The Persona of the Superhero


Today's children turn to a lot of things for entertainment
or diversion. Sometimes its sports, television, or comic
books. The latter is still used today by children for
amusement. No doubt about it, comic books are still a
popular medium of entertainment for children. But over the
years, comic book heroes have evolved to keep up with
today's generation of readers. The question has arisen a
number of times: Are comic book superheroes good role
models for children? Comic book super heroes are good role
First, some background on the superhero persona. The very
first superhero was Superman. He was an alien from a dying
world sent here by his parents. Earth's atmosphere gave him
super-strength and flying capabilities (among other
things.) All this was published in Action Comics #1, 1938.
The comic was a phenomenal success. Superman was the
catalyst for the creation of countless more superheroes.
During the World War II period, Marvel comics introduced
Captain America. Captain America was a normal man
genetically altered to become physically perfect. He was
then sent around the world to do special missions for the
government. On the cover of his first issue, he is pictured
punching Hitler in the face. Obviously anti-Nazi. He also
had a teenaged sidekick, Bucky. Now children that read the
comic could relate more with Bucky, who was a kid, just
like the reader. Later, in the 1960's, came Spiderman.
Spiderman was actually a teenager by the name of Peter
Parker. He was your typical nerd, trying to fit in with the
crowd. For the first time, there was a comic with the main
character being about the same age of the reader, with
social problems and family problems: real problems. Not the
problems that heroes like Superman had, like whether or not
he should be friends with an alien race. Spiderman gained
his powers by being bitten by a radioactive spider; a bit
more believable than coming from another planet. The
radioactive bite gave him spider-like powers. He then
decided to fight crime, and do his part for the good of his
community (New York City). Since Peter Parker had no
parents he lived with his Aunt May. She was pretty old, so
he constantly had to run errands for her. And he did all
this in good will, never resenting her. A great example for
children and readers alike.
Up to today, all the characters mentioned above still
exist. But they have changed to keep up with the times.
Recently Superman died at the hands of Doomsday, an
other-worldly creature. This showed us a few things: that
even the most powerful type of person, a Superman, could
die. At his funeral we saw that other superheroes care and
that they have feelings. We also saw that the character of
Bibbo, Superman's friend, decided to put on a Superman
costume and do what he could for the good of Metropolis. He
did not do anything spectacular, of course, but he did help
out the homeless, and save a few drowning puppies. A good
example to set for children. In the Marvel universe,
Spiderman went through a series of changes. Most important
of these changes was probably his marriage to his high
school girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson. That showed us that
how a superhero can have a family and also fight crime.
This also added an air of realism to the comic. Captain
America also went through some changes. One of these was
the death of his partner, Bucky. He grieved for a short
time, but he returned to his duties as "Sentinel of Our
Shores". That showed readers that when you are serving your
country, duty comes first.
Today's superheroes are totally different from the
superheroes of yesterday. One of these superheroes of the
90's is Spawn. Spawn's satanic origins may have parents in
an uproar, but Spawn himself denounces his master and his
powers. Instead of using his powers for evil, for which
they were intended, he uses them to fight crime and protect
his wife. It turns out that Spawn was a soldier
mysteriously killed. He loved his wife so much, that he
made a deal with the devil to come back. The bad side is he
comes back five years later, and his wife has remarried.
Readers get a sense of what love can do to a man. The comic
also portrays the devil as an arch-villain of Spawn. A
fairly new hero in the Marvel universe is Darkhawk.
Darkhawk resembles young Spiderman in many ways. Darkhawk's
secret identity, Chris Powell is a teenager, just like
Spiderman was, with all the problems that a teenager has.
Darkhawk's cause for fighting crime stems from seeing his
father, who is a police officer, take a payoff from Bazin,
a drug dealer and mobster. Chris then finds an amulet which
transforms him into Darkhawk. Since a drug dealer made his
father go crooked, he bears a grudge against all drug
related criminals. Since he goes to high school, he busts
drug runners who are students as well. This is a great role
model. Children can relate to Darkhawk because of his age
and heed his anti-drug message. Another superhero of today
is Shadowhawk, an African American hero. He is a bit more
violent than most superheroes but his cause is a just one.
One time he had to fight a very racist killer, Hawk's
Shadow. Knowing that Hawk's Shadow only killed African
Americans, Shadowhawk got very angry. Angry to a point
where he almost killed Hawk's Shadow, but he spared him
because of his promise never to kill anyone. Shadowhawk
shows readers that racism is wrong and that if he really
existed, you would get a severe beating. And now the X-men.
The X-men from Marvel Comics have been around for a while,
but have been through so many changes that they are
considered a superhero team of the 90's. The team is made
up of mutants; humans born with superhuman powers. Mutants
in the Marvel universe are the most persecuted group of
people on earth. The purpose of the X-men is to earn the
humans' trust by fighting evil mutants and other
supervillains. Despite all of the X-men's efforts,
prejudice still exists. Wolverine of the X-men said it
himself when he said that hate was the X-men's worst enemy.
The X-men are good role models because of their
anti-prejudice policy.
What do the children think themselves, you ask? Well here's
what some youngsters thought when asked what superhero they
would like to be: "The Incredible Hulk, because he helps in
the innocent when there's a robbery. He beats the thieves
up and throws them in the garbage can--well, not always,
but most of the time." ,"I kind of like Superman the best
because he always saves people. I like it when he turns
from a man into Superman.", and... "Rogue's the best. She's
one of the female X-Men. Her special power is that she can
take away the special powers of other things just by
touching her skin. She can also fly, and she's real strong."
Well, the point has been made clear: superheroes are
excellent role models. And not just for children, but for
everyone. The word "superhero" implies somebody not normal;
better in all aspects. It also implies some one who is
genuinely good, someone to look up to, a hero. All heroes
in today's comic books fit into this category of
"superhero". And lastly, remember that all superheroes are
human, one way or another, and that's what makes them all
the more spectacular as well as inspiring. 


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