Superheroes questioning violence?

If you want to know what someone believes, look at their superheroes.  Think of an old-timey superhero — Popeye, for instance.  He is evidence of our long-held belief that the solution to our problems is punching (especially punches powered by leafy greens).

The superhero idea since then has evolved along basically the same lines, minus the emphasis on vegetables.  We believe in bad guys who are the source of our problems, and we believe in good guys who (if they have big fists and/or big guns) are the solution to the problem.

superman-anguishSomething interesting is happening, though.  Over the past few decades, our superheroes have been getting slightly less comfortable with violence.  Popeye never agonized about violence the way Superman does.

That said, our superheroes always get to the violent solution eventually.  We don’t necessarily LIKE our violence, but in the end, we do still believe in it.  We believe that is the way the real world works — that when there is a bad guy with a gun, the only real solution is a good guy with a gun.  And if there’s a supervillain, the solution is a superhero with bigger muscles. And perhaps the ability to fly.

But the good news is, WE’VE begun to doubt that mythology.  We’re becoming aware that responding to violence with violence is problematic.  Seeing this awareness seeping into the foundation of our culture — comic books — it’s a good sign.

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