Taking a look at the mythology of the American Superhero.
“With great power, comes great responsibility.” It may not be one of the Ten Commandments, but for the irreligious children of America, it was and is still a moral guide. Since its debut in May of 1962, this line has been echoed in all forms of media and pop culture, even finding itself used in the Supreme Court. But for the average American, doing average things every day, it means striving to make the world around you a better place.
Since the birth of Superman into our collective consciousness in 1938, the superhero has allowed us to take our inner self, good or bad, and lay it out on a two dimensional plane for the world to see. Like a patient on the therapist couch, we see ourselves more than the hero we are reading about, whether it is Spider-man struggling to keep his rent paid and defend Manhattan from whatever threat of the day, the Green Lantern and his dueling lives, one on Earth, the other patrolling the cosmos as a member of the Green Lantern Corps or Wolverine, the caged animal with the conflicting personalities of rage and peace we all struggle with.
The question then becomes why? Why in our 21st century lives do we have a need to escape the ins and outs of everyday, transcend our cell phones, meetings and stops at the grocery store for milk to put on a mask and become someone else? The answer is quite simple; they make us believe in the extraordinary. In our world today, America especially, the superhero has been transformed into an American God. We worship them at the box office, on clothes and even wall decorations. And like the Gods of old, we look to them for strength and hope. We take the messages and life lessons that they teach us and apply them to our lives. The Flash was exceptionally good at doing this, at the end of every issue of Flash during the Silver Age; one would find a “Flash Fact”, some scientific fact about the science that you would have just read about, more on that later.
Over the next few weeks we are going to see the complete history of the American Superhero. From the birth of the Sun God from Krypton to Miles Morales, the Ultimate Spider-Man, a 17 year old Half-Hispanic, Half-African American kid who was the first in a new diversified Marvel comics bullpen. From Captain America and Superman, the figures of hope during World War II to the 1954 Senate Subcommittee Hearings into Juvenile Delinquency, with the special focus on Comic Books, an act that nearly caused the End of the American God. While their lifespan in this great country has been short, they have engrained in us an unbreakable spirit and love for them.