My Heroes Aren’t So Super (or Nobody Looks Good in Spandex)

When superheroes first came on the scene, they were just like us, only more so. Sure, they had a cool power or two but mostly they were real people with real problems. Maintaining secret identities, trying to get a date with that pretty newspaper reporter, saving the world – you know – hero stuff.

But as time went on, our superheroes became more super than hero. (I’m looking at you, Kal-El.) There has been a kind of superpower creep. As writers and producers seek to one-up and outshine the competition, they have made our fantasy champions less believable and therefore less human. As a case study, I invite you to compare the first and forth Die Hard movies. In the premier installment he’s a cop with a gun and a bad attitude. But by the last movie, he’s Batman without the cowl.

It is the limits that we place on our characters that ultimately makes us able to relate to them. If we give to much credit to the magic, we diminish the true heroes. When we give them too much power, we set up unrealistic expectations in ourselves (like Barbie and supermodels). We can concentrate too much on the method and miss the reasons behind their struggles.

Likewise, in order to maintain the conflict, the foils to our heroes must match their counterparts with ever increasing forms of monstrous behavior. (There’s kryptonite everywhere.) Eventually these characters and their nefarious schemes are so far removed from us that they are more like the gods of old doing battle with titanic forces beyond the realms of mortal beings. You don’t try to empathize with Godzilla; you just get out of the way. There is enough wrong in our world that we don’t need to invent new forms of evil just to make our stories better.

Also, “There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here!”

Crazed recluse and sociophobe who has taken up writing after failing at everything else. Send pizza.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Best Of Verbatim Gibberish, Blog, Just nerding out
3 comments on “My Heroes Aren’t So Super (or Nobody Looks Good in Spandex)
  1. Joe Pineda says:

    I definitely agree with you, but there’s likewise a lot of problems if you take everything away from a hero, removing any good traits or anything that can make them unique/able to face the issue in the story. There has to be a balance, just like in everything else.


    • Sean Sandulak says:

      I wouldn’t suggest that extraordinary powers or a strong moral compass are in themselves bad things. In fact, they can make for interesting characters and stories if used correctly. The problem is relying on them at the expense of good storytelling.


  2. I agree with you. If heroes and villains keep one-upping each other, they end up becoming cardboard cutouts. I think the most compelling characters are who exist in the gray divide: the good guy who finds himself doing awful things, and the baddie who is saddled with a conscience.


Comments are closed.

Now on sale

Unremarkable & Other Stories cover art

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Things I Will Probably Regret Later
April 2012
Time until the end of the world
The Big DayApril 13, 2036
12.9 years to go.
%d bloggers like this: