Superheroes are everywhere. Whether it's comics, movies, or other merchandise, one is hard-pressed to go anywhere now without seeing the likes of Batman or The Avengers. I find this slightly humorous, being that I grew up completely enamored of these modern day mythological characters, and because of that was deemed 'not cool' and 'nerdy.' Yet now every hipster that you see walking around Hot Topic has a Deadpool shirt on, or is an expert on the subject because of watching "The Dark Knight" or any Marvel movie. But I digress. The point of this article is not for me to cynically bash people for hopping on to the latest bandwagon; it is actually to promote and encourage people to appreciate some of the more old-fashioned heroes a bit more. In particular, I am talking about Superman and Captain America, or any of the heroes that are generally considered lame and uninteresting.
The common trend for the casual comic fan is to gravitate towards the angsty, violent anti-heroes; Batman, Wolverine, Punisher, etc. These are characters that have dark pasts, and in many cases are morally flexible in their quest for justice. These are the movies that are the most successful, and seem to resonate with audiences the most. They are a reflection of the society in which we live; a society that cannot fully trust their own government, and one that cannot go more than a few months without some sort of national tragedy involving gun violence or racial wars. That reason alone is why I feel like the golden-age heroes are more relevant now than ever. In such dark times, we need these beacons of hope to keep us from crumbling under the weight of our own pessimism and despair.
The 'superhero' was essentially created in the late 30's and early 40's, as a way for people to escape from their bleak lives and make them happy. Characters like Superman and Captain America were meant to be bright and positive to remind people not to lose hope, and that things will always get better. These crime-fighters came about during the Great Depression and World War II, when the world needed hope. Superman in particular has always stood for the idea that there is always another way, things will always get better, and no matter how bad it may get, to never give up. He does not kill, and always does the right thing. These are not ways that I would describe most modern-day superheroes and, unfortunately, he is typically seen as uncool because of that. But we need hope now more than ever. We need that light to guide us through the dark world we live in.
Despite these particular characters generally not being as popular, Hollywood is still capitalizing on them, but what is a bit unnerving are their attempts to darken these particular heroes to make them more appealing to the general audience. Recent reboots of Superman, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man have attempted to emulate the 'Nolan' style (the director of the very dark, yet very popular, Dark Knight franchise) and imbue these characters with a gritty and angsty aesthetic in order to make them more profitable. I know I am probably in the minority here, but I think by doing that, the integrity of these characters becomes diluted and compromised.
Realistically speaking, Batman will always be more popular than Superman, and Captain America will never be the most popular Avenger, but that does not mean that they are not as relevant now as they were at their inception. Whether people choose to pay attention or not, these heroes are here to inspire us to always be the best we can be and never lose hope in the face of such bleak times. I will end this with a quote the Last Son of Krypton, where he is faced with the question of his own relevance in a much darker world:
"Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul I swear... until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice becomes the reality we all share... I’ll never stop fighting. Ever."