book creators have long sensed the direction which world events
are leading our civilization and have turned these premonitions
into their call to action in many of the comics books they produce.
They've created the superhero mythology around the need for
mankind to evolve into a more benevolent species.
different concern, however, lurks under the surface of the publisher's
mind. A publisher might agree that there's a good message to
be put forth with these superheroes, but their concern is to
make sure it's packaged in a way as to be commercial and entertaining,
which is not always equivalent to the moral value the superheroes
represent. A publisher plays up the fantasy elements and super
powers of his superhero stories and not the moral and ethical
standards they exude. Superman can fly, Batman has a Batcave
and Wonder Woman wields a magic lasso - that's superhero comics.
Nothing ho-hum about these characters. They are colorful and
they know how to entertain but their essential appeal remains
the spirit of goodness which they exude.
top three superhero icons stand at the head of the underlying
essential characteristics which defined comics with such elusive
familiarity - and which the publishers have not yet directly
tapped into within their storytelling and marketing strategies.
the superficial allure of Superman lies in his ability to leap
tall buildings in a single bound, stop a locomotive with his
bare hands and fend off bullets and missiles with his indestructible
body - the more essential allure of this myth of our times is
the goodness he exuded and taught the world by the incomparable
example he became to generations of children who absorbed him
into their hearts and lives. Superman, an indestructible god,
able to rule mankind with an iron fist or rip the planet Earth
asunder with a single pass of his heat vision - chooses instead
to be the meek mild-mannered reporter making himself the lowest
of his peers in stature. He rose to the challenge of helping
humanity only when called upon - and only in a detached mythical
persona, too big and elusive to be pinned down as a sociopolitical
leader who can force society to behave as it should in order
to ensure the wellbeing of all its citizens. Not this hero.
He instead chooses to be the elusive shining example who inspires
the good in his environment...he chooses to let others understand
the path of goodness and find it in themselves - each one in
his own way. This is the essence of the tremendous gift that
Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster have given to modern civilization
- and this is what's made Superman the mythological icon which
Puzo, in his exquisite re-telling of the origin of Superman,
put the finger on these underlying characteristics of the father
of all superheroes. He showed us what the young Jewish adventurers
who created Superman intended the character to represent, at
least in the eyes of a world visited by such a noble stranger
as to choose the course in life that Superman did. Jor-el, quite
choked up as he sends his baby son to Earth, realizing the destiny
that awaits him, bids him farewell with a premonition of the
greatness that he's to attain when he grows to become a man;
"That's why I'm sending you to Earth, MY ONLY SON".
It's here that Superman becomes the messiah of 20th Century
mythology. As the years passed and Superman found himself overwhelmed
by the commercial pressures around him, his publishers decided
it was time to kill him and then resurrect him again, completing
the circle which ultimately came to identify Superman with his
historical counterpart of 2000 years past, Jesus of Nazareth.
the dark avenger, represents the other side of this same hero.
Batman, filled with anger and a burning desire for revenge,
comes to strike terror in the hearts of a cowardly and superstitious
lot of evil doers. The father of all superhero terrorists comes
to make his wake-up call to humanity. He wants the world to
be better and his way of doing so is to scare the daylights
out of wrongdoers. He is a rich philanthropist, playboy and
recluse by day, the opposite of the meek mild mannered reporter
- while donning the garb of terrorist of the underworld by night.
His motive is to inspire goodness in others by scaring them
half to death! Dark forces need this fear in order to shock
their conscience enough to reflect on their own dark ways...and
perhaps change and channel their strength to the benefit of
society rather than for its own self abuse. Batman, the crusted
example of unleashed fury and brash force operates outside of
the law and only his precarious friendship with the head of
police allows him to continue doing so. Batman, unlike Superman,
is persecuted, misunderstood but rises to the call regardless
of what they say about him. He needs no one's approval because
he knows that so few will understand him and give it.
Batman & Superman, along wih their socio-religious counterparts,
can either team up, overlooking their differences in order to
save the day, as they did early in both of their careers in
World's Finest Comics - Or they can duke out their principles
on a dimly lit alley as Batman pounds into Superman beckoning
him to rise to the occasion; "I'll show you what it takes
to be a man" in Dark Knight Returns.
Woman, the third in stature of the early superhero mythology,
is a hero who's a cut above the iconic figures who preceded
her. She's the underdog in a man's world and accepts her role
as such. She comes from a place where the women are a definitively
superior gender to the men, yet accepts her role in the predominately
male culture. She shows she has the qualities needed to
be a superhero, not only with an effective display of super
powers, but also in her shared concern for the wellbeing of
all humanity. Her deep-rooted concern comes to her (unlike her
male counterparts) from her motherly instincts. Her understanding
that she is a vessel for the giving of life. She's not bothered
by the dominance of the male culture, because she knows that
without her, there would be no culture nor a continuation for
life, be it male or female. She thus accepts her role quietly
and humbly, being at full peace with herself, while wielding
an inner strength that neither of her male comrades can aspire
to. She is the least among the big three, but knows that she
is the first mother, the birther of life, the only superhero
who can birth the children that will one day grow to be the
league of superheroes, such as she belongs to.
can find the characteristics of most any nation, people, community
or leader throughout history, within the myriad of comic book
superheroes gracing the industry. From time to time these underlying
spiritual themes surface to the top and into the hands of a
readership thirsty for relevance.
book publishers will soon begin to flesh out these themes
as they discover the tremendous commercial value it
will add to their enterprise.
Michael Netzer Online