Joining a Team- Putting your Connections to Heroic Use

Greetings Superheroes!

As we discussed in the last post, just being a part of a team increases your social capital, thus making you more likely to give to charity, trust another person, and act in an altruistic manner.  Thus, even a somewhat lame superhero can contribute as a member of the right team, even if they don’t do much.

Anyone need to talk to a fish? Anyone?

 But if just being a part of a team is heroic, just imagine how effective your actions can be!  Through our example of Wolverine, we’ll demonstrate how being in teams improves your own security as well as protects the next generation. 

Wolverine is an example of a “connector”, or a person who interacts with a wide variety of groups.  As a connector, he is able to draw on a wide variety of skills and resources whenever he needs a hand.  For example, when he needs a sniper to cover him while he attempts to rescue his son, he knows he can call on Captain America’s old sidekick, Bucky.[1] 

Who, despite having a lame name, is a very good shot

Whenever Nick Fury needs a team to perform a covert mission to Latvernia, Wolverine is there.  Or, when Wolverine needs a little extra money for rent, Hawkeye from the Avengers has a job for him.[2]

Wolverine did not age well...

Like several other heroes at the heart of the Marvel universe, Wolverine interacts with a wide variety of individuals and teams, meaning he often knows the exact person he needs at any given time.  Moreover, Wolverine can guide those in need to the hero best equipped to help.  Thus, in addition to being well-connected with his own team utilizing “strong ties”, Wolverine is also loosely connected to many others through what are known as “weak ties.”

Shown: a weak (yet kinda awesome) tie

Those same “weak ties”, or loose social connections, that allow Wolverine to call in favors from all over the Marvel universe are also essential to the economic well-being of individuals, neighborhoods, and towns.  For example, if you are looking for a job, it doesn’t make much sense to ask for recommendations from your closest friends and family.  After all, if they are close to you, you already know almost everyone they know, meaning they know about the same opportunities you do.  But most distant connections can provide new opportunities, advice, and other information helpful to the job search.  Malcolm Gladwell even notes that “The most important people in your life are, in certain critical realms, the people who aren’t closest to you, and the more people you know who aren’t close to you the stronger your position becomes.”[3]

As a side note, Malcolm Gladwell's hair defies all laws of physics as its superpower

Another benefit of social capital is that it help nurture, train, and encourage the next generation.

Unfortunately, yes, this is a real comic

He currently leads the X-Force, a mutant “black ops” team, and has acted as an instructor in the Charles Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. 

Finally, a church that gets it!

 Wolverine has also mentored heroes such as Jubilee, Rogue, and most recently Laura Kinney aka X-23.  Wolverine also founds new teams when the need arises.  In Old Man Logan, Wolverine is placed in a dystopian future in which most of the heroes have been wiped out, leaving Wolverine aka Logan as the last hero alive in an America dominated by villains.  After defeating the last villain in California, Wolverine sets off to free the rest of the country.  But he doesn’t go alone.  He starts a superteam of his own.
Once again, according to Putnam, the amount of social capital has a powerful correlation to the well-being of the next generation.  For example, Putnam cites a study comparing two neighborhoods, both with similar income levels and rates of working women and single parent households.  Despite these similarities, one neighborhood had a high rate of child mistreatment, while the other had a particularly low rate.  The difference between the two neighborhoods lay in the social connectivity.  In the low risk neighborhood, parents were more likely to ask a neighbor to watch a child and allow their children to play with other children in the neighborhood.[4]  Moreover, children in the low risk neighborhood were more likely to find a parent home after school.[5]  Essentially, the social network of the neighborhood acted as a shield for children against their parents’ worst moments.[6]
Putnam links other positive factors such as health, happiness, voter participation, tolerance, and economic equality to social capital, and concludes his book by issuing challenges to city planners, religious leaders, media professionals, and politicians to increase the social capital of the United States  in order to promote better civic engagement, health, and welfare.  We superheroes are ahead of the curve in this manner, already joining teams as a part of our heroic behavior.  We need to continue investing in teams in order to promote truth and justice in our lives and the lives of others.

That said, I'd still avoid Alpha Flight

In order to close our discussion on the relationship between Wolverine and team building, I want to reiterate that through teams, we take our individual talents and make them even better by combining them with the talents of others.  The ultimate example of this is the “fastball special.”  In this move, a super-strong member of the X-Men, such as Colossus picks up the smaller Wolverine and hurls him at a target unreachable by either member. 

Like this

The fastball special has been used time and time again in comics and movies, once even to take out a jet aircraft.  It always manages to attract all the right kinds of attention.

And some of the wrong kinds

  But here’s what I love about the fastball special: it demonstrates that through teamwork, amazing, incredible individuals can do things that are more amazing, more incredible, and simply fantastic.  And that’s what joining a team does.  Joining a team yields unexpected, uncanny, and, most often, heroic results.
That’s why its heroic.  So team up, superheroes, be it in your religious organizations, local groups, or with those superhero teams springing up all over the nation.  Together, we’ll make this a better, safer world!

Comic Fans’ End Note:
In this post, I reference the Mark Millar series Old Man Logan several times.  Wolverine has been in many comics and has many different iterations, but Old Man Logan stands out as great example of what it means to be a hero when the situation calls for it.  Its great art, great storytelling, and full of moments that cause your jaw to drop.

This happens. Seriously.

 If you’re a comics fan, an X-Man fan, or a Wolverine fan, I can’t recommend this comic highly enough.
Enjoy, true believers!

[1] Daniel Way, Wolverine: Origins, 25, 2008, page 18.

[2] Wolverine #66, 2008.


[4] Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

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