You’ve witnessed this origin story a million times and across all mediums; protagonist seems to have potential, but it’s the death of a parental figure that spurs protagonist to becoming the hero that he / she was meant to become. Comic books in particular seem to make their money off of this trope, and honestly, it’s a little perverse when you think about it. After all, what does this motif really mean? On the most basic level, it’s telling us that the only purpose of doing something is because of revenge or to make a dead loved one proud. Essentially, without proper motivation, nothing is worth doing. Very few heroes seek justice just for the sake of being a hero because there is no such thing as an inherently good hero. Even Superman — perennial embodiment of all that is good in the universe — required the deaths of his biological parents as well as his foster father (in some continuities) to become the force of good that he is.
Now, old Joey Campbell (creator of the monomyth and merciless assassin of unique narratives everywhere) would have you believe that the death of a loved one is merely the first step in a path of heroic self-discovery – a narrative technique that empowers readers into believing that they can become the masters of their fate – but my God, what a boring old fart he was. Joey may have een a doctor, but so is Dr. pepper and no one really believes that there are 23 different flavors in his soda, but I digress.
What old Joey Campbell seems to be missing is the darkness that hides beneath the surface of the monomyth origin story.
Parents are representative of a societal constant. They teach children values, social mores, and to a child, the parent is the entire world. Parents provide context to a child’s world. When a parent dies in a monomyth story, it is not merely a representative of a child having to break from the past, but the death of a parent is a manifestation of the chaos that exists in the world. It shows that in the blink of an eye, life can completely change and that the comfort that one gets from a loved one’s affection will be ripped away because everything is meaningless.
I can hear you screaming at your computer screen now. You’re screaming, “But the purpose of monomyth is to show the journey of reconstructing context and meaning when the world is in chaos. It’s a powerful story that shows that identity can change and that it is fluid because a person is not defined by their tragedy, but on how they cope with their tragedies. It’s about hope, not chaos.”
First off, calm down.
Secondly, bear with me.
After the initial shock of the loved one’s death is over, then the hero decides to fight for justice which is meant to be an altruistic and inherently good motivation. Spider-man is presented as a noble hero who fights the good fight because with great power blah blah blah, but in reality, Spider-man fights because he has no control over his life and he is trying to impose order on his universe. Ultimately, no matter how much he fights, chaos will always exist and it’s a futile effort. No matter how many times Spider-man stops the Green Goblin, if the Goblin kills one person close to Spider-man, then his world returns to that chaos first initially caused by the death of his uncle Ben.
And this is why Batman is better.
With Batman, there are no pretentions of the hero doing so because that’s what is right and good. Batman is obsessed with finding that peace he had as a child, but it’s obvious that this will never happen. Batman is surrounded by side-kicks, and friends that form a surrogate family, but because his idea of identity is so connected to his parents that it blinds him to reality. Batman is the manifestation of the nihilist superhero obsessed with a danse macabre.
What does all of this exactly mean?
Inherently, comic books are power fantasies written by miserable women and men who are writing against their parents. Does this mean every writer? Certainly not. Is this intentional on the part of writers? Not always. But more often than not, comic book writers are writing because they are lonely and without control in their own world.
The reason parents are killed in comic books is because comic book writers are pushing their own nihilist agenda.
Spider-man can fight all he wants, but all of his loved ones will die.
Superman can save billions of lives, but if one person dies then everything is meaningless because even with all his power, he has no control.
Comic book writers are cruel and evil gods that impose their own hateful agenda each time they kill someone close to their protagonists. Each time a minor character close to the protagonist is hurt, the message that should be interpreted is that making connections with others is a pointless task that serves no purpose because everything is just chaos anyway.
Is this so ridiculous of an idea?
No more ridiculous than Women in Refrigerators.
Which is actually really ridiculous.