I know what you’re thinking, the title of this post is going to incite disagreement and discord among many, and you might be right. The thing is though, that for all of their powers: flight, super strength, super speed, enhanced senses, impossibly large amounts of money, perfect accuracy, etc; a superheroes greatest strength is their compassion and their ability to inspire. Whether they’re Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Thor, Hulk, Green Arrow, Green Lantern or even Deadpool, at the end of the day it is their humanity and compassion that will win them the fight. There have been many times throughout comics and other media where the compassion and ability to inspire prevailed through all odds: Avengers Assemble Season 2, Infinity, Batman the Animated Series, and Infinity War are just a few of the examples of this type of victory.
Avengers Assemble from DisneyXD is the unofficial sequel series to Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and their second season includes one of the finest examples of victory through inspiration I have ever seen. The second season starts off with the introduction of the Infinity Stones. Red Skull is fleeing Thanos and crashes to Earth with the Power Stone, causing the Avengers to confront him and the drones pursuing him. Tony had constructed an AI named Arsenal that was the last creation of his father before his passing. This AI allowed them to defeat Thanos in their initial encounter and contain the Power Stone. Throughout the season they are vexed by the Squadron Supreme and eventually Thanos and the Black Order. The culmination of the season ends with the Avengers on Earth fighting Thanos and the Black Order. Thanos has the Infinity Gauntlet, and he is swatting the Avengers left right and center. With the Avengers laid around him beaten Thanos declares himself as victor over Earth. As he shouts that he is the victor, a brick is thrown by a resident of New York and strikes Thanos on his face. The man shouts ” You’ll never win because we will never stop fighting! We will never submit to you!”, soon a veritable mob begins throwing debris and trash at Thanos and the Black Order in protest while others are assisting the Avengers to their feet. This allowed Black Widow the time she needed to enact their plan and blast Thanos with a death ray from space ( seriously watch the episode, it explains it way better… Season 2 Episode 26 Avengers World). It was during this moment when the people of New York rallied behind them, that they realized they were more than just a team of superheroes, they were an ideal, a banner to rally behind… they could inspire people and that made them unstoppable. This is the starting point behind the Hickman run with Avengers in the Marvel Now! printing, Iron Man and Captain America agreeing that the world should become an Avengers World. They take this concept and run with it in the Infinity event. This is the event in which the Avengers go cosmic and become a fighting force for countless worlds across the universe inspiring the natives of each planet to become Avengers in their own right. This is just one example of the ability heroes have to inspire people. When the chosen heroes of their world had been beaten, the people united and rallied behind them in face of overwhelming odds. This is the best characteristic a team of heroes could have, you can take the best fighter or team of fighters and they will win the fight, but you take one person who can inspire and they can do more damage than one fighter ever could. This is what sets the Avengers apart from other teams of superheroes, they can fight and they can throw down, but at the end of the day, when the chips are all down if they can inspire others to fight for themselves then their job is done.
The Avengers may be able to inspire but there’s one hero who’s compassion and humanity are what make him the force he is, and that is Batman. Now some people may think that as the Dark Knight there is no way that Batman has compassion or the ability to inspire, but you would be dead wrong. Batman’s inspiration is felt in every comic when he encounters some young vigilante that he take sunder his wing and trains into a badass fighter. But the one thing that Batman can trump anyone is his compassion, especially for children. One of the best examples of Batman’s compassion comes from Batman the Animated Series (technically it’s Batman Beyond, but it is drawn in the style of the animated series). In this flashback, told by Amanda Waller, Batman and several members of the Justice League are called to stop Ace and her Royal Flush Gang. In this instance Ace was a young girl with powerful psychic abilities ( think Omega level mutant) and she was able to warp reality. Argus had abducted Ace many years before and had performed experiments on her to turn her into a weapon. This accelerated the degeneration of her brain to the point where she would suffer from a lethal stroke. After the Royal Flush Gang was beaten Waller provided Batman with a device that she said would end the problem once and for all. Batman took the device and ran off to find Ace. Through the twisted and terrifying world she had created, Ace was found in a quiet little garden on a swing set. Batman sat beside her and she could tell he was there to stop her. She remarked that Batman wouldn’t use Waller’s device on her and he agreed, sitting down on the swing beside her. She recounted experiments conducted on her and then said “… they got their weapon, I got cheated out of my childhood”.
the rest of the exchange goes like this:
B- I know what that’s like..
A – You do, don’t you? I’m going to die aren’t I?
A- I’m scared… I don’t want to die. Will you hold my hand?
Batman extended his hand and held Ace’s while she waited for the aneurysm that would kill her. The world reverted back to normal and the Justice League members along with Waller and the Argus agents looked over to find Batman walking towards them, cradling Ace’s lifeless body in his arms. This one moment shows that through all the turmoil and Anger that Batman has covered himself with since that fateful night in Crime Alley, he is still a child who understands what it’s like to have your entire world taken away. This compassion is what sets him apart from the other members of the league. Batman, for all his bluster and his gadgets and training, is still just a man, he is not super. He has no powers. But he still continues to fight every night so that no other child will have to endure the things he did at such a young age. This compassion and humanity make him one of the best heroes there ever was.
Infinity War is the comic event that inspired the upcoming Avengers movies. In this run Thanos gets a hold of the Infinity Gauntlet with all the Infinity Stones. When he first gets the stones, Thanos uses them coupled with the gauntlet to promptly wipe out half of the life in the universe. The remaining Heroes and aliens band together in an attempt to stop Thanos. It’s an epic clash between the heroes of Earth and Thanos which ends with the heroes getting clobbered. Literally. In like 30 seconds flat, Thanos mops the floor with all the heroes of Earth and claims himself as victor. Captain America takes a look at his team mates and allies laid about him and he marches over to stand in front of Thanos, he looks him in the eye and says “As long as one man stands against you, you can never claim victory”. This line personifies everything that the Avengers stand for. Cap’s stand against Thanos in the face of overwhelming defeat rallied the rest of the heroes and eventually Adam Warlock swooped in to save the day. This instance goes hand in hand with Tony Stark’s speech from the first Avengers movie when he addresses Loki before the Chitauri invade.
Captain America is the figurehead of the team and he stands for truth, justice and fighting the good fight (let’s just pretend Secret Empire never happened). This panel stands as one of the crowning moments that make Captain America one of the greatest heroes ever made. He will always find a way to win and he has a magnetism that will draw others to him. He can inspire people who thought they were nothing, who have no idea of the person they could become as long as they believe in themselves and never compromise who they are.
Heroes can show us compassion, strength and humility but above all, heroes can inspire. Whether they’re fictional like Batman, Captain America or Superman or flesh and blood people like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi heroes have a way of inspiring others to be better people. Compassion and inspiration, qualities many admire and qualities few people possess, it’s hard to find someone who personifies what it means to be a hero, but when they are found, they make their impact on history whether its fictional or not.