Mythologies of the Enlightened age : Superheroes

It was not long ago superhero comics and movies was viewed with a pinch of salt as kids movies with nothing of substance on offer. Nowadays you cant change a channel without discussions on superheroes ,but what changed?

From primary-coloured, straight guys to tarnished beings in a revisionist world, superheroes are our cultural barometer.

It’s a classic comic book story. The villains are two brothers, grotesquely competitive, whose greed and ruthlessness have propelled them to world domination. They continue to try to kill each other, because half of everything isn’t enough for either of them. Only one thing can persuade them to cooperate: the bold challenge of one dauntless man, a David against their twin Goliaths. Enraged by his impudence, they join forces. Their victory seems inevitable. And yet, somehow, in the final act – because he’s strong, because he’s got some sort of gift, or simply because he’s the good guy – the courageous individual wins. Kapow!

Superman is the undisputed origin of the genre. He was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two sons of Jewish immigrants who met at high school in Ohio in 1930. As a foreigner whose home was destroyed but has the heartbreakingly imaginary power to heal the wounds of the world by sheer force of will, his myth is inextricable from the catastrophe that was beginning to unfold for Jews in Europe. This was by no means an anomaly.

“Wish fulfilment is at the core of it,” says Lavie Tidhar, author of the acclaimed novel The Violent Century, which imagines superheroes as witnesses to the real 20th century’s horrors. “Not only are superheroes fighting Nazis in the comic books, but if you look at all these characters, Superman and Batman and Spider-Man a bit later, they are perfect immigrants, non-Jewish figures passing as part of the dominant culture.” The creators of Spider-Man, Batman and Captain America, who marked his first appearance in 1941 by punching Hitler in the face, were also Jewish.

As freighted with historical weight as the superhero’s origins were, titles from that “golden age” of comic books, which lasted until the early 1950s, were also uncomplicated stories of good guys prevailing over evil. According to Roddy, “golden age characters didn’t have much of a personality. They were very rigid, even in the way they were drawn.” The following “silver age”, defined by Marvel and Stan Lee’s Spider-Man, gave its protagonists a little more heft. “Marvel made comics appeal to adolescents and young adults, it made the characters more interesting,” she says. “So Spider-Man is a relatable young guy who has to deal with the boring bits of teenage life, and the Fantastic Four have these family feuds. That note of humanity gets introduced.”

Though the first generation of movies came in as Definitive works on Superheroes as Superman, with Christopher Reeves who personified Superman and soon Batman followed with the serious tone which defined the tone for the caped crusader in later years. Still studios feared that superhero movies don’t appeal to adults as much.Then came 2000s with Brian Singer’s X Men and Sam Raimi’s Spiderman it all changed again.Human problems were told with the help of superheroes as metaphors. Then came the master,with a superhero potrayed in real world Nolan changed the genre on his head , the floodgates were finally opened.

Since DC and Marvel discovered that their universes could form the basis of an endless, reliably bankable – if artistically patchy – stream of movies, and in doing so managed to transcend the limitations of the declining comic book market, that atmosphere has persisted. But there are more interesting things going on, too. Even if the superhero remains a typically white male figure, women and ethnic minorities are slightly more visible presences these days. And a modern scepticism about authority and the trustworthiness of heroes has infected our old myths, too. They even touched upon the old gods as well and deal with their morality from a neutral point of view.

The three big superhero movies of last year – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, and X-Men: Apocalypse – all dwell on the idea that superbattles cause terrible collateral damage to ordinary people; in Captain America, the United Nations gets involved as a regulator. Not only that they ask philosophical questions too. Batman vs Superman basically asked what happens if Gods were really to come down to earth, will we still be so optimistic about believing or we might look with bit of sceptical view, though the forgot to answer the question(Martha ! I know …..). While this year Wonder Woman already showed us what a grim world it would be without hope.

Films like Kick-Ass and Deadpool have poked fun at the solemnity of the genre, with the former film’s eponymous teenager showing exactly how daft anyone who tries to make their own set of neon pyjamas would look in reality. Netflix’s Jessica Jones follows that idea to its logical conclusion: its superheroine doesn’t have a silly name, certainly doesn’t dress up in tights, and would in general much rather be doing something else.

“None of this is coincidence,” says Harkaway. “Pop culture gives you the temperature of the nation. We live with the weird now, we live with technology, and maybe some of these superheroes wear ordinary clothes because we live in an extraordinary world. They’re our point of identification. What will happen when Jessica Jones enters the larger Marvel pantheon, when she meets Tony Stark [Iron Man]? She’ll be like, really? This is how you carry on?”

“We love our superheroes because they refuse to give up on us. We can analyse them out of existence, kill them, ban them, mock them, and still they return, patiently reminding us of who we are and what we wish we could be.” -Grant Morrison, acclaimed comic book writer.


Who knows may be centuries down the line they will have a place in our mythical hystory as well.

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