While watching the battle scenes of the movie Troy last weekend I observed that the Trojans would have had a much easier time defending their city if they had Superman on their side.
This often occurs to me when I’m watching a war movie, I had the same thought during The Return of the King and Saving Private Ryan. Then, in the second half of the film, Achilles explained that the gods envy mortals. Since the gods are capable of anything, nothing they do has any significance. Whereas mortals matter because of their limited capabilities and lifespans give their achievements meaning.
And I realized; superheroes are insignificant.
Most of them are just granted power. Either they’re born with it (Superman, Thor, the X-men), given power by someone (Green Lantern, Wasp, Captain America) or they happen to benefit from some kind of accident (Spider-Man, Captain Atom, Firestorm). I can only think of a few superheroes who really worked for their power (Iron-Man, Batman, Giant-Man). Their seems to be a subtext to the genera; the only path to achievement is to luck into it, and working for your power make you evil, some of Marvel’s and DC’s biggest villains worked their way up from nothing (Lex Luthor, Kingpin, The Red Skull).
Power breeds corruption, and absolute power breeds absolute corruption. The powerful are not to be trusted. That’s why we have a system of checks and balances, power has to be kept in check. In Abu Ghraib, we saw a few individuals with absolute power over their prisoners with no one monitoring them.
The JLA live on the moon so that no one can keep an eye on them, doesn’t that seem suspicious? Batman was prepared if any member of the JLA went bad, they kicked him out of the League for it. An argument can be made that the heroes are heroic because they have all this power and are still “good people”, but look around at the real world. Today, the powerful seem to spend most of their time ensuring that they are tomorrow’s powerful.
It’s easy to tell who the bad guy is. Ever notice that you can draw a line down most superhuman pantheons with villains on one side and heroes on the other? Can you do that with real people?
It seems that the typical superhero has been granted power and freedom without having to work for it, seems to be morally unaffected by this power (while solving most of their problems with violence), and has a simplistic “us vs. them”, black and white morality.
I’m not saying the the genera is inherently flawed, I just think that as long as it’s cast as a adolescent male power fantasy it’ll never reach a larger audience.