Thursday, March 28, 2013

What is a Superhero?

[Johnathan Clayborn]
I was at work the other day on a conference call. During the start of the call the host wanted us to identify ourselves and had us do an ice-breaker by stating who our favorite superhero is. Most people had answers to this question right away, and I gave an answer too, but as the meeting progressed I really started thinking about the question in a lot more detail. What IS a superhero anyway?

To many the obvious answer would be someone with super powers. Some of the iconic superheroes of modern times, like Superman, for example, were born with their powers. Others, like Spiderman and the Fantastic 4, went through an event that changed their physiology to turn them into superheroes. Still others, like the X-Men, are a combination of both methods, but their powers are the result of genetic mutations rather than some kind of magical force. But, is that really what defines a superhero?

Let's examine this for a moment. Superheroes have super powers, sure. But, then again, so do super villains. Look at Magento, for example. He has super powers, he just chooses to use them for different purposes. So, clearly being a superhero is more than just having awesome abilities. A lot of it boils down to the choices that you make; what do you use your abilities for? If you use your abilities for evil or simply to further your own personal gains, then by most people's definitions you would not be a superhero. But, if you used your powers for the betterment of mankind and to combat evil, then surely that would qualify you as a superhero.

So, with that concept in mind let's re-examine our opening criteria; what is a superhero anyway? It's someone who has super powers and uses their abilities for the betterment of the greater good. Right? Well, what about Batman? Here's a superhero who defies that logic. He's just a regular person, granted, he's a rich, intellectual person, but he has no super powers. All he has is cool gadgets. He chooses to spend his immeasurable fortune on developing things that he needs to be able to fight crime and make a positive difference in the world. What about Ironman? Sure, he has a power-reactor built into his chest, but, he's in the same category as Batman, basically he's just a regular dude who happens to have tons of money and intellect. But, like Batman he uses his fortune to help others. Without his suit, like Batman, he's very vulnerable. So, based on these two immensely popular superheroes, clearly having super powers isn't necessarily a prerequiste to being a superhero.

So, based on that information, is it possible that a superhero is simply someone who sacrifices their own safety, well-being, and monetary gain to make a positive difference in the world for the betterment of the greater good? If that's true, then it seems to me that the world is full of real-life super heroes who are overlooked and ignored; paramedics, firefighters, police officers, military personnel. Wouldn't they qualify as superhero status also? Or are the gadgets that they use not high-tech enough?