Superheroes inspire us. They inspire us to be better than we are. By giving us someone to look up to, they in turn create in us someone to look up to. Someone we can be proud of. Superheroes create within each of us an ideal of who to be.
For most of us, we can’t remember a time when we didn’t know Superman, or Batman. These are characters that are so deeply ingrained in our collective mind that for many of us in the western world it’s unfathomable to think of a time we didn’t know who they were, but less than eighty years ago these characters had yet to be seen by anybody but their creators. These men probably had no idea just what they were creating, and the impact they would have on generations to come.
Having been a fan of superheroes for as long as I can remember (and comics for almost as long), I don’t recall a time when I was convinced that I would grow up to wear bright spandex and a flowing cape and fight criminals. Admittedly now that I’m into my third decade on this planet I’m now slowly beginning to realize that I may not suddenly develop superpowers over night, but that has never stopped me from trying to be a half decent person. Are superheroes solely responsible for that? It’s unlikely, but I’m sure they helped mold my young brain one way or another.
Superhero comics have always had the ability to inspire their readers; from the youngest of children to full grown adults, we all enjoy seeing the hero overcome astronomical odds to save the day. Superheroes never give up, and will always continue to fight the good fight right up to their dying breath if need be.
I will (probably) never wear spandex and save lives – and frankly the lack of spandex is probably a good thing – but I’ve been lucky in finding characters I am able to identify with in some way that also make me want to do good things; and I’m not talking about swinging from building and saving people from super villains, but things that I don’t tend to think of as I do them. In school as teenagers, one of my friends was being picked on for choosing to wear a black band hoodie to school over his uniform. Eventually getting fed up of people picking on him, I brought a Papa Roach one and did the same (no, the bands weren’t extreme, and yes my school really did single you out for wearing them). I also picked up Papa Roach’s album at the same time; I wasn’t listening to heavy metal at the time, but I felt if I’m wearing the hoodie, I should listen to the music. Fifteen years later, I still love heavy metal. My friend didn’t stop getting picked at from wearing his hoodie, but I think it may have lessened somewhat.
Would I have done that without comics? Maybe, maybe not.
Superheroes inspire us, yes, but we should all have the chance to be inspired by superheroes. Comics are becoming more diverse, but comic book adaptations aren’t quite there yet. It’ll be another two years before a female led superhero movie will arrive – although DC’s Super Girl does take a step in the right direction – obviously it takes far longer to create movies and TV shows than it does a comic book, I know that, but we should have had more diversification in our superhero movies already. Wonder Woman should be gearing up for a sequel by now, not her first feature film.
With an ability to encourage all of us to be better people, superheroes are more than just characters in comics or in movies. They teach us that it is okay to want to be a better person, that it is okay to help other people, and that anything we do, no matter how small, to help other people will help make the world a better place.
Superheroes inspire us, but they should also inspire all of us.