In this day and age, comics are seeing a rise. What used to be a source of controversy and social stigma, is now being widly accepted and hungerly consumed. Comic book characters have leapt from the pages and are now seen in video games, really good video games, movies and TV shows. There are still some voices that express concern about super hero stories, and yet, I find a strange sense of hope as I see these stories being told and shared to the next generation. The reason, lies in the past.
Over 2000 years ago, the Greeks found a new medium of entertainment, the play. Through this, they developed two major types of plays, the tragedy and the comedy. Of the two, the tragedy was, and still is, largely considered to be the greatest of the two. In fact, it is considered by some to be the greatest form of story telling period. The best way to put the difference of the two styles was formulated by Dante, “A tragedy is when the hero starts off with everything, then loses it all. A comedy is when a hero starts with nothing and gains it all.” Many of our movies and stories today would be considered a comedy because of this, as they have a happy ending. But the ending wasn’t the point of these stories, at least not for tragedies.
A tragedy takes a hero, like the King Oedipus, who has everything and then, through no fault of his own, is brought low. This is a man who stands above all men, and then something horrible befalls him. The moral or point of these stories was not necessarily in how the hero solved the problem, as for the Greeks, these were caused by fate, but how the hero accepted their fate and faced their fate. The story is meant to shake the audience and instill in them a sense of, “If this great individual was brought low, what does it mean for me and what can I do?”
This, I believe, is important for not only the youth to be made aware, but society as a whole. In superhero comic books, we are introduced to individuals who stand head and shoulders above the rest of those around them, and are constantly put to the test. Sometimes, they fail, and our journey is to see how they respond to that failure. Other times they succeed, and we see how they stayed true to their ideals, most of the time at least, and over came the challenge. Rarely, but it does happen, we see what happens to the hero when they fail to stay true to their ideals. The injustice story line is one such example.
It is important, nay, neccessary, that we are reminded that no matter how great we may become, we are still prone to challenges, still prone to mistakes, and still prone to strife. But this is not what makes a person great, it is not having great wealth or power or intelligence, rather, it is how one responds to such challenges that may come their way, and if they can remain true to what it means to be human. This, this is the importance of myth, and we have lost it for years, but thanks to the rise of comics, myth is coming back once again.
In memory of Stan Lee