The world sucks and people are sad. The news is reporting yet another disaster and more fear are being pumped into the subconscious minds of viewers everywhere. This is but a common experience people have to endure in today’s society. However, the difficult aspect of this struggle is the fact that the inherent challenge becomes the idea of not knowing how to respond to such reported disasters. The steps that can be taken to resist and to prove that the pain of the modern world will not sway people from being affected by what they see and what they hear. Instead they can be inspired to take noble action and use something more powerful: art. This art comes from the branch of the Liberal Arts: a series of subjects that are fundamental to comics, what they are, and what they stand for.
Undoubtedly in the face of tragedy people turn to art as a means of escape. They take comfort in the idea of listening to a beautiful song, to seeing a splendid movie, or reading a spectacular book or comic. Contrary to what most people might think this particular breed of art is not designed to distract or disconnect, despite the fact that there is a sect of these mediums that do in fact do this. However, one will find that the medium can serve as a way of communicating a specific message that, in times of great pain and sorrow, will grant people the hope that is needed to see a brighter tomorrow.
There has always been a stigma attached to a liberal arts education. Why would someone pay thousands of dollars to learn about material that, quite frankly, doesn’t necessarily lead to a prosperous job? However, when tragedy strikes and when the world comes to a halt, the people who are the first to speak of it, and the people who demonstrate the most outrage and frustration are, in their own way, appreciative of the arts and all that they stand for.
The comic book is a medium that is, and always has been, a celebration of these arts. It is a vessel that celebrates those who are different and unique. Superheroes have frequently been used as a metaphor to celebrate people’s differences, and they continue to preach the very thing by which the liberal arts are built upon: diversity. Therefore, when examining the medium it becomes clear that there are innumerable references to situations that cause readers to reexamine the world they live in and where they can turn to for comfort and inspiration.
This is not apart from how people turn to liberal arts whenever they themselves are searching for answers. And, whether those answers are about communication from authors, lyrics sung by talented musicians, or anthropologists seeking to analyze the interactions of human beings, it is undeniably clear that there is a voice to be heard in each of these subjects.
They are speaking all the time and we must listen.
My mother told me that artists experience things differently. After something terrible occurs, artists feel compelled to take some kind of action and change what has been done. While the advice of some is to rise up with anger or hate, artists find ways of combatting the anger and the hate. They seek out new and innovative ways of ensuring that people feel safer, brighter, and hopeful for the future.
Superheroes are, in their own ways, products of the liberal arts. Each hero in each universe is endowed with a philosophy that, in one way or another, relates to some portion of the arts. There are superheroes that do acquire other skills. Spider-Man, for example, is a character that prides himself on scientific knowledge, as do the enemies he counters. However, it is a hero’s personal outlook that is deeply rooted in one that preaches equality, tolerance, and above all else love.
The careers that liberal artists have found as a result of this mentality are endeavors that have propelled them towards a broader degree of understanding. There are many who have found their place in the realms of playwriting, filmmaking, poetry, fiction, and of course comic books. When such people enter into this industry they are ready and willing to produce something that is inspired by what they learned (at least to some degree). People who are educated in the arts cannot deny how often it follows them and how impossible it is to deny the vast influence it can have on their work.
During the early days of comic book creation, comics, as well as the characters that were featured inside them, were placed into a category that very few were able to identify as a serious level of literature. This quickly changed in the 1980s when a vast number of compelling and enriching comic creators emerged from the background to show people what comics could be if they possessed certain features.
One of the predominant features of this movement was the advocacy that comic books can say more about the world that we are living in. It was this precise attitude that was shared by the men and women who belonged to the flourishing liberal arts movement that came into existence because people wanted to create change. Superheroes are the ultimate symbol of change. They might be fictions and they must exist solely in the pages of a comic, but what they stand for- what they represent –is something to which we must all strive to achieve. They must be representations of cowardice, malice, tyranny, or death. By understanding and contributing to the world of the superhero we continue in the tradition put forth by liberal artists. We break new ground for the future and preserve the integrity of the present, and that’s what makes it so beautiful.