Category Archives: Super-Narratives

Rationalizing Super Villainy- The problem of Individual Pragmatism

Greetings fellow superheroes!

After fighting crime and standing in the moral good for some time, you may get to thinking that this superhero thing is great, but there are some real drawbacks.  You never have the money to buy nice things, you’re always tired, and just once you’d like to be able to buy your spouse or significant other a nice dress or a night out.

You took me to the moon last month.....

None of these motivations are evil in and of themselves.  Heck, most of them are considered downright noble.  So maybe, you think to yourself, maybe I’ll do just a little supervillainy.  You know, on the side. Continue reading

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Make your life into a hero story

As long as you’re planning to be a superhero, you should understand the basics.  After all, the superhero is not a new concept.  All cultures in all places the world over have hero stories.  And there is good reason for this: there has never been a culture or a tradition that did not require extraordinary men and women to accept the call to make the world a better place.  It is through the great effort of others that we exist today.  We exist on the grace of those who have given much, and will continue to exist based on the grace of those who continue giving on our behalf.  If you seek to join their ranks, you must be willing to live the life of a hero.  That means making your story the story of a hero, a story which is both radically new and steadfast in its tradition.

Being a superhero is a very new take on a very old legend.  When anthropologist Joseph Campbell set out to study the story of the hero, he came up with the earth-shattering conclusion that all hero stories in all cultures, both real and fictional, follow what is known as the Archetypal Hero Myth.  What Campbell meant is that every hero story, in every culture, those that really happen and those that are completely made up, us made up of common elements.  The story, in short, never changes.

Every hero story starts with the would-be hero in the Ordinary World.  This world is familiar to the hero, but not necessarily to the readers.  The normalcy of that world is broken, however, by a task, typically given by a character known as a caller.  This task is generally of great importance to the Ordinary People of the world, and thus is of great importance.  The hero may readily accept the task or may waiver.  But eventually, the task will be thrust upon the hero and the hero will cross a Threshold to Adventure which takes them out of the ordinary world and into the life of adventure.

Once in the world of adventure, the hero will undergo challenges.  In the process of overcoming those challenges, the hero will encounter both helpers and opponents.  The hero will gain aid and defeat obstacles, and eventually will complete her task through a final ordeal.  There will be great rejoicing, but this is not the end of the hero story.  After returning from the final ordeal, the hero will encounter a final challenge.  This final challenge is usually too much for the hero, and as a result the hero will experience a figurative or literal death.  But all is not lost, because due to forces outside the hero’s control, the hero will experience a figurative or literal resurrection as well.   The hero carries on; the unstoppable force overcoming the immovable object, indicating that the there are forces beyond the hero both allied against her and for her.

These story elements are ubiquitous in the stories of great men and women, and a cursory glance of the lives of people such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, St. Joan of Arc, and the New Testament account of Jesus reveals all of them.  And of course, the stories of Superman, Spiderman, and literally hundreds of other heroes appropriate these narrative elements.  The story of the hero is the keystone to the life of the heroic individual.

Here is your challenge: if you want to be heroic, you need to make this story your own.  Take a step back: where are you in your story?  Where are you stuck?  Have you been called?  Have you accepted the task?  Are you across that threshold of adventure yet?  If you tell your story as the story of a hero, I’m sure you’ll find that you, too, are already further down the road to being a superhero than you thought.  Once you have your hero story worked out, you’re ready to take the next step.  Welcome to the story!

Greetings, True Believer!

Welcome, fellow heroes, to my blog, the Superhero’s Guide!  The basis of this blog is simple: to provide heroes of all stripes, from the ardent newcomer to the seasoned promoter of justice, with a guide to all sorts of commonly faced superhero dilemmas.  Examining superhero dilemmas provides us with guidance as to our own heroic careers.  After all, heroes reflect the societies from which they come.  Thus, our heroes tell us about ourselves, and the challenges they face reflect the problems we face throughout our heroic lives.  To be a hero, one must face these challenges, too.

Before you go out there, there are a few things we want to cover with you.  Being a hero isn’t all capes, tights, and power rings.  People will look up to you in your new occupation as a hero.  Kids will want to own your action figures.  And one of your goals is to show humanity not only what it is, but what it could be.  As a hero, you have a calling to point out injustice in all its forms and to show all the citizens of this planet that they are strong enough to combat those injustices.  They are stronger than they think they are, and you can show that to them.  But your success or failure hinges on whether society believes you are helping or hurting them.  You will have detractors.  You will have to face your Dr. Octopus, but you will also have to face your J. Jonah Jameson in the form of public opinion.  And if in the end you are judged to be a poor hero, it may not matter how good your intentions were.  As Superman once told a young upstart who earnestly believed he was doing the right thing, “It’s not about where you were born. Or what powers you have. Or what you wear on your chest. It’s about what you do… it’s about action.”[1]

Whatever brought you to this place, whatever convinced you to undertake the hero’s life, you’ve got a long road ahead of you.  You will need abilities and skills to battle the forces of evil.  You will need to establish lasting and trusting relationships integral to acting as a team.  And you will need patience, strength, and perseverance as you battle both the evils of society as well as their ultimate causes.  But, most importantly of all, you must be heroic.  Your actions will ultimately determine whether you really are a hero or if you are just ordinary or worse, villainous.

By performing acts of heroism, you will join an elite cadre of men and women who have made the world better by living extraordinary lives.  In addition to such notable heroes as Superman, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, and Ms. Marvel, this list includes heroes like Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, and John Paul II.  All of these individuals, when confronted with a world of injustice, answered the call to adventure and became the heroes the world needed when the world needed them.  Heroes have changed the course of history more than any other factor.  The next great historical moment will take place as a result of the actions of heroic women and men.  Moreover, the world requires everyday heroes to keep the streets safe, raise good kids, and protect the environment.  The world needs heroes in all situations, in all places, at all times.

We believe in you.  We’re counting on you.  Rise to the occasion.  Do the right thing.  Be a hero.


[1] Geoff Johns, Infinite Crisis