I’ll admit that I had a very narrow-minded opinion about superheroes. The First Ever Superman Cartoon had a lot of qualities I’d associated with the genre since I was young. Because of this story, and other popular tales like Spiderman and X-Men, I considered their traits to be nothing but unattainable ideals. Some common tropes were the need to disguise themselves to the masses, fantastical powers and abilities, and a destiny of greatness.
Jennifer Stuller’s Ink-stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors introduction challenged me to reconsider my ideas of what makes a hero super. She highlighted many famous heroes in and outside the Marvel/DC Comics brand, and even compared the tropes seen in the superhero genre to mythology. She argued that since ancient mythology reflected the given society’s values and was passed orally, the same is true today in the superhero genre; it serves to reflect our current society’s values and is passed through modern media (comics and television). This claim allowed me to see some of the bigger, underlying characteristics of a superhero story.
Superheroes don’t always have exceptional physical capabilities, yet manage to persist simply through their drive and determination. They strive for good in the face of evil. They give the masses hope. In spite of weakness, they manage to overcome every obstacle they meet. They protect and provide help when needed. They right the wrongs of others (and themselves), and serve justice when it’s due. These commonalities encourage me to reflect on my own values. I can’t help but consider myself a superhero now, even if I technically lack fantastical powers and abilities.