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Published:August 10th, 2006 12:05 EST
Bring Forth What Is Within You

Bring Forth What Is Within You

By Sean Stubblefield

I wonder why this world has not bred or manifested any genuine superheroes, why this archetype has not crossed from fantasy into reality. In a global climate of volatile social, psychological and political dis-ease, expanding progressive ideologies and genetic engineering, I would imagine that a superhero could— should-- exist.

But, no. Are we just expecting and waiting for someone else to answer that calling? Or are we all ultimately powerless? Superheroes are, as the term self-evidently suggests, heroes who are super— because they have extra-ordinary or enhanced abilities, attributes and attitudes. They can do and choose to do what ordinary people won’t or can’t, in service to their fellow man… striving to make the world a better place with their special powers and skills. While seemingly still relegated to the realm of fiction, superheroes aren’t just for comic books and children’s cartoons anymore. Haven’t been for quite a long while.

And as with idealism, nor are they necessarily or strictly kid stuff, though the majority of them tends to be. That predominant history and tendency to be juvenile and simplistic has earned it a reputation in the public consciousness as a childish story telling medium.

Comic books and superheroes both can be— and sometimes are-- written intelligently and maturely, suitable for adults, teenagers and/ or kids. Most people assume and expect comic books— even those not involving superheroes (and, yes, those do actually exist)-- to be childish, which unfortunately results in producing more of this kind of comics.

A self-replicating and self-fulfilling prophecy. And that includes movies and TV shows based on said comics. Although we continue to get many of the typical superfluously superficial superhero movies of mindless and thoughtless entertainment— such as Superman Returns, Hulk, Batman and Robin, Daredevil and Fantastic Four a few exceptions in recent years like Batman Begins, X-Men, Spiderman, The Incredibles and V For Vendetta depict heroes more realistically, and more faithfully to the relevant source material in the process of being entertaining. That conscientious attention to realism and veracity implies that Hollywood is starting/ learning to take the superhero genre seriously. If only more comic books themselves cared enough more often to do the same, they would be of better quality stories. And there are plenty more superhero movies in development.


Television is also featuring demonstrations of the superhero, with The USA Network’s series called The 4400 and The Dead Zone, The WB’s Supernatural and Smallville, Sci-Fi Channel’s Dr. Who, Andromeda and Who Wants To Be A Superhero?, The Cartoon Network’s Justice League and Samarai Jack, and NBC’s upcoming dramatic series aptly and simply titled Heroes.

These TV shows and films usually treat the concept and “reality” of superheroes with dignity and respect, rather than demeaning them in campy Adam West style portrayals, or stereotypical comic book clichés and formulas, or public misconceptions of comic books and superheroes. In each of these cases where the superhero is done right, what they all have in common is a fundamental message of idealism: to be not a perfect person but a good person, to use your powers and talents for good, to help others in need as you can. Superhero comic guru and living legend of Marvel Comics fame Stan Lee uses the catch phrase Excelsior! to express this noble idea, this heroic ideal. A Chinese word that represents this creed is Xia, referring to a righteous individual who acts as a guardian by applying his or her expertise to fight social injustice. Being a superhero is a responsibility requiring exceptional strength of character and aptitude; a fidelity to a moral code of conduct, with integrity, honor and dignity---  above and beyond that of the average person.

It is true that we cannot just sit back and hope for a happy ending. That happy ending must be created, by us. To change the world, we must first—as Mahatma Gandhi noted-- be the change we wish to see in the world. Perennial wisdom says that all evil needs in order to succeed is for good people to do nothing. In these stories of heroes, we are encouraged, implicitly and explicitly, to be courageous, adventurous and chivalrous… to not stand idly by if and when it is in our power to do such good. Because the world needs heroes. The world wants them. Especially as we crave something good to show and inspire humanity, something to believe in, something— or someone-- to rally behind and for. Something that means something to us, that motivates us to improve ourselves and our community.


What abilities and talents do you possess, and how may they be used to help people? The appeal of superheroes is obvious— someone to save us from our problems. The danger, however, is not so apparent— that we mustn’t rely solely on someone else to save us. We must be willing to at least try to save ourselves, to help ourselves and each other. Not everyone can— nor should-- be a hero, super or otherwise… it’s an elite status, reserved for those with the opportunity, capacity and capability (Cape-ability?). But might you be an exception? Could you or someone you know of be a superhero in waiting? Do you dare be not ordinary? What unique powers can you bring forth to the world? Perhaps there are already superheroes among us, clandestine or unpublicized? Maybe this increasing appearance and general regard for superheroes in the mainstream, at this time in our history, indicates a new gestalt forming…a transition in our zeitgeist… in which superheroes are not only desired, but potentially possible. The winds of change, they are a-blowin’. Something strange, it’s on the wind.