This post is a little unique for me (I say that, but it’s not really true). I plan on discussing the ten (I know Newsarama does a lot of tens, but it really is the best number to make a list around, so I’ll stick with it) aspects and characteristics that are most commonly found in super heroes. This is to say, what traits across the board appear in most super heroes? Well this is both easy and difficult to highlight, as there are so many different routes you could go. So this list reflects the ten characteristics/aspects I deem most important.
10. Wealth- Obviously wealth shows up in the stories of many characters. Aside from the obvious Batman, Iron Man, and Green Arrow’s use of wealth to influence crime fighting, many other characters have as well. Ted Kord, Mister Terrific, and Tim Drake are a few lesser known characters that used their wealth to fuel their crime fighting. However, characters with super powers often use wealth to an advantage both Reed Richards and Alan Scott were able to fund super teams with their wealth, so despite having powers, their time as a super hero was enhanced by their monetary value. The reason this falls so far on my list is that wealth also fuels Lex Luthor. And Lex is not the most moral or righteous characters in comics.
9. A cape- I’m a DC fan. Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel all of them are bad asses because they were capes. And these three characters have fueled the iconic image that pairs the super hero genre with capes (less than 15% of heroes actually have one). It is this reason that I place the need for a cape on my list. Supe’s is, well, the best. Everyone else is made in his image, it is surprising more characters don’t have capes.
8. Death- Most super heroes have the death of a loved one on their shoulders. Some of them have multiple deaths on their shoulders. Even Superman still recalls and often has problems reconciling that his family and planet is dead. While a terrible tragedies (if you want to read a happy comic, don’t read Identity Crisis. You’ll thank me later) are an integral dynamic to most characters. Dead parents, dead parent figures, even dead husband, wives, and children are all common places among super hero identities. And psychologically speaking, the death of a family member could break a person. And I guess mental instability is a common thread among super heroes.
7. America- A very common theme among many heroes is their inspiration in America. Cap, Wonder Woman, Star girl, and the list goes on and on. The easiest reason for this that super heroes were born in America, and it’s as simple as that.
6. Leadership- Only the best of heroes can be leaders. And the best heroes are those that we enjoy reading. Alan Scott, J’onn, Booster, Ted, Batman all of those characters, and so many more are all fascinating and brilliant characters because of their ability to command and be an example for other heroes around them.
5. Freedom- Heroes represent the basics of American culture, and nothing is more American than a strong sense of freedom. All super heroes stand and fight for freedom. Super heroes are symbols, not only within their fictional universes, but within American society as well. They are always fighting for the average American citizen, which is almost unheeard of within our culture.
4. Chins- I’m not kidding either. Chins make DC comics what it is. Superman is able to look powerful and proud, Batman is able to fill out a mask and look normal, and the list goes on and on. Chins have always been probably the most unrealistic part of a super hero. Nobody with a body like Superman has a chin like that. In the real world it would be deemed a deformity. However, we seem to love our super heroes having big straight line chins. And if you think I’m joking, look at a picture of a normal chin then look at Superman’s or Batman’s. Then you will see!
3. Brutality (or lack there of)- Brutality is a drastically important part of what makes a super hero. It is the terrifying example and model that keeps them from going over the edge and ensures they stand as symbols. While not all characters have the same moral code, look at the Punisher, Question, or Green Arrow. They all are heroes, doing what is generally deemed good but by killing. Again these are all considered moral characters they just cross the line sometimes. As Wonder Woman demonstrated and advocates, “sometimes you have no other choice”. Batman then made a snide remark, but he should talk. He terrorizes and tortures people across Gotham. Sometimes it’s just a poor soul who doesn’t want to talk, Batman doesn’t care. He will stop evil by essentially being a terrorist. Brutality is an integral part of who he is. So brutality has two faces. The lack of brutality makes boy scouts look good, and being brutal keeps men dressed as bats operating.
2. Faith- Most all heroes have something they believe in. Whether a god, their powers, humanity, whatever it is, they believe in something. Most characters are not afraid of who they are (ignore the entire Marvel universe), and accept their role as a super hero. Many become super heroes with no powers, showing an incredible amount of faith in themselves. So while not necessarily religious, faith plays an important part in all of our super heroes.
1. You may have guessed it, but it’s morality. While characters can be brutal, it’s only ever because they know it’s the only way to achieve their goals. I recently discussed utilitarianism and how it’s immoral, but in comic books it’s often the opposite. Batman torturing one thug to get info to stop the Joker from murdering a school bus full of kids, that is definitely worth the brutality. But I digress, my point is that all super heroes have a moral reason to do what they do. They use their gifts to fight for good. It is by definition, what makes them a hero. They fight for the common sense of justice and peace. And regardless of method, it’s never a bad thing.
Wow, that felt like a rant.
Until the next time, live long and prosper.