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Editorial: Heroes

“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”
—Douglas Everett

Superman. Batman. Wonder Woman. The Flash. Green Lantern.

These names are known the world over, both in the DC Universe and in our own real world, as Earth’s Greatest Heroes. Each has a distinctive identity that is more developed and more defined than many people you can name in real life. Each one has a different personal reason for being. Each one has powers or skills that make them the best of the best in any universe. With each of them comes a 70-year legacy, plus or minus, of inspiration, imagination, and the basic idea that the world can be a better place if we are simply willing to take a stand for what we believe in. They are the icons of the DC Universe. They are the progenitors of the Marvel Universe. They overshadow all other characters. They are universally admired.

Correction: they used to be universally admired.

When these characters were created, the world was a dark place. Dictators and global fascism threatened the freedoms of the world. The average person was held in the iron grip of corruption, crime, and financial ruin. Their examples lit the torch for another generation to carry on and fight the good fight.

Today, the world is a dark place. Dictators and global socialism threaten the freedoms of the world. The average person is held in the iron grip of corruption, crime, and financial ruin. See a pattern?

And the caretakers of these once-mighty heroes at Warner Bros. and DC Comics have cheapened their characters to become “newer, darker, grittier, and more realistic.” Instead of inspiring a generation to fight the good fight and to raise the standards of what we think is possible, they have helped to shape the belief that these heroes should be humanized and bent to hopelessness as if to prepare us for a post-apocalyptic mindset. These characters, forged from the same heroic cloth that is humanity’s common mythological heritage from Hercules to the Three Musketeers to Zorro, now sit side-by-side with the likes of Spongebob Squarepants and Family Guy in terms of cultural relevance.

Superman, who once championed the cause of Truth, Justice, and the American Way is little more than a stalker who is ashamed of America and doubts his place in the world at large. The lessons learned from Jonathan and Martha Kent? Out the window. Batman once held the moral high ground as the man who carried a hatred of firearms and would not kill lest he become as evil as that which he hunted. Now his vehicles are armed to the teeth with cannons and missiles of the most lethal sort, and the Dark Knight himself teeters on the very edge of sanity. And the once fearless Green Lantern, if the new movie trailer is any indication, doubts himself and his courage. Watch it again and see if you can find the kind of test pilot that’s cut from the same cloth as Chuck Yeager or the Mercury 7 astronauts. And if you don’t know who those guys are, there’s always Wikipedia.

In short, the icons that once stood head and shoulders above the rest are now reflections of the absolute worst traits humanity has to offer. So what happened? We happened to them. The public grew fickle, and we voted with our dollars at the box office. We opted for flashier, sexier, scarier, grittier, and darker. Ever wonder what that even means, “darker?” It’s a buzz word. It means nothing. We have forgotten that the World’s Greatest Heroes, no matter how “light” or “dark” they seem must ultimately face the darkest evil in order to fulfill their heroic mandate. But instead of fighting the evil in the world, the public has demanded they become the evil in the world. Our shortcomings have been projected upon them in no uncertain terms, but as long as there’s big explosions, DTS surround sound, and 3-D CG animation, nobody seems to care about the little things like honor, morality, and an heroic code.

Perhaps these ideas seem old-fashioned. Perhaps I’m finally getting old. Or perhaps…people really do want something better but are simply settling for what’s being dished out. Perhaps we’ve gotten so used to the smell that we don’t notice it anymore.

Perhaps it’s time we made our voices heard. Do you want heroes who inspire you to greatness, or do you flawed characters that help you to feel better about yourselves?

It’s time to choose, before that decision is chosen for us.