Monday, April 25, 2005

What Makes A Hero?

Beautiful things happen everyday in the comic shop that I manage. Last Wednesday, the customers and I got into a huge debate over whether The Batman is merely a hero or a superhero. (To me, he is the greatest of SUPERheroes.) There was no question that Batman is truly a hero but I was shocked that more than one person in the store shared the opinion that it takes SUPERPOWERS to become a SUPERHERO.

I called bullshit.

Yes, Batman has no superpowers. Neither does Lex Luthor YET we firmly consider Lex a SUPERVILLAIN. What exactly constitutes the "super?" IMO, it's all about the measures the hero will go through to ensure the safety of others. Is Lex just as great a supervillain because of the lengths he's willing to go through to ensure one's demise?

Batman is a superhero simply because his every action bears the truth. He is simply a man made extraordinary because of the scope of his quest. Is Jason's quest for The Golden Fleece somehow less diminished becauseit wasn't performed by Hercules? Jason's effort was certainly "Herculean," wasn't it?

Think about The Blue Beetle's death. Because of Beetle's lack of power, his demise certainly resonated with more power than Superman's. Was it deminished any due to his "lack of power?" No, it resonated with us because in his death, Beetle found his "power" through his humanity.

Think about the deaths of The Doom Patrol. Yes, they had powers but their "greatest adventure" was their last. When faced with the choice of saving themselves or the lives of 14 people, they made the only choice superheroes make: the unselfish one.

THAT made them superheroes. Not the ability to grow bigger. That is, I believe, the same decision Batman would make. That, to me, makes a "superhero."

3 comments:

mcgibfried said...

i always thought that the "super" title had more to do with possesion of "super powers."
there are men and then there is "superman."

and how would you classify a person with "super powers" that doesn't use them. they would be neither hero nor villian... just "super."

batman is definately a hero, and one could even argue that he is a super hero due to his mechanical enhancements (i.e. batgear) putting him above the capabilities of a normal man.

but that's just this fan boy's opinion! ;)

Anonymous said...

Y'know, DC tends to break its characters into "metas" and "non-metas," but I've always thought that a bit wide of the mark. Same thing with "heroes" and "superheroes." I just don't think its an either/or proposition.

I've always thought that a caped community would have its, for lack of a better word, cliques. You'd have groups of characters who were just naturaly more comfortable dealing with each other. It's always struck me that those cliques wouldn't break down into power levels, or aliens vs. earthers, but in how they became who they are. Their approach.

Those born with powers would gravitate toward each other. Those who got powers accidently would hang together. Those, like Batman, who chose to better themselves, who drove themselves to attain "the height of mental and physical perfection" would just naturally sit at the same lunch table. Comparing tricep regimens.

Patton Oswalt's Welcome to the Working Week book touched on that in a great way, and I think it'd be a fascinating thing for a writer to explore -- even though, in the wrong hands, it lends itself to the kind of hand-wringing, navel-gazing exercise in angst that's so very, very Marvel-ous.

Which is a long way of saying: Batman's a superhero. He just is.

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