It sounds like an easy question, upon first hearing. However, give it a second for the question to sink it and… you see. It’s not that easy.
Now, why we love superheroes is not going to receive the same type of answer from each of us. In fact, our answers should be as unique and different as the individual. There will probably be some common themes, similar reasons. However, the fact remains that we all love superheroes in our own way, for our own reasons.
Some may say that it’s embedded in our DNA. The Ancient Greeks and Nords believed in Gods with powers and abilities, both good and evil. Basically, superheroes and villains. They were relatable, understandable, and identifiable. We, as humans, could find something similar in these gods that resonated within. We eventually found ourselves drawn to those beings, and it shaped our actions, our thoughts, and our desires. Those who followed Hercules often looked for the right thing to do, be the Boy Scout, and make the ultimate sacrifice for love. (Sound familiar? If it doesn’t, you need to read and watch The Death of Superman). Those who idolized Hades would often look to thwart the good plans of others and were constantly looking at the dark, pessimistic side of life. (Sound familiar? If it doesn’t, you’ve never heard of the Joker.)
As a child, I first fell in love with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Whoa! They were the coolest. They were turtles (which I still have a fascination with to this day…just ask my wife), and they had abilities. And best of all, they were led by a giant rat. What a fantastic, creative idea to grab a child’s attention. I’m dating myself here, but this was back when comics and cartoons were geared towards children, unlike today. They seem to have evolved, to follow my maturity and reading level as I aged. Which I’m appreciative of today.
I had tons of cool Ninja Turtle action figures, Brains lab, Bebop and Rocksteady…the list goes on. Stuff that I wish I would’ve kept as it’s now worth a fortune. I watched the TV show, religiously. My mom was really good about allowing me the time to watch as a kid. My friends would come over, or I’d go play at their house, and we’d role play as TMNT’s. I loved Raphael because of his sai. They were the coolest weapons. I was little and life was simple.
After an unremembered amount of time, I discovered the glory and beauty of what would become my life-long obsession…Batman. I watched “Batman the Animated Series”. OH MY GOSH!!!! I was hooked, to say the least. The story of Batman was unlike anything I’d ever watched. It was unique. It had cool villains (how do you not love a guy in a green suit with a purple question mark on his tie).
The Joker was the scariest thing I’d ever seen. He put fear in me. However, I lost no sleep over him. Why? Because I knew that Batman was going to be there to keep me safe and stop him. The simple mind of a 3-year-old, right!
As I aged (notice I didn’t say matured), my understanding of Batman grew. (I still remember the first day I realized that Batman was raised by his butler. That was interesting.) Batman became “something more” (citing Alfred Pennyworth). I started to see the determination and will to succeed no matter the outcome. The character began to evolve with my own level of understanding and awareness. The fears that I had as a child (like quicksand being a huge issue) are nowhere near the fears that I have as an adult. Taking care of the ones I love is a huge responsibility and one that I do not take lightly. And, as silly and immature as this may sound, I look to my superheroes for support, guidance, and answers. Captain America, with his unwavering sense of right-and-wrong, even when it’s not the popular thing to do; Batman, with his ability to look at a situation and analyze the possible outcomes but also be quick on his feet to ensure the desired outcome; Wonder Woman, with her ability to inspire and lead those that feel like outcasts (The Justice League Dark). The list goes on.
Back to my original question, “Why Do We Love Superheroes?” That answer changes every single day. I promise you that as you look back at what got you originally interested in Batman, Superman, Captain America, or the Hulk, those reasons are not the same reasons today you continue to read the comics, watch the movies, and think about them all the time. It’s an involved question. And that’s what makes our culture so unique. It’s as diverse as each individual within, and yet we all find common ground in our appreciation and love for superheroes.