How Has the Idea of Superhereos Changed and How Have Superhereos ChangedSuperheroes no longer have to be super e.g Batman No longer uphold an unbreakable moral code like superman did Now much more...

How Has the Idea of Superhereos Changed and How Have Superhereos Changed

Superheroes no longer have to be super e.g Batman

No longer uphold an unbreakable moral code like superman did

Now much more violent

Expert Answers
MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, this change is not recent. Miller's Batman volumes, Moore's Watchmen, and Gaiman's Sandman were all written/published in the 1980's. So the change has been in motion for decades. But I think that this shift is largely a result of the disintegration of the Comics Code. After WWII, comic books were suddenly subject to strict rules of morality. These are some actual criteria in the code:

  • Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.
  • In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
  • Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly, nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.
  • Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.
  • Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.

For about 25 years, every comic published had to have the Comics Code seal of approval. Then, the U.S. Dept. of Health asked Stan Lee to write a Spiderman comic that dealt with drug addiction. The goal was to present drug use as an abhorrent activity, an evil to fight against. So Lee wrote the story. However, since the comic contained drug references, the Comics Code Authority refused to approve it. Didn't matter that the overall message was anti-drug...the fact that it mentioned drugs at all was grounds for banning it. However, Stan Lee went ahead and published it anyway-without the seal. It was the first time since WWII that a comic had been successful without it. After that, the Code lost all authority, and writers have been able to expand on any story arc they saw fit.

This period of comics, ushered in by the collapse of the Code, is referred to as "The Bronze Age" of comics. It's characterized by darker story lines, the return of the anti-hero, etc.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I think that the concept of a superhero has been changed to reflect different times. The times in which the original Batman or Superman was composed was a different period in time with different cultural appreciations. Sensitivities and understandings have changed over time and the modern superhero reflects that. In terms of the violence element, I think that a more stylized notion of violence has also appeared. Part of this comes from the fact that there is a greater tolerance to violence now than when the original superheroes were conceived. The violence in films and art of the 1950s is much different than today because the audience has changed. There has been a greater understanding of how violence can be used and its presence is much more tolerated. The modern conceptions of superheroes reflect this.
teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Even the traditional superheroes have been recast to show their weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  For example, in Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, we see an aging Batman struggling with his body as he fights younger, stronger foe.  He must continually remind himself that he has experience and technique on his side.  Similarly, in Morrison's All Star Superman, Superman also struggles with his life of fighting crime and what he will do now that the world needs him less and less.  These are concerns that face "the common man," not ones that plagued these superheroes in more traditional stories.  Other comic titles are also moving away from the traditional depiction of the superhero--a mark of our changing times.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Heroes of passed days had supernatural features, and they were too good to be true. While they certainly had flaws, these flaws were directly related to their physical strength or abilities. It seems as if today's superheroes are flawed as humans. This makes them more believable and approachable in our thoughts. Their flaws are in their characters some way, but this makes them all the more potent in our minds.

lnorton eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the anti-hero has risen in popularity. We like our heroes to have flaws or a dark side; that's more representative of humanity. Think of Batman or even Spiderman in comparison to Superman, for instance. A wholly good superhero is not as interesting as one that is tragic, Byronic, or flawed; we want to see the struggle with the dark, not just the light.

keegyn | Student

Thankyou for you input it helped immensely and taught me something I didn't know aswell

kc4u | Student


That is a very interesting question, I  think. Thanks for posting it.

I think, the change in the very idea of the hero-figure is the reason behind the modification you are talking about. Increasingly in today's times, the idea of the hero is disappearing from popular literature. It has been undercut for a long time now from the beginning of the Modernist period in the first half of the 20th century.

The reality of the non-heroic, a social reign of the mediocre and the ordinary, a rupture in the grand-narrative of epic heroism and a preponderence of the grey over the cliched black and white at the level of a new nuanced sense of morality---all these can be seen as reasons behind this.

The latest batman movie The Dark Knight is an interesting example where throughout the film, the hero is seen as a rogue, a picaresque outlaw-figure, associated with suspicious violence. The heroic icon of the young dashing lawyer with whom he wants to replace himself, falls prey to the temptations of the evil. The evil adulterates him. The hero without the mask falls but it is the 'dark knight' Batman who takes the blame and disappears. The last image of the film is rather ambivalent, where departs and he is termed the protective angel--a figure of self-sacrifice. Is this a revival of the heroic code long lost or a continuation of the anti-heroic note associated with batman throughout the film?