By Snow Drift
Many months ago, Dan Didio said “Heroes shouldn't have happy personal lives. They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests. […] It’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s equally important that they set them aside. That is our mandate, that is our edict and that is our stand,” emphasizing how people, to truly be heroes, need to have tragedies and sacrifices in their lives. To him, a person cannot care about humanity without them suffering tragedies over and over again. To him, without tragedy, there is no motivation to save. To him, a hero having a happy personal life is a subtraction of their heroic selves. I personally believe him to be incorrect.
I believe that what many readers, since the humble origins of comics, have found so enticing and endearing about comic book superheroes is not simply their fights and superhuman adventures, but the fact that these men and women are symbols of hope. Superman decided to help humanity out of his own will and love for it. Wonder Woman, also known as Princess Diana, saw that Man’s World could still be saved through peace and love. Green Arrow aka Oliver Queen saw that even the most cornered citizens of the world deserved to live in safety. These people loved humanity and its potential so much that they saw their salvation was worth it. It goes beyond the notion of it being simply “the right thing to do”: it’s about how these men and women believe in the goodness of humanity at its core; that every single human, if given the chance and being guided when needed, can become heroes too. Each person deserves to live, to love, to give, and to receive.
For love for humanity to manifest itself to such an extent that Barry Allen would sacrifice his life in Crisis on Infinite Earths, for Superman to do the same when fighting Doomsday, for Charles Xavier and his X-Men to fight for the unity of humans and mutants; it all comes down to their own experiences of love. These heroes feeling that they can belong, that they are loved and cherished by people who will always be by their side, who will always smile at them at the end of the day and say “you did good”, is what motivates many of them to keep getting up every day to fight the evils of the universe. Because we must all remember that these characters, be they humans, aliens, spirits, or machines, still feel. They still experience emotions, from happiness to anger to pain; they still experience loss and loneliness, desperation and hopelessness. For them to have the strength and courage to fight incredible odds every day, they need to be reassured that their struggle has a reason to exist. Lois Lane always being there for Clark Kent to keep him grounded and hopeful and full of love; the Amazons of Themyscira nurturing and loving Diana throughout all of her life, Supergirl and Superboy having found a family with the Kents, Jaime Reyes, the Blue Beetle, being able to find a home where a family awaits him with pride and love, and the Bat Family, from Dick Grayson to Cassandra Cain to Damian Wayne, finding all of the same in Bruce Wayne, who himself found it in Alfred. In a world where everything is in constant tragedy and suffering, is very hard for an individual, one like any of us, to jump in and proclaim at the top of their lungs that they will save everyone until the very end of time. If they do not have a backdrop, an experience of love and compassion in their own lives, then they cannot see the same in the world outside of their own private lives.
Because these heroes are not gods or the Messiah or anything equivalent to those; they are not people who were born with the purest of hearts, chosen by a divine entity to save the universe from the darkness and evil. These are people who were born to have the same probabilities of either having a normal or abnormal life, depending on their future circumstances. None of them are perfect; they have all done their mistakes and erroneous decisions. Some have harbored prejudice where there was none to be deserved, others have not had the ability to be a proper parent, brother, sister, lover, or friend. However, they struggle to do better and we, as readers, witnessing their development and transformations into heroes are what motivate us to keep up with their lives.
Again, is it bad to have heroes whose motivation is based on tragedy and who keep experiencing it multiple times? No, it is not, nor is it bad for someone to have interest in these type of stories. But if every single hero in a comic book universe is made to be tragic from beginning to end, then this fictional plane of existence will drown itself in the darkness and whatever happens in this will affect reality, for fiction does not exist in a vacuum; it has consequences on the lives of the readers.
All in all, there is an incredible importance for these heroes to have a semblance of happiness in their lives. Some of their back-stories might be tragic or maybe their ultimate suffering will come later on in their adulthood, but to have them submerged into absolute darkness takes away what is essential of their beings.
Heroes are not named as such for their capes, their poses, or their powers. Their true heroism comes from not only physically saving innocents, but from also inspiring the same to do better; to fight, to run, and to stand again and again every time they fall, for we all have the strength and hope in ourselves to stare at the darkness and say “No. You may push me, you may wound me, but you will never stop me, for I am strong and live by the power of love and hope.” And so does everyone.