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The Persona of the Superhero
Today's children turn to a lot of things for entertainment or diversion. Sometimes its sports, television, or comic books. The latter is still used today by children for amusement. No doubt about it, comic books are still a popular medium of entertainment for children. But over the years, comic book heroes have evolved to keep up with today's generation of readers. The question has arisen a number of times: Are comic book superheroes good role models for children? Comic book super heroes are good role models. First, some background on the superhero persona. The very first superhero was Superman. He was an alien from a dying world sent here by his parents. Earth's atmosphere gave him super-strength and flying capabilities (among other things.) All this was published in Action Comics #1, 1938. The comic was a phenomenal success. Superman was the catalyst for the creation of countless more superheroes. During the World War II period, Marvel comics introduced Captain America. Captain America was a normal man genetically altered to become physically perfect. He was then sent around the world to do special missions for the government. On the cover of his first issue, he is pictured punching Hitler in the face. Obviously anti-Nazi. He also had a teenaged sidekick, Bucky. Now children that read the comic could relate more with Bucky, who was a kid, just like the reader. Later, in the 1960's, came Spiderman. Spiderman was actually a teenager by the name of Peter Parker. He was your typical nerd, trying to fit in with the crowd. For the first time, there was a comic with the main character being about the same age of the reader, with social problems and family problems: real problems. Not the problems that heroes like Superman had, like whether or not he should be friends with an alien race. Spiderman gained his powers by being bitten by a radioactive spider; a bit more believable than coming from another planet. The radioactive bite gave him spider-like powers. He then decided to fight crime, and do his part for the good of his community (New York City). Since Peter Parker had no parents he lived with his Aunt May. She was pretty old, so he constantly had to run errands for her. And he did all this in good will, never resenting her. A great example for children and readers alike. Up to today, all the characters mentioned above still exist. But they have changed to keep up with the times. Recently Superman died at the hands of Doomsday, an other-worldly creature. This showed us a few things: that even the most powerful type of person, a Superman, could die. At his funeral we saw that other superheroes care and that they have feelings. We also saw that the character of Bibbo, Superman's friend, decided to put on a Superman costume and do what he could for the good of Metropolis. He did not do anything spectacular, of course, but he did help out the homeless, and save a few drowning puppies. A good example to set for children. In the Marvel universe, Spiderman went through a series of changes. Most important of these changes was probably his marriage to his high school girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson. That showed us that how a superhero can have a family and also fight crime. This also added an air of realism to the comic. Captain America also went through some changes. One of these was the death of his partner, Bucky. He grieved for a short time, but he returned to his duties as "Sentinel of Our Shores". That showed readers that when you are serving your country, duty comes first. Today's superheroes are totally different from the superheroes of yesterday. One of these superheroes of the 90's is Spawn. Spawn's satanic origins may have parents in an uproar, but Spawn himself denounces his master and his powers. Instead of using his powers for evil, for which they were intended, he uses them to fight crime and protect his wife. It turns out that Spawn was a soldier mysteriously killed. He loved his wife so much, that he made a deal with the devil to come back. The bad side is he comes back five years later, and his wife has remarried. Readers get a sense of what love can do to a man. The comic also portrays the devil as an arch-villain of Spawn. A fairly new hero in the Marvel universe is Darkhawk. Darkhawk resembles young Spiderman in many ways. Darkhawk's secret identity, Chris Powell is a teenager, just like Spiderman was, with all the problems that a teenager has. Darkhawk's cause for fighting crime stems from seeing his father, who is a police officer, take a payoff from Bazin, a drug dealer and mobster. Chris then finds an amulet which transforms him into Darkhawk. Since a drug dealer made his father go crooked, he bears a grudge against all drug related criminals. Since he goes to high school, he busts drug runners who are students as well. This is a great role model. Children can relate to Darkhawk because of his age and heed his anti-drug message. Another superhero of today is Shadowhawk, an African American hero. He is a bit more violent than most superheroes but his cause is a just one. One time he had to fight a very racist killer, Hawk's Shadow. Knowing that Hawk's Shadow only killed African Americans, Shadowhawk got very angry. Angry to a point where he almost killed Hawk's Shadow, but he spared him because of his promise never to kill anyone. Shadowhawk shows readers that racism is wrong and that if he really existed, you would get a severe beating. And now the X-men. The X-men from Marvel Comics have been around for a while, but have been through so many changes that they are considered a superhero team of the 90's. The team is made up of mutants; humans born with superhuman powers. Mutants in the Marvel universe are the most persecuted group of people on earth. The purpose of the X-men is to earn the humans' trust by fighting evil mutants and other supervillains. Despite all of the X-men's efforts, prejudice still exists. Wolverine of the X-men said it himself when he said that hate was the X-men's worst enemy. The X-men are good role models because of their anti-prejudice policy. What do the children think themselves, you ask? Well here's what some youngsters thought when asked what superhero they would like to be: "The Incredible Hulk, because he helps in the innocent when there's a robbery. He beats the thieves up and throws them in the garbage can--well, not always, but most of the time." ,"I kind of like Superman the best because he always saves people. I like it when he turns from a man into Superman.", and... "Rogue's the best. She's one of the female X-Men. Her special power is that she can take away the special powers of other things just by touching her skin. She can also fly, and she's real strong." Well, the point has been made clear: superheroes are excellent role models. And not just for children, but for everyone. The word "superhero" implies somebody not normal; better in all aspects. It also implies some one who is genuinely good, someone to look up to, a hero. All heroes in today's comic books fit into this category of "superhero". And lastly, remember that all superheroes are human, one way or another, and that's what makes them all the more spectacular as well as inspiring.


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