Comics Creators

How do you become a superhero in the real world?


Something really struck me today…

Evil. Today I had to turn the channel on a report about the poaching of rhino horns and elephant tusks in Africa and how every fifteen minutes another majestic animal is killed for nothing. Within ten years, it’s quite possible these animals will become extinct, because we - humanity - are losing the battle to save them.

A couple of hours later I reflected on my decision to remain ignorant on the ugliness of what is happening. I teach my children - through my comic books like Big Willy and Super ‘n’ Duper - to fight Evil head on, yet in my real life, I have decided to turn a blind eye to the atrocities of this world. I am apparently a hypocrite.

I don’t know if I have what it takes to change this apathetic attitude other than to express what I think it means to be a hero in my comics. But if I’m to lead by example for my children, it’s about time I find a cause to fight in the real world that I am passionate about. To challenge Evil in some small way that maybe I can make a difference, so that my children will remember me as someone who was a hero; not only as their Dad who wrote about them to inspire them to become heroes.

My questions for this forum are: Do you think a creator of superhero comics can and does make a difference in this world? Is inspiring others to become superheroes truly tangible enough that it makes a difference? If I was to write a story - as an example - about the poaching and decimation of rhino’s and elephants and all proceeds go towards fighting this, do you think it would be worth the effort and would there be a market for it? Should we be making more comics like ‘HEROES FOR HOPE’ or is there something more that we can do as a community of creators?


Modern comics, while showing truly evil villains, do illustrate the moral and ethical complexities of being a hero. Actions have consequences and even the best intentions can have devastating consequences. Comics show that being a hero is not easy or simple. Heroism is a hard path that can make the world a better place.

I think that ultimately, superhero comics show that thinking through a problem will yield a more positive outcome than just diving in “fists first”.


Yes, creators can make a difference. No, I don’t think they make much of an impact. Maybe they foster a community, such as MW, and that can make a difference in lives. But as for taking action, whether it’s doing local charity work or becoming a cop, I think that comes more from the values instilled by your family than by reading X-Men.

As for writing about poaching, knock yourself out. If you donate to the right charities, then your money will do good. Just make sure you do your homework on where it goes to.


The idea that fiction must be moral or reflect a moral point of view may not actually be true or necessary or even helpful. For example…

Are superhero comics actually showing that? Or is that what you brought to it? Personally, I think it just shows that stories need complications. If the hero could punch, shoot or even think his way through a problem in the first scene, there would be no story. Superheroes don’t think through problems any more than homicide detectives would in a police procedural or mystery. If anything, superheroes do less thinking than most stories.

Since Aristotle, we’ve grown up in a world where the “moral” of a story was considered an innate part of it. That “drama” was an exploration of morality. However, even Aristotle acknowledged that the primary objective of “poetry” (what we’d call all forms of narrative fiction today) was pleasure. It was meant to entertain the audience and leave them pleased.

If you’re interested in the history, look back at the debate between Plato and Aristotle. Plato was entirely opposed to “imitative poetry” (again, think of fiction) and considered it had nothing to offer a moral society. First, it emphasized passion over reason. Second, it only pretended to imitate the world and really just offered falsehoods as truth. Third, it was filled with entirely immoral behavior - murder, blasphemy, incest, adultery, theft, war - and would only pass along the desire to commit these deeds to young, impressionable minds who otherwise would have no reason to see these as exciting or attractive. Finally, it produced nothing lasting and was thus inferior to the practical arts.

Aristotle agreed with Plato’s general assessment of the arts of storytelling, but disagreed that they were necessarily all bad. First, he pointed out that it reflected something innate to people - we would always tell stories - and therefore, though it did excite passions, reason could be applied to the art so that it guided the passions to a purpose rather than simply inspire them. Second, though it merely imitated the world rather than present it as it was, the world presented could contain moral and philosophic principles that would introduce complex ideas to the audience that they may not receive directly in actual direct instruction. Third, though it did excite the passions with the depictions of often horrible deeds, if it was directed to the end of extinguishing these passions - catharsis - then the stories would actually serve a purpose by allowing these passions to be played out in the performance rather than in the daily life of the polis. Catharsis, then, would be the lasting product of the art of poetry.

Now, you have to admit that Plato had a point. He actually was a great storyteller, and his story of Atlantis is one of the great abiding metaphors right up there with The Garden of Eden and Tower of Babel. However, at the same time, we still have people looking for the ruins of Atlantis proving out his point that presenting an imitation of life is always attended by the likelihood it would be misunderstood by the audience. Rather than people taking STAR TREK’s message of humanism to heart in their daily lives, we get Trekkers going to work in Star Trek uniforms or people speaking Klingon across the world.

Aristotle did not actually have much influence on drama in his own time. My favorite Greek playwright is Euripides and his plays absolutely do not adhere to Aristotle’s poetics. It is also important to point out that Aristotle wasn’t talking about the essential nature of fiction, but was describing his own ideal version of what it was and what it should be.

However, many centuries later, in the Christian renaissance of Europe, Aristotle’s work was taken on as if it was the last word in playwrighting. In my opinion, though, his moral view of drama seems tacked on. In fact, it often seems like the works of Shakespeare and others actually adhere to the Poetics almost in the same way movies today have to meet certain limitations to get a PG-13 rating. The Church and various other religious authorities were always opposed to the theater, for many of the same reasons Plato put forth, and playwrights had to take that into consideration. So the protagonists of the stories, the “heroes”, were placed in a moral framework where they were rewarded or, more likely, punished according to some idea of right and wrong.

Still, the point of the story was not the “moral” at the end, but the pleasures and passions the characters experienced - and the audience experienced with them - before the story ended. The morality was simply the key to complication. Complications are the fuel that carries the story along. Syd Field made a living exploring the structure of CHINATOWN as if it was the “perfect” film (CASABLANCA is Robert McKee’s Holy Grail of cinema and you can see it is his overrated manuals). I’ve always thought he missed the point of the story, though. The story is a series of complications to one single action. Jake Gittes is simply closing the book on one case.

It starts with Jake getting a job from a woman who claims her husband is cheating on her. He follows the man around and takes pictures of him with a younger woman. From his point of view, the job is complete. Then he discovers that the woman who hired him is not really the wife of the man he followed. Thus, a complication. From then on, Jake is still trying to solve the case of what really was going on when he followed that man, and there are complications each step of the way that lead to exciting action on screen. Fights, murders, sex - the “passions.”

But does it mean anything to the audience? No. Just because God seems to exist in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA or MICHAEL CLAYTON, doesn’t mean God exists in reality. Just because CSI always finds the killer at the end of each episode doesn’t mean real murderers are always found every time (or even most of the time). There is no reason to apply a moral to the story outside the confines of the fiction. What you are writing is not reality and it doesn’t even have to be what you think is right or wrong in real life. In fact, hell, it’s usually better if it absolutely is NOT what you think is right or wrong. Look at Stanley Kubrick’s films.

The truth is that even with the most well-known artists, very few of them will have or have had much actual impact on anything other than the medium in which they were working. Did Bob Dylan change the world? No, his fans became your parents and, by now, grandparents doing much the same as their own parents did. Did Shakespeare change anything? Has Alan Moore or Mark Millar? Even if you reached somebody, you’re more likely to see people dressing up as your heroes rather than a movement that actually affects whatever you’re concerned about. Like Will says, that would be up to you to affect directly with whatever means you may have.

Not that it’s never happened. Take a look at the romantic Russian novel What Is to Be Done? (or What Shall We Do?) written by Nikolai Chernyshevsky in 1863. This was essentially the FIGHT CLUB of its day and, really, it was a piece of garbage as far as writing. As a work of fiction, it had nothing on Dostoevsky or Tolstoy, but it presented an ideal of utopian socialism that Lenin and his group basically used almost as a blueprint for their revolution.

Of course, this means that Chernyshevsky contributed to the eventual horrors of Stalinism with a book that was intended to present the idea of a humanist, socialist Utopia. No matter what you write, someone else - possibly someone better than you - will put out something with exactly the opposite ideas. And in the end, most readers will simply take whatever you give them as confirmation of what they already think. They won’t be changed by it. Plato’s right in that regard. The experience of real life changes people; not the imitation of it.


I’m not high enough to read that post.



That’s not my Superman :wink:


Funny you should mention Superman. I recall a doc or an article discussing people emulating Superman. Apparently there’s proof that some people’s lives are affected by emulating Superman’s moral code in the real world.

I did a quick search looking for this info and came across this:

If I am to answer my questions, I would say creating comics can make a difference. I just hope I can find that voice as a creator and become a cop in my community to come at it from both ends!


The comic book heroes I read about as a child & into my teens have definitely had an impact on my moral compass. If you look closely you can trace some of my mannerisms in a pretty straight line back to the likes of Superman or Tim Drake’s Robin.

Therefore I think the best comic book heroes can certainly be role models for future generations. And if you can inspire someone who goes on to make the world a better place, in however small or large a way, then that’s a pretty heroic thing to do.


I think many creators have made a difference but creating characters that make readers think. I think Millar just did this with Huck.

I think it’s great to create a comic where the proceeds go to charity, but I don’t think many indie published books make any money at all (I think they cost money). Nor do I think that there’s going to be much of a market. I do think comics can be a useful tool for educating people on various charities and things they can do to help, but think a single page strip can achieve that goal.

So I guess I’m saying if you want to raise social issues just do it as a web comic. If you print anything I doubt you’ll make any money, if you do a web comic you can have donate links on the page.

To answer your main question you become a superhero by volunteering in your community or donating to charities if you can’t volunteer (or helping them run). One of my friends works with the Special Olympics for example and every weekend she’s off doing something or other that improves lives beyond measure.


Back in the late 1940’s, you had Gene Autry’s Cowboy Code:

  1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
  2. He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
  3. He must always tell the truth.
  4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
  5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
  6. He must help people in distress.
  7. He must be a good worker.
  8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
  9. He must respect women, parents, and his nation’s laws.
  10. The Cowboy is a patriot.


He stole that one from Buddha.


To make readers think, as Mark has with his writing, I actually blur lines on what makes a hero by the end of my four part graphic novel series: Big Willy. I want readers to consider that perhaps what we identify, or been led to identify, as evil is in fact heroic. Wish I could have done this with a one pager webcomic to save some money!

Anyway, actions do speak louder than words, but I also believe words can hold just as much weight.


I was going to say, just dose yourself with large amounts of hard radiation and see what happens, but then you guys got all serious.


Skip the irradiation and get bit by a cobra then receive a transfusion of mongoose blood.


Youtube Kung Fury. 3:50 mark. Now that’s how you get powers.


I was just going to type this exact thing!

Then I was bit by a cobra. And struck with lightning.


Get this man some mongoose blood immediately!!!


Will this connect me to the speed force?

Said the guy recovering from being heavily addicted to amphetamines…


No, but it will improve your whizzing.