To hell with negotiations, most want to see a good blow’em-up story: the Death Star, Starkiller Base, the Red Matter from the famed Star Trek reboot, and GORT from legendary The Day the Earth Stood Still films are all signature colossal super-weapons that have the power to destroy entire worlds and instill fear in anyone who opposes them.
In comics, however, superweapons are not nearly as important as the beliefs that the villains possess, for it is their beliefs and their ideas that make them such a threat to their superhero opposites. However, discussing this for an article would be like singing the theme song to Adam West’s Batman in the middle of a convention. People would hear you, some would laugh and possibly join in, but by the end you would only be reciting lyrics to something that so many people already know. What is intriguing though is the question that asks if the themes and ideas acquired by super-villains ever make their way into reality will people be aware, and will they see the difference between a villain who possesses a terrible weapon and a villain who possesses a terrible idea?
One of my favorite writers working in comics is Greg Rucka, and it’s because he writes with germane and informed ideas that place his work in the realm of serious literature, and it takes writers like Mr. Rucka to centralize the idea that true danger is capable of transcending the genre and embodying realistic interpretations. The challenge, however, is navigating through these beliefs when so many people deny they exist at all. Perhaps this is akin to the voice of a rabble-rouser, which is not what I intend to be, but being a loyal comic book fan also means pinpointing precisely where these qualities surface and how they should be dealt with.
Non-violence is the pillar of almost every superhero. What separates them from those they oppose is not just their morality, but their personal view on the value of human life and how it should be appreciated and protected. Of course the cost of people’s life is irrelevant in the world of comics, specifically the cost of a superhero’s life. Superheroes don’t die in comic books and yet, it is still valid when exploring the beliefs of super-villains. They are not concerned with the acts of death as much as they are concerned with the principle of it, and it is this ideology that finds its way off the page that provides us with the most intriguing, relatable ideas that come as a result.
Recently, I stumbled upon the interview of Mr. Rucka at the Rose City Comic Con in 2013. There, the informative writer spoke about the news and the manipulation of the mass media. His speech, though intended to be something that was connected to his projects, became a session whereby the writer was able to speak freely and passionately about what is occurring in the world today. Being a fan of Greg Rucka’s work I found myself intensely attracted to what he was saying and it forced me to think deeper, about the meaning behind his words. I have always a massive opinion about the role of the media today and seeing the influence it has on people’s perceptions, it has become clear that the ultimate super-weapon, the kind of weapon that can decimate the entire world, comes in the form of words.
Villains in comics are notorious for searching for the ultimate weapon, and in the Silver Age this was a bona fide occupational requirement for those being conceived. But now, during the course of the modern age of comics, the term “superweapon”, though still believed to be something that fits the criteria listed, has a meaning that is apart from what is believed previously. Contrarily, the idea of the weapon has always come down to the peril of belief, what that particular villain stands for, and how well they can communicate their idea to the masses.
One would also say that this idea of transferring these dangerous ideas is not unlike the world we live in today, a world where everything has become a vessel for communication and, if those providing the messages are smart enough, can find ways to communicate these ideas through constant interaction and promotion. Information is being pushed to those viewing it with the intention of knowing only what those broadcasting want people to know about, giving the information that they want to give to you. Villains shift such things during numerous encounters with the heroes. It happens whenever during the moments whereby the heroes face each other and the villains declare that if only they could see the world the way they do their conflict would end. And, if there is a seed of doubt in your belief, take the scene in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, when the titular hero is lying on the rooftop with the Green Goblin who tells Spider-Man about how they are both one and the same. This is but one of many instances whereby the belief of the villain is used to subjugate the belief of the hero in order to further someone else’s.
The only real way to fight this is by doing what comic readers have been doing since before they can remember. They must find their heroes, both on the page as well as in reality, and ask themselves why they are their heroes and why they should be listening to them over the dozens of other people. Being informed with what is happening in the world around you starts with the idea that fiction, though unreal, is not about the influence of reality, and no matter which way you choose to believe it, heroes do have something important to say, and we must listen to them. We must listen and we must believe, because tomorrow either brings a promising future or a terrible one, and no matter which one it turns out to be, we must be prepared for it, and superheroes are the first step to showing us how.