I want to start this off by saying I love superheroes. I think that is a little obvious given my topic choice for the blog, but the main reason I care so much for superheroes and their stories, are the lessons they can teach. Whether it’s about standing by your friends, standing up for the weak, taking responsibility for your actions, or even just admitting when you’re wrong; superheroes can deliver these lessons time and time again. Batman, Captain America, Spider-Man, Vision, Superman, Aquaman, Moon Knight, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, they all can demonstrate important values that should be emulated in everyday life. Take for example Steve Rogers aka Captain America, the scrawny kid from Brooklyn who became a household name around the world.
When Steve Rogers decided to enlist all he wanted to do was serve his country. He was rejected. Time and time again he would try and he got rejected every time based on his size and medical conditions. He persevered, until one last try when he met Dr. Erskine; and his whole world changed. In Captain America: The Fist Avenger, Dr. Erskine takes an interest in Rogers for the super soldier project due to his commitment. He asks him if he wants to enlist to kill Nazis, Steve responds with ” I don’t want to kill anybody, I don’t like bullies, I don’t care where they’re from”. Dr. Erskine gave Rogers a chance and beyond everyone else’s wildest dreams he was chosen for the project. The reasoning, ” A strong man who has always known power will lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength and knows compassion”, this quote was delivered by Dr. Erskine when he was asked by Steve why he had chosen him. Captain America has carried this with him his entire life and it continues to be a large part of his character (up until he is revealed to be a secret hydra agent?) we’ll just forget about that part. Another great lesson that Captain America has taught us is to never give up. You could argue that every hero embodies this trait but hear me out first. During Infinity War, Thanos got the infinity gauntlet. Thanos is powerful enough as is, but give him the gauntlet with all the infinity stones and he become unstoppable. This is shown when all the heroes across the universe band together to stop him… and he mops the floor with them in 30 seconds flat. With the heroes strewn across the ground Thanos triumphantly declares himself the victor, and then something happened. Despite the loss of his shield, his team mates laid out on the ground before him, defeat staring him in the face, Captain America stood up. He stood in front of Thanos and declared that “as long as one man stands against you, you’ll never claim victory”. Thanos mocks him by saying “Noble sentiments from one who is about to die”. Captain America stands, resolute, staring Thanos in the eyes and replies with ” I’ve lived my life by those words. They’re well worth dying for”. Bottom line is that Captain America stands for the impact one good man can have on history regardless of the odds stacked against him. Captain America is just one of many that stand as an inspiration for many, Peter Parker aka Spider-Man is another great example.
Peter Parker, brilliant, determined, courageous, nerd. Peter grew up in Queens and lived with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben due to the death of his parents at a very young age. He was very gifted in science but not so much in the athletic department. One day while on a trip to a science lab he was bitten by a radioactive spider. This spider bite re-wrote sections of his DNA giving him amazing spider like powers. His origin is tragic and remains as one of the best backstories in comics today. Once bitten by the spider he was performing in a circus as an act to earn some extra cash (some relaunches change this to fighting in a wrestling ring to earn money). One night after performing, a criminal was racing towards the elevator located behind Peter and a security officer shouted for Peter to stop the criminal. Peter side stepped allowing the criminal to pass and told the security that it wasn’t his problem. The criminal then went on to shoot Peter’s uncle Ben, the closest thing he had to a father after his natural father’s death. Peter arrived just in time to witness his uncle’s death. He vowed to hunt down the man responsible for Ben’s death and to make him pay. One of the last things his uncle had said to him was “With great power, comes great responsibility”, this mantra is known by every Spider-Man fan and is uttered by the character many times over his run in comics and mass media. When Peter hunts down the man responsible for killing his uncle Ben he hesitates and ends up letting the criminal go because he knew vengeance was not the answer. He decided at that moment to don the Spider-Man persona and fight crime so that what happened to his uncle would never happen to anyone else. One of the worst tragedies to befall Peter was during Amazing Spider-man #121, when Green Goblin had kidnapped Peter’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy. In an effort to force Spider-Man to make a difficult decision, to stop Goblin or save Gwen, Goblin throws Gwen off of a bridge. Peter quickly shoots a web line catching Gwen around her middle and pulls to stop her fall. When Peter pulls Gwen up he realizes that the force from him pulling her to stop her fall had snapped her neck. Peter is distraught over the whole ordeal and it stands as his single greatest failure. Peter blames himself for what happened to Gwen, which further cements what his uncle Ben told him, with great power comes great responsibility. Peter is a shining example that if you have the ability to do something you have the responsibility to do it and to own it if it doesn’t work out. Moving over to the DC comics side of things, a hero who stands as a symbol for many, Batman.
Bruce Wayne was born into one of the richest families in the world, the Waynes. Their fortune was made primarily on various technological innovations along with some weapon and medical advancement. When he was 8 years old he and his parents had gone to see the Mark of Zorro at the Monarch Theater in Park Row, also known as Crime Alley. It started to rain so the family decided to cut through an alley and everything changed. A man (later revealed to be Joe Chill) was waiting in the alley and shot Thomas and Martha Wayne over a wallet and a pearl necklace. Young Bruce watched his parents die in front of him forever scarring him and changing him into the boy who would eventually become Batman. Bruce travels the world for many years learning every form of martial arts and detective skills. He returns to Gotham taking up the mantle of Batman and beginning his crusade against the criminals of the city. One of the coolest aspects of Batman is that he stands as an ideal rather than a physical person. Yes, he is a physical person in the sense of someone has to be out there in the skin tight armour fighting the good fight, but it doesn’t always have to be Bruce. In both, Battle for the Cowl and Knightfall, Bruce was incapacitated in one form or another. This opened the gates for other worthy successors to become Batman. Azrael took the mantle up in Knightfall while Bruce healed, and while he fought his way back through time after Final Crisis, Dick had taken up the cowl because there always has to be a Batman in Gotham. One of the reasons Batman is so relatable is that while he is considered a superhero, he has no actual powers to speak of. For all intents and purposes Batman is just a man, a man with billions of dollars of gadgets and gear, and trained to peak human perfection, but just a man none the less. He stands as a testament to what you can become if you set your mind to something and are determined to see it through.
These heroes remain as some of the greatest teaching utensils of core values and consequences. Whether it’s being a good person, taking responsibility for your abilities or becoming who you want to be through determination, I (and many others) have learned plenty from our heroes. I would wager that for most people aged 18 -30, we learned more about being a good person from fictional characters than we ever did in a classroom.