I occasionally wonder why I didn’t grow up to become a superhero. I don’t blame my crippling fear of both social situations and physical harm; I don’t blame my lack of wealth, mutant abilities, or gadgets. What I think really got in my way as a kid was having living parents – at least that’s what I learned from comics. That, and not having a complete and total lack of respect for the institution of psychological assistance. Those two things are clearly how you start on the path of becoming a badass superhero.
Superman (also known as Clark Kent, Kal-El, and Supes) is the last son of Krypton and will make sure you know it. Clark is constantly griping about being completely alone on Earth, with no family or anyone to understand him. This is true enough, if you ignore his dog (Krypto the Superdog) and his cousin (Supergirl), but aside from that, the whole being alone thing is a 90% true statement that he just won’t shut up about. I realize that for the sake of Superman’s secret identity he can’t exactly brag to other heroes about how great the Kent family are, but he could at least stop complaining to everyone for a minute.
Superman’s planet exploded before his memories even began forming AND he was looking the other way when it happened— a pretty fortunate way for it to all go down really. After arriving on Earth and spending a whole three minutes here, Kal-El finds his way into the loving arms of quite possibly the greatest American family to ever live, and then gets adopted by them! What are the chances? It’s not exactly the Dickensian tale lil’ orphan Supes makes it out to be. To have nostalgia for an alien father who only left you with a treasure trove of knowledge about your people (something that really only functions as nothing more than a historical and astronomical cock tease) and not much else should be the first sign maybe your new human father is a little better than that space prick. I wonder if Supes realizes that his shitty and longwinded emotional recovery makes even Batman look well balanced. Clark has the Kents, it’s time for Superman to get over Jor-El.
Other heroes have their cup overflowing with paternal wealth, and who better to be unappreciative of this than a teenager. Peter Parker (also known as Spider-Man) has an abundance of father figures in his life. He lost his biological father, so an uncle stepped in to be the new father figure, and he’s so fantastic a kid that even Norman Osborn, Curt Connors, and occasionally Dr. Otto Octavius want to be Parker’s dad stand-ins. Does Peter realize how great his life is when even villains want to raise him because of his intelligence and modest charm? And they don’t even know that he has the powers of a damn spider!
Being told that “with great power comes great responsibility” seems like Parker’s one true “great” memory of his Uncle Ben, but that’s really not that good a memory. It’s not a bad one, but does it really compare to throwing a ball in the park or being taught how to drive? It was this advice that Parker ignored that coincided with Uncle Ben’s murder. Peter’s a teenager, which means getting and ignoring advice on a daily basis, so he shouldn’t read too much into that one piece of wisdom being an example of perfect parenting. Get over Ben! You remember him as one sentence that was nothing more than the universe telling you to stop being a dick. Stop believing in Ben, start believing in karma!
Revenge may be one of the most compelling human emotions, but it’s also one of the least compelling plot devices. Revenge is a point A to B process that someone with Frank Castle’s personality should be able to complete in a day. The Punisher should have been one issue of bloody revenge ending in a psychologically unsatisfying brutal murder followed by sixty issues of alcoholism, PTSD driven bar fights, and eventual incarceration. Frank happened to lose his family just after leaving the military, but anyone who’s been in active service knows that it trains you to think of the military as your family too. Frank can’t be the only person in the forces with blood lust and a demented sense of morality. He wants to kill, he wants a family: get back in the military and get both!
I’m going to summarize Bruce Wayne (also known as Batman, etc.) by saying I’m quite sure that kid was messed up even before his parents’ death. As if he’s aware of the comic book universe in which he exists, Bruce looks at his parents’ death with the opportunistic attitude of “OF COURSE! This is the perfect reason to get ripped and fight crime.” With the wealth of the Wayne family, that kid must have resisted all possible help. No psychological assistance, no buying himself a bunch of toys and/or toy companies. Money and wealth really messes with this type of back story. When re-imagined in a modern context, the Bruce Wayne story should end with an over-prescribed rich kid addicted to Xanax. Instead of leaving home to train his mind and body, Wayne should have just accepted his faithful family butler Alfred as the father he wanted and so clearly needed. To return as an adult and treat Alfred like a father figure is nice, but the butler literally could have filled the role of the father Wayne lost. I’d tell Bruce to get over the Waynes, but I supsect it would fall on deaf ears. Something was wrong with that dweeby little kid to begin with; Little Bruce looks like the type of kid who used to ask for sweater vests for Christmas.
This leads me to a realization that might help revolutionize the business of being an evil villain: baddies need to start donating money to Kid’s Help Phone. Nothing will kill a future hero better than a well funded childhood support system.