The dictionary definition of a hero is as follows — a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.
Throughout my entire life I have been fascinated by hero stories. The more fantastical the story more I enjoy it. When I was a child my favorite heroes were Superman, the Ninja Turtles, and Transformers. As I have gotten older I still love Superman and most of my childhood heroes but my interests have changed and matured as I have changed and matured. These days I find myself drawn more and more to anti-heroes, heroes that aren’t quite black and white, heroes that dabble more in the grey area. My favorite anti-hero is Spawn.
I felt like Todd McFarlane did a perfect job in creating a hero that is deeply flawed but still tends to fight for the side of good. Also I have come to accept that I am drawn to these types of stories in order to help escape from reality. I can’t hide from reality all of the time but it is nice to get away every now and then.
One of the most interesting aspects of hero stories to me is when a hero doesn’t consider his or her self a hero and they are struggling with concepts of morality. A recent and brilliantly executed example of this is captured in the Marvel show Daredevil on Netflix. Multiple times we see Murdock speaking to a priest and investigating the rabbit hole of morality. Murdock will beat the crap out of someone and then leave them to the authorities to sort out. What happens when someone keeps getting released with barely a slap on the wrist and doesn’t learn from their mistakes? Should they be allowed to continue down a path where they are hurting themselves and others or should more extreme measures be taken? Who has the right (or thinks they have the right) to make a decision to take someone else out of the equation. Enter the anti-hero Punisher. In contrast to Daredevil he has no reservations about flat out killing someone that steps across his moral boundaries. Whose boundaries are right and whose are wrong? It is all in the eye of the beholder.
Batman and Superman are two of my favorite heroes. I am stoked that there is finally a movie coming out that features both of them and I am fascinated by the aspect of them having such a conflict with one another like their comic counterparts have had countless times. Sure, most of the time they work together but that doesn’t stop Batman from having a major concern about Superman losing control and then having to stop him somehow. Superman is a man without a home and for the most part without a race. He is trying to fit in on Earth but is still looked upon by some as an outsider no matter how much good he does. Judging by the trailer Batman is upset with Superman because of the collateral damage caused by Superman saving the world from General Zod’s attack. However, could Batman have done better? Also, if Batman works to make himself more powerful than Superman then who will keep Batman in check? In my opinion this is part of why a team of heroes can be better than a solo hero. It adds a system of checks and balances. Let’s not forget that Wonder Woman is going to be in the film as well and I hope she adds a flair to the film of showing Batman and Superman how flawed their conflict truly is; if that happens then it will certainly not come without some push-back from the two superheroes with superegos. Can the heroes put aside their differences and work together to protect the world or will the world just become a battleground? Will Batman perpetuate the very thing he is angry at Superman about? Most of us will find out this coming weekend.
In the Disney movie Hercules the hero progresses from zero to hero with the help of a Satyr named Phil. This doesn’t mean that heroism can only be achieved with help from an outside source. Sometimes your Phil can a mentor and sometimes your Phil can be your inner voice kicking yourself in the ass, perhaps that inner voice is telling you that it is time to do something heroic.
Some of us believe (at times myself included) that you can only be a hero if you have special powers or have done something that society deems as extraordinary. All of us have the capacity for good and evil inside of us. In the 1978 Superman film Jor-El’s final message to Kal-El is this, “Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. But always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you… my only son.” Being a hero doesn’t have to be something that the whole world hears about through media. Being a hero doesn’t mean that you have to be an orphan (although for some reason it seems to help). Being a hero starts as a big or small decision that you make to do something great. If an act or gesture comes from the right place, a place of compassion, a place of kindness, then I believe that act or gesture to be an act of heroism. Ask yourself, how can you be a hero today?