We have a fascination that almost seems unquenchable. There is something deep inside some of us that just aches for the life of the superhero. Our culture can’t get enough of them, and I’m no exception. I was Spiderman eight years in a row for Halloween. Do you know what happens to a little kid’s costume that takes that kind of wear and tear? Let’s just say when you have worn all the red paint off your mask, it’s time to retire Peter Parker’s alter ego.
Many of us (whether we would admit it our not) want to do something heroic. It seems apparent that it’s not the multicolored tights or even the battles of the superhuman that allure us. It’s the universal power and freedom that comes from being so fantastically strong. It is the kind of strength that saves the day and still leaves room for a masquerade ball at midnight.
These comic book heroes live two lives but have one mission: to make a real difference. Why do we love these characters so much? What is it about them and their story that gives us such hope? It could be that they live a life that really matters, fictional or not, they are important in their reality. When superheroes show up, in cape or cowl, people notice. Being noticed is powerful.
We mere mortals may lack a skin-tight costume tapered to a battle-chiseled body, but we can make a difference. Unlike the black and white universe of comic books, we have to deal with the business of life. Seldom do we see Superman having to cram for an exam or Batman racing to class on foot because the Batmobile broke down. Mortals do have their moments though. Perhaps you could look at your everyday activities as miracles in themselves.
Recently, I had a moment that would have made the X-Men proud. At my own undercover job, I had to zoom out in front of a monstrous Zamboni in order to save hockey nets. Granted, the nets seemed indifferent to my amazing act that almost landed me flat on the rink, but it still felt great. I even yelled and threw my arms up like a victorious savior. You may say crazy, but maybe the world would be better if we tried to bring some hero flavor to our own lives. Instead of waiting for some far off fictional do-gooder, do your own good.
Hollywood may produce superhero movies faster than cinemas can cook the popcorn for them, but we still benefit from the stories. These movies can give us a new, rich mythology, which can inspire our own lives. Professor Joseph Campbell, famous for his adage, “Follow your bliss,” claimed that our culture has suffered from a deficiency of mythological stories. We need more than heroes though; we need real, everyday people we can believe in. Most importantly, we should believe in ourselves and that we could change things even if we don’t web-sling.
The superheroes of fiction are mystical, but they are created by tangible people. They are the creation of fallible humans that have shared their dreams of another life and place. Despite their amazing powers and abilities, these warriors are, of course, only a reflection of our own strengths. Maybe it’s not so impossible to be a hero in this life after all, as long as you build your powers with your own potential.