Superheroing 101

By: Tariq Sims

On March 25th Batman V. Superman hit theaters and instantly caused chaos within the fanbase. Like its predecessor, Man of Steel, it features a darker version of Superman. After the events of Man of Steel, Superman is being held accountable by Batman for all the damage that has been caused since his first public appearance. Batman decides he must prepare to fight Superman, and if needed, kill him.

This has been an ongoing trend for years, taking a known superhero and reimagining them in a darker, more realistic light. It, and other superhero movies, helped to breathe new life into the dying medium of comic books.

So why do we like dark and edgy superheroes? 

The idea of darker and edgier superheroes stemmed from what is called The Dark Age of Comic Books. It began with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen, both published in 1986. These comics deconstructed the superhero genre that had been established at this point, and started to add more political and psychological statements and more graphic depictions of violence.

The most impactful idea to come from The Dark Age is that not all superheroes are the pictures of purity. They were starting to be shown as individuals with psychological issues and violent tendencies.

A lot of heroes have gotten a redesign, after The Dark Age rebooted them. One of those rebooted heroes was Batman. After The Dark Knight Returns, Batman was made a lot more serious, and the blue and light grey costume he wore was replaced with a black and darker grey one. Batman has still been well-received as a hero and had a squadron of fans.

“I liked him because he doesn’t have any powers and he’s always looking out for what’s best even if it’s at his expense,” Ieasha Galloway, a graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice said. “His trauma fuels him. He’s a hero because he doesn’t want others to experience what he’s been through.”

“Part of the allure of superheroes is that they give people a figure to look up to. A figure that, at the end of the day, ultimately prevails in what he or she is doing,” Jamel Burroughs, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and a licensed psychotherapist in New York, said. “The more psychologically damaged characters provide someone to relate to.”

Batman V Superman, and by extension, Man of Steel, has shown a drastically different Superman than any of the previous incarnations of Superman to hit the big screen. Throughout the movie, one of his biggest struggles was that he felt like he was outsider, since he is from another planet.

“He’s not perfect, and he struggles to do what he thinks is right and balance that with what other people think of him,” John Mooney, a 21 year old senior, said. “He has flaws and suffers emotionally because of it. Personally, I like it.”

Relating to a superhero is part of the reason why people like them. Viewers are made to see these heroes and heroines as the ideal individuals.

Superheroes also satisfy the idea of escapism. Escapism is something that exists to distract a person from any unwanted, unpleasant or unnerving thoughts, and provide an escape for them. A person read a comic, or saw a movie and now wants to imagine that they are that hero that they have seen, without the pressing issues in their own lives. It’s not just superheroes that have done this. Almost anything that a person can take an interest in can be a form of escapism, from stamp collecting to base jumping, from music to art. Some individuals with depression have used the idea of escapism to temporarily relieve their depression.

“Escapism is a form of coping, also known as avoidance coping,” Burroughs said. “With this, a person could take some negative stimuli from his or her life, and push it away by bringing their attention to anything that can be a distraction.”

Projection and hope are two reasons that people like superheroes, according to Galloway. “They want to believe that they and others out there who want to do good just for good. They want to believe that something greater can happen and sometimes they want to see themselves as the hero.”

Batman V Superman has brought back a trend stemming from Ancient Greek times, according to Mooney. “Like the Greeks before us, we like seeing our idols in their own flawed image. It shows that even super powered beings have similar emotions to us and how they struggle in situations make them more human.”

Richard Felipe, a 22 year old senior, thought that the escapist idea was something that superheroes represented. “Be it the personality, the body, the life they live, etcetera. You can imagine yourself as that hero”

The changing times have also changed things about heroes. Spider-Man’s alias is Peter Parker. When he was first introduced in Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962), he was a 15 year old high school student with a love for science. In 2016, Peter Parker now owns his own company.