What is a superhero?
When asked that question, many would say perhaps Superman or Wonder Woman. Maybe even Batman or Spiderman. They are part of Marvel and DC Comics “Super Heroes” of screen and lore, but are they really super or heroes?
Tampa Bay Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy posed a similar question in his post for “the Players’ Tribune” when he asked, “Is Batman a superhero?” The crowd roars, “Of course he is” and although McCoy agreed and noted Batman is his superhero of choice, it might not be for the reasons you’d think.
We all know that Superman can fly and has super-human strength and that Spiderman can scale walls and buildings, but McCoy appreciates the fact that Batman doesn’t really have any superpowers. What? Holy Batmobile Robin, this must be the work of the Joker.
But it’s not. And it’s why Batman is his favorite.
Unlike most superheroes, Batman doesn’t possess any superpowers and relies instead on his mind. As McCoy wrote, “His greatest attribute is that he’s highly intelligent. He’s just a regular dude who always finds a way to get the job done.” Those abilities are what McCoy respects and strives to emulate in play on the field and life off it.
It got me thinking.
If Batman can qualify as a superhero without any true superpowers, what about the rest of us? What else can qualify as super human abilities? Who else can we consider superheroes?
What about the bus driver who gets your kids to school safely every day?
What about the pipe layers whose work ensures you get clean water by merely turning on a tap?
And how about the engineers who finagle stop lights? Their handiwork sees to it that vehicles stop and go at the right times.
And yet, society tends to make superheroes out of famous but often undeserving athletes, movie stars, musicians, and TV personalities. “Oprah is my hero,” you heard again and again recently. “I want to be like Tom Brady young boys think coast-to-coast. That’s all well and good, Oprah has done some amazing things and Brady is the greatest ever, but do they qualify as superheroes? Probably not.
Kids love superheroes though…real and fictional. And that’s okay. They need heroes and they need imagination. I tell my little preschoolers to catch their sneezes and coughs in their elbows by bringing around their superhero capes. It works every time. Who doesn’t want to be a superhero and have a cape?
I’m currently obsessed with the song “Something Just Like This” by the Chainsmokers and at first hearing was immediately attracted to the lines “I’m not looking for somebody with some superhuman gifts, some super hero” that are included in the lyrics:
I’ve been reading books of old
The legends and the myths
Achilles and his gold
Hercules and his gifts
And Batman with his fists
And clearly I don’t see myself upon that list
But she said, where’d you wanna go?
How much you wanna risk?
I’m not looking for somebody
With some superhuman gifts
Some fairytale bliss
Just something I can turn to
Somebody I can kiss
That’s probably what we all look for in our super heroes: someone we can turn to, not some fairytale bliss.
Someone I regularly turn to is God, and I would venture to say Jesus is indeed a superhero; perhaps the superest of super heroes.
I also rely on my family and friends for support and inspiration and I consider all of them superheroes. None of them have superpowers; they are merely super people in my eyes.
My mom is a superhero. Raised by her grandparents, she widowed at age 52 and yet somehow managed to pay my out-of-state tuition. She’s not perfect, but she’s heroic.
Doctors…good doctors…may not have “super powers” per se, but they have healing powers and in many cases are super heroes. Same with teachers and fire fighters.
Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes and vary from person to person. Someone I consider worth admiring someone else may detest and vice versa. But maybe it shouldn’t be so much who we consider heroic, but what we consider heroic attributes.
Take for example Captain Marvel. I had no idea that his “Shazam” was actually an acronym and a call for the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. How cool would that be, to merely shout something and you gain a truckload of formidable traits?
Depending on who you are or where you are in your life, you might give a shout out for intellect, health, wealth, will, strength, endurance, patience, acceptance, wisdom, or serenity. Society needs superpower science and technology, but don’t we also need love and peace and superheroes who promote them?
My mind is constantly reeling…it only sleeps when I sleep…so I greatly admire those who are centered and calm. I also hold in high esteem anyone who is in good physical shape (because I’m not) and someone who appreciates a good laugh (because I do too.)
Couldn’t agree more, and even if I don’t agree with your reasoning, I appreciate your conviction and the fact that you stand for something. I also respect someone who is a deep thinker and can engage in interesting conversations. I’m a voracious reader and researcher but I also tend to overthink things, so “going with your gut” is a trait I relish and work on.
In the end, what is anything super without faith and hope? We hope for the best and hope all goes well. We’re constantly hoping for a cure and holding out hope against hope.
It’s my hope that maybe we all take a cue from Batman and start using our brains in heroic ways to keep hope alive. I’m no Wonder Woman, but it might just make a powerful difference.