Thursday, May 26, 2011

Comic Book Heroes

Someone I know is writing a dissertation about Superman – discussing among other things why he needs to look the way he does when really he could have had a perfectly ordinary body just with added super powers. And why is he seen as the perfect man (apart from the whole tights thing of course) and a role model for others? He’s not the only one though - it seems to me we’re being inundated with comic book heroes at the moment, but I for one am not complaining!

There are the X-men, who seem to be coming at us right, left and centre, with a new film instalment due out shortly. We’ve had Iron Man times two, Thor, He-Man (okay, it was a while ago, but still ...), the Fantastic Four, umpteen Batmen and Spidermen, Green Hornet and Green Lantern, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Hellboy and The Phantom. Captain America is coming soon and apparently next year he’s joining forces with Thor and Iron Man in the film “Avengers”. Sounds good to me, but why are we so fascinated with these guys? (Or is it just that the film companies can’t come up with any original stories?)

The comic book heroes seem to have all the qualities we try to give our fictional heroes, at least the alpha kind – they’re handsome, muscular (have more or less perfect bodies), are always on the side of justice and they're unbeatable. You can depend on them in a crisis and no matter what fate throws at them, they always triumph. The only drawback is that they’re not really human. Maybe it’s the fantasy of these perfect men we like? The thought that somewhere, out there, is a guy like that – almost too good to be true, but real.

So what does that say about all the poor normal men who don’t measure up? Can a normal man actually be as great? Can our fictional heroes? Obviously, they’ll never be as physically perfect (and I kind of feel sorry for the actors who have to play those parts, with all the body-building and incessant eating they have to do!), but not everyone wants a muscle-bound hunk, so nicely sculpted will do. For me, a lot of the comic heroes seem to be lacking a sense of humour too, which is a really important hero trait I think. And although they’d be great at protecting you, I don’t necessarily want a body guard 24/7.

Still, it’s a nice fantasy and my current obsession (apart from Prince of Persia, which I still haven’t let go of) is Thor. Angry, larger than life, but still quite human in his emotions, I think he’s wonderful! If I was to meet any of the comic book heroes, I’d choose him any day. And he doesn’t wear tights, which is always a plus ...

If you could choose a comic book hero, who would it be? (Julie, I think I can guess your answer, but everyone else ...?)


  1. He Man!!!! I swore when I was four/five years old that I was gonna marry him one day. As an adult, I go more for The Punisher, a sexy man out for revenge and wearing that skull tee shirt. That's hot!

  2. See, Christina, you are thinking that my favourite would be Iron Man because of the whole Robert Downey Jr thing, but as a matter of fact I have had a long-running affair (in my head) with Batman. Batman (like Iron Man, actually) isn't superhuman at all; in fact he's just a normal (albeit really pumped-up) guy with endless money and gadgets and an unquenchable thirst for revenge. He's obsessive and borderline psychotic.

    All of this is why I love him.

    At the moment though I'm also grooving on Hellboy, who unlike Batman is a supernatural creature; he was born to lead the apocalypse and destroy the world, actually. But instead, he wants to be human, and that desire (and denial of his true nature) makes him deeply human, even when he's kicking paranormal ass. I also have a huge, purely oddly sexual, crush on his sidekick Abe Sapien.

    The thing about super heroes, as you say, Christina, is that they are psycho-dramas played large. Their inner conflicts are worn on their bodies as tights, masks, iron suits or enormous built-in claws. Studying comics and super heroes is a great way to understand inner conflict.

    Julie, who is just SLIGHTLY a comics fan. ;-) Thanks for the post!

  3. PS I would still totally do Iron Man though. In a heartbeat.

  4. PPS I once gave an academic lecture at Reading University on Batman and The Watchmen and how they represented contemporary social concerns. Geek? Much?

  5. Tara - I had a huge crush on He-Man too when I was younger, but I can totally see why you like the Punisher! Strangely enough I'd never come across him before, I need to read more comics obviously!

    Julie - LOL! I don't think you're a geek because what you say is so true. The Watchmen is a fascinating comic (my daughter made me read it before we saw the film)and I agree about Batman too.

    Iron Man - I guess it's the Tony Stark persona that wins you over (apart from being played by RDJ). I love how he's so brilliant and snarky, but still human and insecure underneath.

    Thanks for the comments!

  6. I suppose Batman was always my fav but I think it might have been the car :-)