Updated: Feb 18, 2019
Marvel Comics was born in 1939, but it was not until 1961, that the branding we are all familiar with to this day was promoted through the work of Stan Lee (1922-2018) and others. Starting with The Fantastic Four and soon after introducing: Spider-man, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Wolverine, and many other heroes and villains, the contributions of Lee and his colleagues goes well beyond the success of the Marvel.
Growing up, I was not an avid superhero comics reader, but I enthusiastically consumed the Spider-man, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, and Hulk films as a teenager, after playing with superhero figurines throughout my childhood. Superheroes and their display of unique talents and powers to capture and defeat villains, capture our attention because they represent the triumph of good over evil. In the words of Stan Lee:
My theory about why people like superheroes is that when we were kids, we all loved to read fairy tales. Fairy tales are all about things bigger than life: Giants, witches, trolls, dinosaurs and dragons and all sorts of imaginative things. Then you get a little bit older and you stop reading fairy tales, but you don’t ever outgrow your love of them.
Another dimension of the superhero phenomenon emanates from the quote above. This is the notion that the traits, capabilities, and accomplishments of the characters in the comics are just beyond the reach of us "regular" people. As a result of this belief, we run the risk of ignoring one of the central messages of Lee's superhero series, and that is that there are no real superheroes.
Before the likes of the Daredevilor Wolverine came on the scene, Batman and Superman dominated the world of superheroes, and more than any other trait, they were defined by their extraordinary physical strength. Marvel introduced heroes who were flawed and complex, often plagued by self-doubt about the very peculiarities that were subsequently transformed into their powers.
In a stunning comment on the Biblical personalities- Abraham and his wife Sarah, German Rabbi, Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote:
The Torah never presents our great men as being perfect, it deifies no man... The Torah is no “collection of examples of saints”... The Torah never hides from us the faults, errors and weaknesses of our great men... But in truth, by the knowledge which is given us of their faults and weaknesses, our great men are in nowise made lesser but actually greater and more instructive.
While you are reading these closing lines, pause and consider a person in your life who you look up to as a role model. Chances are, this "superhero" in your life, is a person with flaws and complexities, and it is these very struggles that inspire you to connect to that individual. This person is real, he or she is beyond and within your reach at the very same time, otherwise you would not have chosen this individual to be your role model.
There are no great people in this world, there are only people who do great things; there are no real superheroes, there are only people who live heroic lives.