I “created” my first superhero when I was five years old. His name was Captain Hank, and he possessed super-human strength, speed, and couldn’t age. That was all, basically.
Then, of course, I had to “invent” some villains, and then some other superheroes to aid Hank in his fight against evil.
To some, the concept of superheroes acts simply as a metaphor for greatness. It can be easily understood by almost anyone, regardless of age, education, culture, and so on. I never actually agreed with this definition.
I believe the concept itself is so primordial that most of us actually miss the point: superheroes are characters who possess certain abilities and traits that make them better than normal people in many ways. But they also have flaws and weaknesses, and they make mistakes.
As fictional characters, they simply connect with one of our most impossible desires: we want to belong. Most superheroes are outcasts. And their struggle to fit in is what really appeals to us. But then they put on a mask, and everything changes.
They become much more.
In a way, superheroes have taken the role reserved to ancient gods. They teach us that greatness is flawed, that saving the world sometimes means not being able to save yourself or those you love most.
In every superhero movie or graphic novel, there’s always that scene where the good guy’s getting his ass kicked. He’s down on his knees, and you don’t expect him to get up. But this is just an outside perspective. It’s our inability to accept the fact that you can’t defeat a man who doesn’t give up. A man who doesn’t want to give up becomes much more than just human.
And then our superhero rises. He finds strength where few people ever venture. From that hidden place inside our chests, that place science has yet to find.
It’s what kills most people that makes a superhero stronger. It’s when most would hoist the white flag that our superhero is just getting started.
What I’m really trying to say is that even when we’re kids, we don’t really dream about flying or being strong enough to tear down a building. We know that’s impossible, and so we aspire for an elusive form of greatness. We spend an awful lot of time dreaming about greatness, and we find comfort in those dreams.
Sadly, when the time comes to start looking for that one thing that makes us great most of us simply give up.