On February 21st I received an email notification about the latest blog posted by fellow blogger Bubbawheat (http://bubbawheat.wordpress.com/) and as usual when he posts something, I read it right away. You see, Bubbawheat is doing something very cool this year, he is going to be reviewing over 100 Superhero movies in 2012 and will post each review on his blog. I truly think this is a great idea and my hat is off to him!
The blog that he posted on the day in question was not a movie review, but was a blog discussing “What defines a Superhero?” This particular blog can be found here http://bubbawheat.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/what-defines-a-superhero/
So I asked Bubbawheat if I could take his idea, after giving him full credit for the idea of course and if I could run with it with my own ideas on what defines a superhero. He gave me his blessing to do this comic book style cross over and I now will delve into what I think defines a super hero.
Do Super Powers Define A Super Hero?
Of course super powers can play a hand in making an individual a super hero. Some of the most recognizable heroes in the comic book medium have fantastic powers at their disposal. Whether it be Superman, Wonder Woman or The Martian Manhunter from DC Comics or The Mighty Thor, Spider-Man or The Incredible Hulk in Marvel comics….they are characters that have the ability to do amazing things.
How they acquired their powers is also another angle we should look at as well. A character like Superman was born from another world and was sent here. Our yellow son gave him the powers that he has today. He is one of the most powerful and I feel overpowered, heroes in the comic book world. The ability to fly, invulnerability, x-ray vision, heat vision, super speed, super strength, super hearing and ice breath are all powers that Superman possesses.
Captain Marvel aka “Shazam” has powers that rival those of Superman’s but he was a young boy named Billy Batson that was given his powers by the wizard named Shazam, and when he utters that word is transformed into the hero Captain Marvel. His powerset is a little different than Superman’s as the wizard Shazam gave him powers to reflect each letter of the wizard’s name as follows: S -The wisdom of Solomon, H – The strength of Hercules, A – The stamina of Atlas, Z – The power of Zeus, A – The courage of Achilles and M The speed of Mercury
Then you have those characters that were born as very powerful beings. In DC Comics, we have Wonder Woman to cite as an example and in Marvel Cimic’s Universe we have the God of Thunder, The Mighty Thor. Using his enchanted uru hammer, Mjolnir, Thor can manipulate the weather, conjure electrical blasts and can open portals to any of the other 9 Realms. He also had the ability to fly, immense super strength and untold amount of years of battle experience.
Another Marvel character that had amazing super powers was Spider-Man but he was not born with the powers he had. It was purely a coincidental accident that allowed Peter Parker to gain the powers of a spider, and of course he scientific mind allowed him to develop the ability to shoot webs. Spider-Man was just a teenage boy who had tremendous agility, strength and a radar type of sense that alerted him to danger.
Another way that heroes have gained their super powers today is through evolution. Characters such as Wolverine, Cyclops, Rogue and Magneto were all born with special abilities that made them mutants amongst the normal people of the world. At some point in their life, their powers became prevalent and changed their lives.
On the other side of the coin we have the heroes who were not able to call upon super powers and had to find other ways to make their mark as a hero. Batman relies on his intelligence, technological gadgets, countless hours of physical and mental training in many martial arts and the art of fear to strike down evil. Iron Man is as just as smart as Batman, but used his role as owner of Stark Industries and other resources to create many suits of armour to serve his purpose.
Is It Their Decision Or Is It Their Fate?
Some would argue that some heroes such as Batman, make a conscious decision to become a hero but what if it was fate? Bruce Wayne’s parents were slain as he, a child, watched on in terror. He did at some point make a conscious choice to undergo all the training and acquire all the gadgets to become Batman. But was it fate that brought that travesty into Bruce’s life?
The same could be said for Spider-Man. Yes, Peter Parker did realize that he was given great power (no, I will spare you the line) when he suffered the spider bite but he did make the decision to create the costume, the web shooters and the persona of Spider-Man. His motives were also driven from tragedy and it’s burden as his Uncle Ben was murdered by a man he could have stopped previously but felt it was not his issue. If Peter did not get bitten by the spider, would he have still became a hero?
For others it is their surroundings. It is well known that Superman was a product of Ma and Pa Kent’s upbringing in Smallville. Who knows what he would have done without their influence in his life and the values and morality that they instilled in him from such a young age. What if fate would have dropped baby Kal-El in the Soviet Union (Yes, I know there is an Elseworlds story of this out there) and he would have been trained as a cold hearted Communist machine?
Then we have those that would still be heroic as it is in their nature. Someone like Thor who did have to learn humility and humanity, but would stand his ground and fight if it was the right thing to do. Thor has nobility, a sense of justice and an undying conviction to see those who would hurt innocents struck down. There have been many stories of the God Of Thunder losing his powers or not being able to wield his hammer but still standing his ground and fighting until he was victorious or he was near death. Giving up has never been an option to Thor.
Other characters have that same sense of nobility and honour but lacked the physical abilities to match. Who can forget the decision that a frail and weak Steven Rogers made to be an experiment in the super soldier program. He not only gain physical abilities that were much more of a normal man at peak athletic capability but he also had the benefit of the military’s extensive training. Captain America is alot like Thor in how they view things and that is one reason that I feel that they are not just good friends but like brothers.
I think that is fate that determines the decision that the hero makes. It can be inspired by their nobility or tragedy but I think they these super heroes were destined to undertake the mantle that they did…because they were supposed to.
Do They Need The Costume?
Not all heroes will have a costume. The current Luke Cage has an every day look but he has tremendous power and does put himself in danger. Some heroes such as Spider-Man need the benefit of their identity to be protected. This could be to protect their loved ones from any potential danger from the evil they stop every day. Others such as Batman use the costume as a psychological weapon to strike fear into their adversary. Captain America on the other hand, sees the costume as a symbol for people to rally around and wears the costume even though his identity is public knowledge.
I suppose that no hero really needs the costume in the grand scheme of things but there is no denying that the costume will make them an icon, a symbol that will cause those that are downtrodden and living in fear the hope that there is someone out there trying to fight for those who are being wronged.
What Defines A “Super Hero” To Me?
To me a super hero is someone who has access to some power/training/weaponary/some resource that is not accessible to the every day person. They decide to use these resources to protect the innocent, without expecting anything in return except for the knowledge that they did the right thing.
I know that is a broad canvas to put out there but it allows the picture that could be painted to be as varied as the heroes that inhabit our monthly comic book stories. Whether the hero is a millionaire using the tragedy of their youth to motivate their actions, a young man who wanted to serve his country so badly that he allowed himself to be placed in an experimental procedure to make him a super soldier, an alien from another world who gains tremendous powers due to our Sun or a God that was worshipped by the ancient vikings who has sworn to use his tremendous powers to protect our world….a hero has to have a burning desire in their heart to do what they do.
That is a super hero to me……