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7 Ways the Modern Superhero Has Transformed

by Kevin Bellah
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Superheroes have always captivated people around the world, regardless of their background. People are always looking for something that represents the ideal situation or person and their aspirations or hopes for mending failures. The modern mythologies of our world transcend race, religion, culture, and age, going beyond caps, masks, and tights. This isn’t quite so different from kids who are fascinated by tales of princes and princesses, the horrors of witches, or the mystique of dinosaurs and giants. 

Comic book heroes over the 20th century have often been defined by the ethos, fears, and failures of the prevailing era. Bruce Banner, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and other Western heroes in the 50s and 60s got their superpowers from exposure to radiation in some form, while Japanese and Eastern heroes in comics such as Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z have their superpowers intertwined with nature. It is worth noting that the primal fear of a nuclear/radiation fallout was prevalent in the West during the Cold War era of the 50s to late 80s, consistent with the ethos of the time. Likewise, Japanese anime culture has the force of nature, and that particular theme is central to many of its comics.

Transformation of the Superhero

Globalization has become the prevalent theme in many new comic flicks. We are now witnessing the age of the Eastern and Oriental hero and culture coming together with Western technology and ideas, forming a great East-West mashup. As a result, comic book creators and studios have been forced to rethink how they want their stories to appeal to audiences. While the old hero was mostly bulk and muscle, with the fight ultimately coming down to a more physical contest, the superhero in 2021 has more depth and character.

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Here are 8 ways the modern-day superhero has transformed:

The Modern-Day Superhero Is Capable of Empathy 

The heroes of old were buff, overachieving, often aloof (mostly) men with probable anger management issues and little to care for other than exacting justice and revenge. While this made for great action sequences and helped focus the audience more on the ‘evil’ being fought, it made such characters cold with little connection to audiences. 

The modern hero, in retrospect, may be as calculating and formidable as opponents, but with just enough empathy to help audiences connect and build deeper stories. 

The Modern-Day Superhero Has Problems Just Like the Rest of Us

No longer does the superhero have a net-worth that could put some of the richest men in our time to shame. Nevertheless, money is an important tool in helping modern superheroes such as Iron Man and Black Panther to accomplish their aims, and it is just that; a tool. 

To quote Stan Lee, creator of the Marvel comics, the modern superhero is truly a 3-dimensional character. Whether it’s problems with work, money, loving someone that doesn’t love them back, or even having mental or emotional problems, the modern superhero is a character most people can relate to. 

The Modern Superhero Is Quite Audience-Centric 

Comic book creators are now beginning to originate, adapt, and write stories for specific audiences. Disney’s Mira-Royal Detective is a prime example of a comic created and written for a specific audience, specifically Indian kids and teens. 

The Modern Superhero Is Believable 

The modern superhero is no longer just interesting with awesome superpowers. They are believable as well. The reader has to be given a background and the right origin. No one believes a wild story with no justification or believability whatsoever, even if written astutely.  

The Modern-Day Superhero Is an Advocate for Great Social Change 

While the old superhero represented the fears, failures, and successes of a specific era, the superhero in 2021 is an advocate for great social change, however subtly done. 

The Modern-Day Superhero May Be an Antihero

Based on their origin story and background, the modern superhero may be more of an antihero than a superhero in the pure sense of the word. This phenomenon isn’t completely new, especially considering characters such as Wolverine and Hulk. However, expect to see a lot more antiheroes in comic book flicks. 

The Rise of the Girl Superhero Who Is Fearless

Old female superheroes such as Black Widow have for a long time seen their excellence and personas encapsulated in male ‘macho.’ There was little to separate them from their male counterparts apart from what could be seen of their appearance. 

We are seeing more female superheroes and characters such as Shuri in Black Panther who don’t necessarily kick brawn, but brains as well. They encapsulate the values, attitudes, and stories girls worldwide would like to tell or see for their advocacy and empowerment. 

We All Need a Superhero

Great superheroes don’t just have the power to protect society’s values.  They can break down social, religious, and cultural boundaries and inspire great change. Everyone needs a superhero somewhere.

About

Urias Paloma holds a Master’s in Fine Arts and has written more Marvel movie reviews than he cares to count. He is a key part of the team at  https://topessaybrands.com/, an accomplished literature editor, using his love for English and theatre. 

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