Some of it, I think, is a long-ago impact. When I was a teenager, then in college, then a grad student, and then a newly on the world graduate, I collected comics. I read everything and nearly anything, and bought most of it. Spiderman was one of the comics I would always pick up now and again and would buy a few but I would never follow a full series through. The reason? It was because for all that he did what he saw as the right thing, it would inevitably rebound on his head and either try to kill him to fuck up his relationships with his closest friends. Other super heroes had some of that happening, but with Spidy it was an inevitability. Someone would always twist what he did, or be unhappy with anything he tried. I had no desire to read that kind of thing. I'd had enough negative conditioning to see this as a "Never try anything, you'll just get slapped down." kind of message. Most other heroes got some recognition, some respect. Spidy never got what I felt he deserved.
I guess that's changed.
I'm not sure if it's Spiderman or if it's me. I know that Spiderman 1 was fun, and I liked it because it felt true to the old comics and the way the storylines went. 2, though, appealed to me on an entirely different level, and stirred some really deep emotions. Maybe it's me, but it sure felt like, in 2, everyone and anyone could be and tried to be a hero on their own, personal level. And, in this, I'm sure that it's more my age, now, than it was then, but what really came through strongly, for me, this time was the feeling that "It doesn't matter if you succeed or fail, what matters is that you do the right thing." And, even more strongly, "Anyone can do the right thing."
Like Aunt May clobbering Doc Ock while he's holding her after saying, "Shame on you. That's not right." Even when it had a high probability of killing her.
Like the three-year-old little girl on the platform doing her level best to pull Peter up, whether she was strong enough or not or successful or not, she knew she should be trying.
Like MJ swinging at Doc Ock even when she had no chance.
Like the passengers catching Peter when he fainted after he'd saved them all.
Like those same train passengers standing up to Doc Ock even when there was no chance.
Like Doctor Octavius himself, at the end. He was a hero, too, doing the right thing when it was finally presented to him.
It's not whether it succeeds or fails. It's not if you live or die. It's not about fame and fortune. It's not about a great lifestyle or a beautiful girlfriend. It's not about hoarding your health or wealth. It's about choosing the moral action in the midst of chaos and doing it with all your might.
It's like the 9-11 special issue of Spiderman that just had me crying through the whole thing, for the same reasons. That it's the common, everyday hero that's truly awe-inspiring. That if the stories can help that, encourage that, and showcase that then everyone wins.
Now I think I understand better where one of my axioms came from, It's the axiom, "Yes, the world is a painful, unfair place. You can and should make it better, even at the price reality will exact from you for making that change." It's echoed frequently in SF novels and books as well as comic books and anime and every other art form I partake of frequently. Maybe, at the core, the Christ story is an example of this.
There's a deep echo of that in the UCC's Statement of Faith. The last paragraphs are about the rewards of faith, and none of them say anything about success, wealth, health, political power, or lack of concerns. Instead, it speaks of always having God's presence in times of trial and rejoicing, of having a direction, and of knowing that one is in the service of the whole human family. Not what I would have wanted as a promise when I was a kid. Now, though, it feels a bit like being a hero.
Oh, there are villains, too. Bad guys. Not always by choice, but not always forced to go where they went, either. Some from despair, some from loss, some from a sheer desire to build or destroy things. Some without a clue as to what the moral thing is to do. They exist. They need to be fought on their own level and with a kind of respect and sympathy that I always did love from Marvel's heroes. And, sometimes, they turn into heros, too.
It's funny, but it's so oddly applicable to my present life it's funny. Though not on the grand scales of life and death, but on the everyday scales of what I say and what I do and how I follow through on promises. It's still applicable. And maybe that's what this kind of story is really about...