It’s no secret that I love Batman as a fictional character. I Iove to read Batman comics and also other non-fiction books on Batman, and basically anything to do with Heroes really. And if there is one thing more awesome than reading great articles and non-fiction books by super-smart people, it’s talking directly to them so see what they really feel about the topic of Heroes, Heroines and Heroism.
So kick back and enjoy this roundtable Q&A with 3 Amazing Experts! We have three Wonderful Writers whose works make my humble blog pale in comparison. Their depth and insight on the topics of Heroes, Superheroes and Heroism leaps over tall buildings in a single bound! Together they are stronger than a locomotive and faster than a speeding bullet!
So who are these talented folks you ask?
Alex M. Wainer – author of Soul of the Dark Knight: Batman as Mythic Figure in Comics and Film
Nav Kumaravithana – prolific fellow blogger on Superheroes and Comicbooks at Girl on Comic Book World who always has brilliant insights in her articles.
Mark D. White – Author of… too many books to count! Including Batman and Philosophy, Superman and Philosophy, and my favourite: The Virtues of Captain America
So let’s get to those pressing ponderous Questions dear reader!
Q: What is a Hero / Heroine (in your own words)?
Alex: A hero of course is someone who goes beyond the average person in effort, courage, and competence in achieving goals, usually military, moral and who offers some form of rescue, example and inspiration to others.
Nav K: A hero is an individual who goes above and beyond their obligations. They are morally stronger individuals who pursue their goals no matter what the obstacles are. It is their constant devotion to good and their willingness to even make a personal sacrifice and go beyond their abilities to help others that separates them from others. It’s not necessarily about saving people’s lives or anything that dramatic,
it’s just about having the compassion and empathy to go out of one’s way to help others and be a force for good no matter what challenges confront them.
Mark: To me, a hero (male or female) is someone who makes an extraordinary sacrifice for another person or a principle
larger than him or her.
Q: What three qualities/skills/attributes do you feel every hero must have?
Alex: Some ethical code rooted in universally shared moral values. Perseverance too. [See also Alex’s answer to the previous Question]
Nav: Strong moral compass: Heroes have a strong sense of what’s good and bad. It’s their deep beliefs that drive them to their heroic nature. They are confident enough to choose to live and die by their personal values.
Willingness to go beyond what is expected and obliged from them: We all have certain roles that we are expected to fill in life. A hero extends their obligated roles and does more for the sake of others.
A Desire to selflessly help others: Putting others before themselves is a true test of heroism. It’s easy for the ordinary individual to be selfish and service their own needs and wants before others, and that doesn’t make them a bad person, it just makes them normal. A hero is someone who genuinely wants to and will put the needs of other before themselves. They are compassionate and empathetic enough to help others no matter what.
Mark: First, courage—a hero has to have courage to do the right thing regardless of physical danger as well as disapproval or ridicule from others. The latter, which we can call moral courage, is all too often forgotten, but is more important than physical courage for the kind of heroism we can all practice, such as sticking up for the downtrodden and oppressed against the crowd and saying no to everyday injustices wherever we find them.
Second, judgment—a hero needs sound judgment to decide when intervention is needed and what to do. It’s not enough to set out “to do what’s right”—the hero needs judgment to determine what the right thing to do in a certain circumstance is.
Finally, determination or resolve—it’s one thing for a hero to decide to do what’s right, and it’s another thing
entirely to stick with it in the face of obstacles and opposition.
Q: Why do you feel that heroes (whether real life heroes or heroes in fiction) are important?
Alex: I could quote Aunt May’s remarks in Spider-Man 2, as they sum it up nicely. Although there is danger in some forms of hero worship, it seems all culture in all times have either wanted or needed heroes—in real life, to provide leadership and rescue, in stories to embody the ideals of that culture, and because they are simply enthralling entertainments that offers us someone with their values tested in conflict.
Nav: The idea of individuals, whether fictional or not, being out there with the willingness to be the best person they can and be a force for good for other people, is an important and inspirational force that people need in their lives. Heroes are role models that have the capability to rise above any obstacles and weaknesses, to achieve their goals. They are resilient, selfless and remain strong in the face of challenge.
Ultimately that serves two very important functions in the world. It gives people an ideal to strive towards, and gives people the sense that even in their darkest moments there is someone good out there, giving them hope that the world isn’t that bad and they can escape that darkness. Having positive hero figures out there is about giving people hope at the end of the day. Even if the hero is fictional, it’s the overall idea that they stand for that can help an individual even at the lowest moments (after all ideas are bulletproof).
Mark: I think heroes are important because they show us we can be better, that we can transcend our everyday concerns and do something extraordinary for someone or something else. We’re all far too cynical these days, and heroes remind us that there is good out there—good in us—and we just need to bring it out.
Q: Who some of your all time favourite real world heroes?
Alex: Oh, man, that’s a tough one. I admire many of our soldiers who did their duty in recent wars despite less than stellar leadership or policies. Ronald Reagan was the last great president we had and he acted from deep conviction without disrespecting his political opponents. The problem with real-life prospective heroes is that they haven’t finished their run yet and could still blow it in someway. (This is why the Catholic church waits till someone is deceased before starting to consider someone for sainthood, we are all running a race and it’s the end that counts.
Nav: Weirdly enough I’ve never really had any definitive all-time favourite real world heroes, because of my overly sceptical natural state of self I try not to over-idealise people. But in saying that I have a great deal of respect for people who have the courage to and are willing to go against the grain, and fight for their beliefs, not matter the uphill battle it is. There are countless figures in history who have had the world mock them for their goals, only to use that hate as momentum to achieve their goals that better society.
And although I’m not one to idealise celebrities, one individual who I have a deep respect for is Emma Watson. She is a heroine in her own right. She doesn’t care how many faceless internet users call her campaign “feminazi” propaganda, she passionately pursues gender equality even in the face of the harsh spotlight. And even though feminism has become this taboo word for many actresses because of the ridiculous connotations associated with it, Watson sticks to her beliefs and is in a unique position of power to actually have the potential to make an impactful change.
Mark: It changes every day – today it’s the three young men who stopped the terrorist on a train from Amsterdam to Paris last week. Three people who saw danger, forgot about their own safety, and confronted danger to protect others—they’re my favorite heroes today. Tomorrow it might be the firefighter who rushes into the fire to save a family, or the soldier who jumps on a grenade to save his or her unit—or the eight-year-old girl who stands up to bullies picking on her friend on the
Q: And who are some of your all time favourite fictional heroes?
Alex: Well, who could that be for my main man? In comics, Batman of course, although he is quickly followed by Captain America. Daredevil often. Sherlock Holmes has endured for good reasons. Captain Kirk before the reboot. I really like Superman but it’s so hard to find good stories about him. Jean Valjean from Les Miserables. I guess those are at the top.
Nav: Cliché answer but my all-time favourite fictional hero is 100% good old Superman. Yes I know it’s a slightly lame answer, but there hasn’t been a character that’s resonated more with me than Superman. He’s Clark Kent, a guy who grew up on a farm and one day found out he was an alien, and suddenly had to deal with all the expectations and sense of responsibility that comes with. He could choose to just ignore his powers and carry on with a normal life, which he would love, but instead because of his nature and the nurture of the Kents he chooses to be more.
He chooses to be there for people, and give people a sense of hope in a cynical world. For those that only know the character by name, they think he’s a boring hero because he’s a boy scout who always knows what the right thing is to do and does it. But that really isn’t true. He has to look at the world, and what he believes would be acceptable and then make base his actions off of that and what his own morals are. And sure he doesn’t always make the right decision, but he learns from his mistakes. And that’s what makes him such a great hero. He steps up to the challenge.
Superman is welcoming of other people’s ideals and views, and balances that with his own moral compass. He has the courage and strength to fight for truth, freedom and justice no matter what the adversary is. He always believes in the goodness of humanity, even when they give him every reason not to, and it’s that continued sense of hope that makes him such a great hero. Believing in people, even when they don’t believe in themselves.
Mark: My favorite is (no surprise) Captain America, because he exemplifies all three attributes mentioned above.I also like Batman because he represents an extreme version of heroism—sacrificing his entire life to a mission to fight crime and pursuing that mission with flawless determination—that I wouldn’t hold up as an example for anyone, but I find endlessly fascinating to read about. Finally, I really like Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing from the Fantastic Four; he was dealt a rotten deal from the universe but, even though he feels sorry for himself once in a while, he still dedicates his life to
helping others while keeping a sense of humor about life. All superheroes, of course. 😉 But none hold a candle to the ordinary people who do extraordinary things each and every day.
Q: Where can people find you / your work online?
Alex: I used to have a blog until about four years ago but as you know, it needs regular input to hold readers and I couldn’t pull that off, so now my occasional articles at Breakpoint.org (nothing very recent but you can search there for past articles). Soul of the Dark Knight, of course. Googling my name will bring up quite a bit of past work.
“Soul of the Dark Knight: Batman as Mythic Figure in Comics and Film“ is available in Paperback and Kindle format at Amazon.com.
Nav: You can find me on Twitter @Nav_Kay and my Superhero / Comic Book blog at Girl on Comic Book World https://girloncomicbookworld.wordpress.com/
Check out these sensational in depth articles by Nav at her Girl on ComicBookWorld Blog:
Batman Character Analysis: He ain’t crazy but he is complex
Joker the Absurdist: A character analysis
Superman Character Analysis: More than just a guy who punches things
Batman Day: Why is Batman so popular?
Superhero Movies: What makes a great comic book villain?
Mark:My website is at http://www.profmdwhite.com where you can find information about my books, articles, and what I’m working on now. I’m also on Twitter as @profmdwhite. I’m currently working on final production details on two books coming out next year: a popular book on the ethical judgment and behavior on display in Marvel Comics’ “Civil War” storyline, and an edited scholarly volume on economics and virtue ethics. [Modest Mark has also written Philosophy books on Green Lantern, Avengers, Watchmen, as well as traditional academic works, check out his Amazon author page link below]
The Virtues of Captain America: Modern-Day Lessons on Character from a World War II Superhero
Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul
Superman and Philosophy: What Would the Man of Steel Do
Mark D White’s Amazon Author Page
I highly recommend Alex’s Soul of the Dark Knight book, Mark’s Batman and Philosophy, The Virtues of Captain America – all of which are excellent reading. I also recommend Nav K’s awe-inspiring Comic Book blog, I read it every week and I encourage you do the same.
These three experts on Heroism and and what I call “Hero Theory” have helped me expand my ideas of Heroes, and I am frequently inspired by these three Super-Awesome writers in my own work and life in general.
All that remains is to say a Super big THANK YOU to – Alex, Nav and Mark for taking the time to tell us your thoughts on heroes and superheroes.
This article is part of a series on Heroes and Heroines, I’ve got several more features that will be up soon, so face front true believers and stay tuned for more exciting talk about Heroes and Heroines. And be sure to check out each the works of each of these experts on Heroism.
Now if you’ll excuse me I have some more BAT-reading and pondering to do in my man-cave.