) showcases a friend to others above all.  Considering how hostile this world, there’s nothing wrong with taking the incentive to be more friendly towards others.  Of course, you’ll still have to defend yourself and others in times of strife, but it doesn’t hurt to take inspiration from other sources while doing so.

In short, the world of the super hero isn’t just something to dive into, it’s very much a part of our world.  In some cases literally, like the realms of Marvel comics, but also figuratively in some cases mentioned above.  Thanks for reading my little ramble, because I’ve been wanting to babble about this for a little while now.  Stay tuned for more reviews and ramblings from yours truly.

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