What Makes Them Tick
What makes comic super heroes special? Aside from the super powers, the spandex costumes, the secret identities, and their perfectly scripted lines, you would think that there would be a limit to how many super heroes there would be. Yet if you look around the various medias, you’ll find these super heroes popping up left and right like mushrooms after a thunderstorm. That must mean each one is fundamentally unique, right? Not really.
Each super hero has his or her own unique audience that waits with bated breath for the next adventure. Though each and every one of these comic super heroes is unique by their own right, they have common ties that ‘bond’ them to readers. One of the most powerful bonds that tie a fan to the superhero would be the effect that good and evil has on the superhero, and how he or she interprets these moral issues.
Here are a couple of examples of how, exactly, these bonds are formed and maintained on a basis of good and evil:
The Paragon: The first hero that comes to mind for a Paragon would be Superman: the super hero that stands for everything that is good and just. People find themselves looking for an example that good triumphs over evil, and that these pro-social qualities that they value so much will eventually succeed in any endeavor. Even if the pattern is a bit predictable, it is this value of security and comfort that Paragon comic super heroes bring that makes them appealing to fans of this type of super hero.
The Broken: If Superman would be the poster-child of a Paragon, then Spawn would be the poster-child of a broken hero. A Broken hero is one who is bombarded by questions of morality in an attempt to find good amidst evil. If Paragons are appealing because of their solid conviction of good, broken heroes are appealing because of their moral struggles to attain goodness. Comic super heroes in this category provide a more diverse and unpredictable story, while bringing questions of how good can be strived for even in the face of the greatest temptations. Fans find this moral struggle refreshing and unique, especially for fans struggling with moral issues themselves.
The Antihero: If Spawn and Superman both believe in the concept of good, then a super hero like the Mask would be the poster-child of an Antihero. These types of comic super heroes are typically driven by self-interest, while maintaining enough positive traits to be called ‘good.’ Though not evil or malicious by nature, Antiheroes are typically driven by personal agendas, rather than the pursuit of good itself. However, they maintain their mark as heroes by the nature of their interests aligning with good. This gives them a unique edge that sets them between good and evil, and keeps fans constantly wondering what they’ll do when faced with different moral situations.
Of course, the human mind is filled with endless possibility, and there always exists the possibility of mixing these moral stereotypes or even coming up with new moral stereotypes altogether. But it still helps if we could understand, even just a little bit, how we connect with our beloved superheroes. Whether they would be Paragons like Superman, Broken heroes like Spawn, or even antiheroes like the Mask, we’d be able to understand them a little better.