The Tragedy Of The Superhero

These last few days I spent mulling over Harvey Dent, who I proposed was possibly the most  tragic figure in all comicdom.

At work I think about Dent, when I commute I think about Dent, when I’m having a conversation with you, I’m not listening, I’m thinking about Harvey Dent.

The White Night who fell from grace. A man, who just like Batman (and Liam Neeson’s  Rhas A Gul), who was more important as a symbol than an individual.

I still intend to write about Dent in depth analyzing the character are presented in the Long Halloween comic and The Dark Knight film; Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer confirmed was their primary influence on the highest grossing comic book movie of all the time was Long Halloween). Harvey’s not just a man; he’s a symbol. Corrupt Gotham’s only great hope.

But the more I thought about Dent, the more I realized nearly all the great comics are tragedies.

Start with Batman. His parents were murdered in front of him, but instead of becoming a serial killer like all the characters on Dexter with childhood trauma, the murder and lack of personal revenge drove him to the brink of insanity.

What kind of person dresses like a Bat?

Crazy people, that’s who.

Bruce Wayne will never have a normal life (not even a life normal for a billionaire). He’s Batman until someone else can take his place; Batman until Batman is no longer needed.

Even if retirement does happen, Bruce Wayne no longer exists. He has been Batman since the day his parents were shot.

Batman’s greatest tragedy is that Batman will always be needed. Ironically, his escalating the crime fighting game by becoming a masked vigilante only leads to other villains with “a taste for theatrical.”

Then, there’s Superman. He lost his homeworld, but his most tragic aspect is that he just may be the reason supervillains and aliens flock to Metropolis (as explored in the New 52 Superman). Which begs the question, was Metropolis actually safer before Superman?

Spider-Man is also an interesting case. Like Batman, he wants to prevent future shootings of people like Uncle Ben. Of course, more so than Wayne, Peter Parker holds himself responsible for his uncle’s death, a death that shook him into embracing the gift science gave him.

Yet Spider-Man too, with carry that guilt and responsibility his entire life. No matter how many villains he aprehends, he’ll always haunted by Uncle Ben.

Spider-Man, like Batman, has given his life to those in need. There is very little time for a normal, happy life with a family. Parker’s wife and children would always be a target, assuming his secret identity is comprimised, which does happen from time to time.

Spidey also has other deaths that weigh heavy on him, like those of Gwen Stacy and her father, Captain Stacy.

Then there’s Captain America, our countries first super soldier. I’m not sure how the comics handle it, but in the film Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers ends up frozen only to be thawed in the present. Everyone he knew is dead, including Peggy, to whom he promised a dance.

Capt.’s tragedy is that he will forever be a man out of time and place.  I man with American ideals that no longer exist.

There are plenty of other examples I could throw out here, but I think I hit most the biggest tragic heroes and I’m gettin’ sleepy.

Got to get up at a reasonable hour to head to Mile High comics for new comic wednesday… and Avengers Vs. X-Men Issue #1.

Keep watching Breaking Geek for future blogs including my more in depth look at Harvey Dent.


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