Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Comic Book Alpha Heroes

“In times of weakness and illness, the longing for salvation and redemption, as well as for saviours, spiritual guides, prophets, trainers and dieticians, multiplies.” - Wolfgang Martynkewicz

A woman once told me she considered the concept of "Alpha" among certain men the same as romance novels among women. I realized she was right.

Look at probably the best-known fictional "Alpha": James Bond. Handsome, well-to-do, athletic, irresistible to women. What about him is not "Alpha"? Supposedly he's the epitome of manhood. And he's purely fictional.

I was raised with the first James Bond: Sean Connery. I still consider him the best. After him came a few parodies: Dean Martin as Matt Helm and James Coburn as Derek Flint. Their movies had the saving grace of being funny, even though they were over the top (as they were supposed to be).

"The total man...Our Man Flint!"

I define as "Alpha" as being the "best you can be." You can consider it "evolving" yourself. As for myself, I don't use the word, "Alpha." Never. Tell some people sometime "I'm an Alpha" and if they know what it is, watch them smile. On the other hand, tell them, "I'm trying to be the best I can be," and you'll find a different reaction.

As the concept stand now, in many ways it's comic book. Bruce Wayne, a millionaire turned Batman. Tony Stark probably a billionaire turned Ironman. Rich, good-looking, popular with women. And they're comic book heroes.

It's not original with me, but it's been noticed in comic books the more handsome, wealthy and popular with women, the few superpowers they have. Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark have no superpowers whatsoever; their powers are completely based on advanced technology.

The more inherent superpowers they have, they more nerdy they originally were. The nebbish Clark Kent as Superman. Steve Rogers, a frail young man who turned into Captain America. Peter Parker, an orphan who became Spiderman (the creators said he was about "rejection, inadequacy, and loneliness young readers could relate to.") Bruce Banner, "a socially withdrawn and emotionally reserved physicist who physically transforms into the Hulk under emotional stress."

Captain America, before and after..."Omega" to "Alpha"

Most of the creators of the original comic book superheroes were socially awkward, unpopular kids, so they created their own grandiose fantasy worlds so they could live out their fantasies. There is nothing wrong with this, but they knew they were fantasy worlds. They didn't take them for real.

I never much cared for any of the superheroes. For some unknown reason I preferred Silver Surfer and Dr. Solar. My nephew, when he was little, liked a TV cartoon character named Bravestarr, and once talked his mother into sewing him his uniform so he could wear it on Halloween. I still remember him running around the house wearing it when he was about five.

I believe that those who came up with this Alpha-to-Omega classifications were a bit nebbish themselves. "Beta" nerds trying to convince themselves they're James Bond. Trying to convince themselves they're "Alpha." It's a comic book fantasy.

These reactions to insecurity have been around for a long time. Thor, for example. Any mythological superhero in the past. They were were entertaining and educating, and young boys were supposed to model themselves in some way after them. And in many ways it was about getting away from being smothered by Mom and joining the world of men.

These heroes of the past were models, and there were supposed to be mentors to go along with them. The Wise Elders who guided you into growing up. Unfortunately we've lost our modes and mentors, and the ones who have today are not so great.

The young are trying to find them. Sometimes, they can't, not really. But they will always try. They're trying right now.


James said...

In highschool I had a teacher give us an assignment to make our own superhero. She told us that superheroes give us a glimpse into what the people of that era and place want, or idolize.

And indeed you can see this in all sorts of superheroes. Why all of a sudden, did Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne become favorable over other superheroes? In this time of recession and joblessness? Because it is the ultimate fantasy: a super power of being rich, being able to think one self out of any situation, having the charm and charisma so women and everyone fall over themselves for you.

Or if you think about when X-men was in vogue. X-men is fundamentally about a group who don't fit in, and who are different from the rest of society, and who are just so diverse with all of their mutant talents and powers. They advocate for mutant civil rights, and their rival is Magneto, who wishes to take the rights by force. Is perhaps, the word "Mutant" a reference to something else :)?

Or Captain America who was created in the World War 2 era. Once again a fantasy of: our soldiers are the BIGGEST and BEST and will defeat the Nazi's. And to boot: he was just like you or I before he had the super soldier serum!

So in today's age, where alphas are idolized, it is easy to see where our society's weakness is, and what we fantasize. Feminism put the woman on a pedestal, then the age of game that followed rather than take them off the pedestal, tried to put men on the pedestal too.

Bob Wallace said...

The whole comic-book superhero thing is fascinating. Superman popped up during the Depression. Captain America - WWII. You can see what is going on in society by looking at its heroes. More accurately, by looking at the heroes of the different cultures in a society. Look at how some blacks and some white are still enamored of hip-hip and rap - what does that say about those cultures?