The recent popularity of films highlighting the heyday of comic books gives one example of our fascination with heroes. Marvel and DC comics of yesteryear are exciting a whole new generation of fans. They are also re-igniting older fans who have a few of the classic comic books tucked away in a basement or attic.
We admire heroes and idealize their courage, achievements, or noble qualities. We cheer them on to defeat evil, dark forces, and more. Perhaps we are drawn to them because we want to believe there is someone who can rescue and defeat the ugly dark powers of this world.
Even though we may enjoy watching villains, most of us want to see them overcome. We need to believe they can be overcome. That gives us hope that the real-life villains can be overcome as well.
We are never more likely to search for heroes than when our own world seems lost in despair and hopelessness.
I wonder if that is what has brought about the upsurge in the popularity of the film versions of the classic comic books.
The “Golden Age”of comic books dates from the late 1930’s to 1950. Comic books were first published during this time and children everywhere developed an appetite for their characters: Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Captain America, and Wonder Woman.
Entertainment around radio programming introduced another kind of hero as well as westerns were aired and then began to appear in the earliest days of television. The scripts gave glimpses of what the writers’ impressions of the “Old West” were where the “good guys” and the “bad guys” were starkly contrasted and evident even beyond their white or black hats.
Consider the era these all came on the scene. The world was mired in a deep economic depression in the 1930’s. Times were bleak for many people and more than a few despaired of any hope. By the end of the 1930’s the world was plunged into the beginning of WWII that would be center stage for much of the 1940’s. It’s little wonder that children of all ages were looking for heroes.
Before the age of comics and westerns during another dark time, it would be J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis that would use the shadows that lingered from the long years in the trenches during WWI to write their classic works: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the Narnia stories.
With the world of today in so much turmoil, it is not surprising so many are looking for heroes to bring hope.
The challenge for many is how much the lines between good and evil have been blurred in most areas of society. That nudges us to search for fantasy heroes when it seems the world provides few and those we believe are heroes are exposed for their frailties and failures routinely.
A search for heroes should also bring us to the Bible where we see a “hall of fame” of heroes from Genesis to Revelation. Hebrews 11 is where we see so many highlighted whose names we recognize. This chapter reminds us that it seems man has looked for heroes from the beginning of time.
The mistake we make is to forget that most any hero we read about or create is often quite fallible in character. If we look at biblical heroes, we wouldn’t need to go very far down a list to confirm that truth.
The heroes of the Bible became heroic not because of their abilities, advantages or skills, but rather for the eternal purposes of God in whom they placed their trust. Old Testament would quickly bring to mind David or Daniel to name just two.
There is only one hero throughout time or written history that passes all the tests and is without fallibility. His name is Jesus. He is the only one whose powers and character fulfill the definition of a hero. All others will ultimately disappoint us. He is the champion.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Hebrews 1:1-4 (ESV)