Hero By Night – The Chicken or The Egg


Normally I don’t like to wax philosophical in my articles. I think people would rather read something that has some in game focus rather then my scatter-brained thoughts on things. But I recently read one of UnSub’s articles about the loss of modern day hero secret identities. After reading through it I found that I agreed with some of his line of thinking but not all.

Primarily, UnSub’s article got me thinking about Super Heroism in general. It brought into focus a few of the issues that I’ve had with Superheroes and comics in general and quite a few of these issues that came to mind right away. The first issue relates to which came first – the Superhero or the Supervillain? The second deals with morality of being a Superhero. The third emcompasses our world vs. Superheroes and how we as a society would crush and humiliate even the noblest of heroes. For my next few articles, I’m going to focusing on these topics as they’re really too good to let them sink into the nether regions of my mind.

Like most people that have been drawn to City of Heroes I really enjoy comics. I collected comics starting in my pre-teens till I was a junior in high school. There was something about the life of hero that struck a cord with me. When I first began reading comics, I started with the X-men. This was the early nineties and but it wasn’t that era’s X-men. At that time the X-men had only two books out. One was regular title and the other was a subliminal title that just reprinted X-men comics from the late 70’s early 80’s. It was X-men classic and I began around the time of the original Phoenix saga. I believe to this day that it is the best story arc I’ve ever read in a comic. During this story arch they encountered Gladiator. I, like everyone else who has ever seen Gladiator, recognized him as a Superman rip off. I liked the epicness of his character (even with the purple Mohawk) and in a round about way he got me collecting The Mighty Thor.

Well, now that I’ve given you my comic history you’re probably asking yourself what does this have to do with origins of Super- heroes and villains. Well, the reason that I’m telling you this is because I found commonalties between these two very different types of superheroes and their rogue galleries. I began to notice that even the ‘average Joe’ X-men type heroes and the Epic god-like Thor heroes had villains that they created and/or inspired to life of crime. It seems that all heroes at some point in their careers have directly created villains that have gone on to oppose them. At the time I noticed it in an off hand way and filed it under Superhero clichés and moved on. Then my mom, bless her soul, got me my first graphic novel a birthday present when I was about thirteen. The novel was a Batman title called ‘The Killing Joke’.

For those unfamiliar the novel, it chronicles origin of the Joker. In it we discover that Batman was the one who in fact creates his own worst enemy. The Bats trying to do good by break up a robbery, inadvertently knocks a happless robber into a vat of something which disfigures him. Average guy goes insane, swears revenge and WHAMO! There we are left with the product – the Joker. Most of this story got recounted during Zero Hour but it was still a fine piece of story telling anyway. However, it really brought into focus the fact most times Heroes come first and Supervillians come second.

After doing a little more research, I started to notice a distinct pattern here. I turned to another icon of the comic industry, Superman, and we have the same story with him and his arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor. That part of their history got recounted too but the concept is still there. That whole line of deduction got my brain juices flowing and I began to wonder – What if there were no superheroes? No Batman means no Joker. No Superman means no Lex Luthor. No Green Lanterns means no Sinsetro. No Spiderman means no Venom. Now I admit some of these villains would have still existed but their existence would be entirely different without the influence of said superheroes. Many of these criminals may not have turned into the super-sized megalomaniacs.

It seems that Superheroes not only have the ability to inspire the best in others they also have the ability to inspire the worst. Examples of it are found in almost all modern comics. What superhero doesn’t have a villain crawling out the wood work looking to exact revenge? The strange part about this is that modern superheroes seem not to care about it. They acknowledge it deal with and move on, only to have the cycle repeated again.

Some people may not see a problem with this, yet it poses one very big problem as I see it. As time moves forward, old villains get pushed to wayside and new villains will step up to take their places. From the way it looks there could be a time when our heroes are fighting only villains of their own creation. As a hero what are they to do then? Continue to fight and create more enemies? Or do they hang up the tights to eliminate the threat of future villains? Do they put away the utility belt and put the planes in moth balls? Not because they don’t feel like they want to fight anymore but because it’s the right thing to do. Can they do and live with that choice? Can we? I have not read a comic that has adequetly dealt with this topic. I don’t think we will either but it would be good to see heroes acknowledge the negative effect they have on society.

Now with the deep thoughts section out of the way lets move onto some business. Another faithful reader, Ice Touch from the Liberty server, has written in about CoH’s auto-attack button. His letter mentions that you can use key binds as an auto attack button. Now I didn’t mention binds in my article because I didn’t feel they were are true auto-attacks. Sure you can setup a bind do anything you want in the game but it’s a little more involved the Ctrl-click and simple auto-attack keys of other MMOs. It involves creating a text file in Windows then placing it a specific location. This process, while not overly involved, is a little more then I think the average gamer is willing to do. I’d like to thank Ice Touch for pointing it out and writing in to tell me about it.

– Zameda
[email protected]
October 19, 2004

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