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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Comic Book Superheroes and the God Complex

I was watching CW’s promotional programs for their new Show Legends of Tomorrow and Batman V. Superman Dawn of Justice. And the producers made a disturbing statement on both programs.

On both shows producers stated that Superheroes are gods. And this statement was also made by characters in last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.

When I hear statements like this they show me there’s something truly wrong with people’s perception of superheroes.

It’s clear to me that today’s creators are looking at superheroes from the wrong perspective. Instead of directly looking at the characters they’re working with and observing them from an objective perspective they’ve got their favorite heroes on a pedestal and are looking up at them. Even worse, they’re worshipping them.

Let’s get this straight: Comic book Superheroes are NOT Gods.

Superheroes are fictional characters. Characters that represent people and the best that humanity has to offer mankind.

Yes, the comic book superhero is a part of America’s mythology. Like Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Paul Revere, Paul Bunyan, Babe the Blue Ox, Johnny Appleseed and John Henry, they are legendary characters of tall tales that are woven in the fabric of America’s history. And just like those American legends they are down to earth people readers could relate to and connect with.

What’s great about America’s Mythology is that our heroes aren’t above us like the gods of Greece, Rome or Egypt. Instead they walk among us. They stand with us. We can touch them, feel them and share with them. Their stories are our stories.

And our stories can be their stories. America’s great heroes are the people with the courage and the character to stand up for what is right and do what is right. Their power is the passion inside them to use their gifts to help others in the world.

The American Superhero is not a god. The American superhero is a person who has been blessed with gifts and is looking to use those gifts to improve the quality of life for others in the community. They help the needy, the helpless and the powerless. They inspire others to do better and be better. They give hopeless people hope and are role models to the ideals we should aspire to be.

The American superhero isn’t just Superman, Batman, Spider-man or Captain America. They can be our parents, teachers, doctors, firemen, policemen or the members of our armed services. The imaginary world of the superhero inspires kids to grow up to become adults who serve and protect the people in their communities and improve the quality of life for everyone.

Unfortunately, those concepts regarding superheroes were lost on today’s generation of creators. Because they look up at comic book superheroes they see gods. I believe that perception of fictional characters is directly connected to the breakdown of the family over the last 50 years.

50 or 60 years ago boys and girls had both their parents in the home. And because they had that familial relationship with their parents and other adult authority figures like teachers, doctors and other people in their lives they could see superheroes from an objective perspective.

Because that generation grew up with real life people who were their heroes, they saw superheroes from a balanced perspective. And the stories and art reflected that perspective. Creators usually depicted superheroes as flawed human beings who had been blessed or cursed gifts. They saw them from the perspective as those who understood that they had the responsibility to serve those in the community and use their powers and skills to improve the quality of life for everyone. And most importantly they saw them as people they looked up to, and aspired to be like, not someone they worshipped.

However, over the last 40 years due to women entering the workforce and two generations of kids growing up without parents in the home, Children growing up didn’t have that familial relationship with authority figures like their mothers and fathers. So when this generation of latchkey kids came home to superheroes and their imaginary adventures they started looking up to them as gods. And because the children who grew up to become creators never formed that personal or emotional connection with the adults who were supposed to be authority figures in their lives, they saw superheroes as aloof overlords who were disconnected from the people in their communities. And when they grew up to start telling stories with superheroes, their interpretation of the characters began to reflect their perception of the world. And from that distant viewpoint they began to see superheroes as gods.

In most modern stories comic book superheroes stopped looking to use their powers and skills to serve and protect the communities they lived in. Instead, superheroes began looking to use their powers and abilities to serve themselves. And instead of heroes being the kinds of role models people looked up to people began looking at them as gods that were supposed to be worshipped and even feared.

Clearly many creators have lost perspective on what the American superhero is supposed to be. When creators see superheroes as gods there’s something wrong with the way they’re seeing them.

Because what they see aren’t super-heroes. What they see are Super-villains.

Super-villains see themselves as gods. Super villains see themselves as superior to others. They are aloof, and disconnected from people in the communities they live in. They use their powers and their gifts to serve themselves. They seek to oppress and control the masses. And they look to be worshipped and feared.

A comic book superhero is not a god. A comic book superhero is a character who is a person blessed with talents gifts and abilities. A good writer doesn’t see a superhero as a god, they see them as a person just like you and I. A person with flaws, a person who struggles with life.

That’s what makes us like superheroes. That’s what makes us relate to superheroes. That’s what makes us fans of superheroes and whatever media they’re featured in.

As a guy who writes gods and demons in fantasy stories I find it truly disturbing when comic book creators and superhero movie & TV show producers start talking about superheroes like gods. Whenever I write goddesses like Isis and demons like E’steem, I don’t see them as gods. I see them as people.

 Whenever I’m writing a character like Isis or E’steem I make every effort to look at those characters from an objective perspective. From that perspective I can find the humanity in my characters and see all the little flaws they have. I’ve always believed it’s those flaws and rough edges that give a character like Isis or E’steem the texture and shades that allow readers to connect with them, relate to them and identify with them as people. When the reader sees all the little flaws that make them human then they can truly see what’s great about them.

I believe today’s creators of superhero films and superhero comic books really need to get their favorite characters off a pedestal they have them on and start taking a more objective look at them. When they start taking a look at their favorite characters from a clear and balanced perspective and start seeing the flaws these imaginary people have I believe they’ll be able to discover the humanity of that character and finally be able to tell some truly great stories the audiences of this generation can enjoy.

Donate to the SJS DIRECT COVER KICKSTARTER! I’m raising funds to hire Bill Walko artist of the popular webcomic The Hero Business to design all the covers for the books in the SJS DIRECT 2016 catalog.

This year I’m offering paperbacks & eBooks as rewards and Bill is offering ten (10) single figure character commissions as a reward! People oftentimes wait in line to get Bill’s commissions at comicon and here’s your opportunity to get one without having to pay for admission, gas and parking!


  1. I think it's got to do with people who're too deep into superhero lore that they forget that they're just fictional characters.

  2. Personally I think its more along the lines of a breakdown of sanity and being creatively bankrupt, not to mention hiring writers and artists who write the worst of humanity on a constant basis.

  3. It's also why fanboy surrogates rose as the audience switched from actual youngsters to obsessive fans who never outgrew superheroes.

  4. Yeah, I think they are too emotionally and personally connected to the characters Ad. An objective writer can see that superheroes are characters and tell stories about them as heroes. They seem to have an obsession with making these characters into something bigger than they are. Which is why they put them on a pedestal instead seeing them as they are. Drag makes a good point that there is some sort of imbalance in many of today's creators because they just don't see these characters as that: Characters. If a lot of these writers pitched their ideas to trad publishers they wouldn't be hired.

    I think a lot of people need to realize that these are characters made for children and get back to that kind of storytelling. Superheroes aren't gods, but characters meant to be role models who promote good behavior and a sense of community for children.