arthoniel: (Baccano: Deep thoughts)
[personal profile] arthoniel
Here's why superheroes are important. ARTHONIEL-STYLE!

2011 sucked for me. It sucked a lot. As in, no exaggeration to say that it was the worst year of my life. Now, things are looking up, and I'm feeling better, but I was in a very dark place for a very long time there, and reasonably so. Normally I'm pretty optimistic about my life (not an optimist, I'm optimistic, there is a difference... but I'll go into that at a later time) and I honestly believe that the world is a wonderful, amazing, beautiful place... but as much as I'm good at focusing on the light, there was a lot of time when the world was still mostly dark for me this year.

Superheroes also live in a dark world. They live in a world where crime is absolutely rampant - much more so than in our world, because, say what you will about our police, they're really very good when they're actually doing their jobs -, super villains are a thing, there actually are people who are literally striving to achieve world domination, and they all have some kind of ~*issue*~, usually having to do with their fathers or father figures.

The thing with superheroes being important in both our world and theirs, however, isn't that they bring light to a dark world, because if the world were mostly dark and someone were to be reading/watching/hearing about superheroes going around and saving the day, they couldn't give less of a damn. To a certain extent, superheroes are really kind of an absurd concept, and if someone was to try and have anything to do with them while everything is awful around them, it would be almost a mockery of their life. "Well gee, your life sure sucks, but if you put on tights and a cape, maybe everything will get better!"

Instead, superheroes gain importance not by bringing light to a dark world, but by helping to fight for a better world when the process has already begun. They ease the process, and serve as a figure of justice and morality (of a general sense... I'm not entirely sure that, say, people should strive to match Tony Stark's morals to a T) that we can try to aim for. In the history of comic books, they first started being produced in the mid-1930's, and were present enough because they were a cheap escape from the terrible economic and social situation around them. However, the first and biggest Golden Age of comics was in the late 1930's, all the way into the early 1950's. You know, when the U.S. was beginning to pull itself out of the Depression, and particularly when it started becoming involved with WWII, and fighting against the Axis powers. The U.S. was in a state of moving from the dark and aptly named Great Depression to something that is at least better on the homefront. (I will never argue that war is a good thing, or even a better thing... but the facts do show that the U.S. economy got better after we entered WWII and had to start producing war materials en masse, and that's what got money to start circulating again.) And who lead the way as the U.S. literally fought its way out of those dark times? None other than the man (of a sort) who was the catalyst for the Golden Age of comics, the first comic superhero himself, Superman! At the time, he was actually massively outsold by Captain Marvel, but Superman was the one who made comic books into a massive industry by being the first superhero, and the one who defined the form of comic book heroes, and he was one of several major comic book heroes created by DC Comics and Timely Comics (the predecessor of today's Marvel Comics), as well as several other companies that haven't quite matched their success. Superman stood for "truth, justice, and the American way" and he was there as the U.S. managed to get itself through the Depression, through the war, and into the 1950's, one of the most prosperous ages any country has ever had.

So that's how superheroes began to be popular, and how they're important in people's lives in general. They help bring you out of the dark, once you've decided you want to leave. Awesome. But, even though Timely/Marvel had a presence in the golden age of comics, I still always tend to associate the golden age with DC comics... and DC heroes are always just a bit too perfect for me. Yes, Superman and Batman and all of the rest have flaws in their characters and whatnot, but their powers and their senses of morality have always been just a bit too perfect for me. Superman can do anything and everything, and his weaknesses are that he's too strong, and kryptonite. Well, the first one is really interesting, and if DC actually ever did anything with that, that would be really cool! Superman not being able to effectively fight a villain because he knows he wouldn't be able to hold himself back, and he would actually rip the Earth apart or something - that would be really cool. But no. Instead, all of his adversaries always have kryptonite. I mean, how many radioactive pieces of his home planet are there, and how have they all made it to Earth? That's a pretty small trajectory there, after all... shouldn't they at least be missing us by several hundred million miles or something? Or Batman... he may not have any actual superpowers, but he is the ultimate best fighter ever OMG. Shouldn't there be villains out there who are, you know, better than him? There's always someone better than you out there... unless your Batman, apparently. And that's just too... weird for me.

So then, you have to turn to more naturalistic superheroes, which I always associate more with Marvel Comics, most of whom appeared during the Silver Age of comics. The Silver Age is generally accepted to have been from about the mid-1950's until about 1970, when it was succeeded by the bronze and modern age of comics. And this was also Marvel's time to shine, as led in good part by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. This is when heroes like Spiderman, Iron Man, the X-Men, Thor, and others came into play, all of whom are much more realistic in character than the majority of the Golden Age heroes. They're never quite as moral in terms of their own characters as heroes like Superman or Batman are, their powers are significantly more limited, they can be beaten (they aren't, but the possibility exists) and, even though most of them gain their powers through some kind of fantastic science fiction or fantasy, they're much more believable than their predecessors. All of these naturalistic, Silver Age, psychologically nuanced heroes also all began to appear in a time of great social turmoil for the U.S. The Silver Age began around the same time as the civil rights movement, and it only grew bigger as other social movements became more and more vocal; the feminist movement, gay rights, et cetera. Silver Age and, in my mind, Marvel heroes aren't so much about coming out of a dark world where you're missing basic necessities like food, water, and shelter as much as they are about coming out of a dark world where you're going through more psychological issues or you're missing more fulfilling necessities, like being treated as equal to your fellow man, despite your sexual orientation or the color of your skin. Once the U.S. started to fight against bigotry is when these kinds of heroes became more popular, and, like the Golden Age heroes led the U.S. out of the darkness of the depression and the war, these Silver Age heroes led the U.S. out of the darkness of it's old, more bigoted ways.

So, in general, Marvel heroes are more about making yourself better as you're fighting other, external forces. And that's exactly why I'm really growing to love them so much. Because 2011 sucked so hard, and I was in such a dark place for so much of it, but I'm finally really beginning to feel better, and I'm moving on, and looking forward to 2012. My feeling better isn't necessarily new but now that I'm on break, this is the first chance I've had to really think about it. I started my own fight against the darkness that was surrounding me, and now that I've started, I have Iron Man, Spiderman, Captain America, and so many others to help me keep fighting on. To encourage me to do more, be more, and be all that I can be. Now that I've started getting more and more into them, I have a ton more sewing projects planned so I can actually make more things, I've been inspired for new stories to write, I've found a desire to start learning martial arts so I can be a physical badass too, and I'm finding this fight for a brighter life so much easier and better. Hell, even the Marvel villain inspire me to be all that I can be... well, more Loki than anyone else, and more Tom Hiddleston's Loki than any other... but I have watched the movie Thor multiple times now just because I admire his performance so much, and I want to be a better actor now so I could act and create a character that could match up to his Loki... and possible exist with him in some capacity as well. That would be amazing.

Superheroes are important because they give us the courage to keep fighting once we've begun and discovered that the fight is actually really, really hard, and because as we're fighting, they give us something to strive for. They are who we want to be, and particularly Marvel heroes are an achievable goal for us, in some capacity. I may never have the genius level of skill it would take to create an Iron Man suit, I may never get accidentally bitten by a radioactive spider, and I may never be from Asgard and be considered a god by the rest of us little mortals. But I can have those heroes' courage, conviction, and desire to better myself to be the best human I can possibly be, and I can follow through on those desires to actually make myself better. And it's superheroes who will have led me to do that. It's superheroes who will allow me to make absolutely sure that 2012 is one hell of an awesome year.

And that's why I think that superheroes are important.

...Holy crap, I just wrote an essay. Voluntarily. Where I actually researched (read: Wikipedia'd) comic book heroes and everything, because I wanted to. What even is this. I think I'm actually going to have to make this entry public, because... holy crap, I just did that.

And if you read all of that, as my thank you... here, have The Avengers trailer. Because it is awesome, and it is primarily The Avengers who inspire me. Not to mention holy crap Tom Hiddleston can I just be you now? Or have you? Either one, really.

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