Superheroes are Role Models
Superheroes are role models and they can teach us lots of life lessons.
When we think of life lessons we can learn from superheroes, we think of bravery, taking responsibility, defending liberty, justice, etc.
Those are obvious ones. Besides, how hard can it be to be brave when you are bulletproof?
Some people look down on comics and dismiss them as disposable literature or something for kids, not adults. Wrong.
Comics are our modern myths.
Furthermore, there are dozens of life lessons comic books can teach us. I picked ten superheroes and ten different lessons we should learn from their example.
However, there is one special lesson from Spiderman I saved for the end, and it is a touching one.
Top Ten Life Lessons from Ten Superheroes
Superheroes are larger than life. We identify with them because they represent an idealized self we want to become. They are the good guys.
Moreover, superheroes show grit and perseverance after experiencing great loss and tragedy.
They inspire us, and that is a great thing. We can all use more positive role models. Even fictional ones.
The following superheroes have hundreds of lessons. I picked those that resonate with me and are perhaps not so obvious, but worth learning.
By the way, I purposely chose heroes from both, DC and Marvel because they are the ones we are most familiar with.
Bonus points: learning these lessons will make you a great leader.
What can these superheroes teach us?
- Superman’s lesson: Be humble. He could do whatever he wants. No prison can hold him. No one can beat him. And yet, he walks among us, respecting our laws, taking crap from his boss and his wife, paying taxes, etc. Despite his immense power, he does not put himself above the law or society. Humility at his best. No wonder we love and trust him.
- Batman’s lesson: Have a plan and a backup plan. Batman is the ultimate master strategist. Without superpowers, he can beat powerful villains and even Superman. How? He studies the enemy and plans ahead. And he always has a backup plan or several. Improvisation is for amateurs. Like Batman, be prepared.
- Daredevil’s lesson: Be handicapable. Daredevil is one of the very few disabled superheroes. And yet, his blindness does not stop him. Granted, he has superpowers that compensate. But it was not his superpowers that put him through law school or martial arts lessons. It was his will.
- The Thing’s lesson: Don’t let your physical appearance define you. In social media, everyone is gorgeous and has a sculptural body. Our society is too image-driven. Meanwhile, the Fantastic Four‘s most popular member is the one with the monstrous exterior. We love his personality. He might be a monster on the outside, but the thing is a good guy, and a funny one too. Don’t let your exterior define you. Your interior should.
- Aquaman’s lesson: Protect the environment. Is there a superhero more relevant to the 21st century than the king of the seas? He is most at odds when advocating for sea conservation, protecting endangered species, and the environment, especially against ocean pollution. Because without healthy oceans, our weather will be worse.
- Wonder Woman’s lesson: Befriend your enemies. Wonder Woman is a warrior but she is also a diplomat. As an ambassador for Themyscira, she advocates for international cooperation and understanding. Is it any wonder she goes out of her way to befriend her enemies, like Cheetah, Silver Swan, or Giganta? Even if they keep betraying her trust, she gives them the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes, it works. Like Wonder Woman, try to earn your enemies’ trust. They might surprise you.
- Storm’s lesson: Talk about your mental traumas. The sometimes leader of the X-Men and former queen of Wakanda is a powerful mutant. And yet, she suffers from claustrophobia since childhood. On several occasions, the X-Men are close to defeat because she freaks out when in an enclosed space. But she always finds a way to overcome it. Storm does not hide her mental phobia from her teammates. Her honesty helps her deal with it.
- Captain Marvel/Shazam’s lesson: Don’t lose your joy. He is an orphan. Dr. Sivana stole his parent’s fortune. He lost his twin sister. He lived homeless on the streets (in more recent comics, he lives in foster care). Nevertheless, he never loses his innocence and joy. Even when in adult form. Don’t let life’s tragedies steal your joy.
- The Flash: Don’t neglect your wife. Yes, the Flash sacrificed himself to save the multiverse in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Still, sacrificing your life for others is part of the job description. What sets the Flash apart from other heroes (all three of them actually: Jay, Barry, and Wally) is their devotion to their wives. Yes, Barry was infamously late to all his dates and Wally made Linda a target by being public about their marriage. Nevertheless, all three Flashes were devoted to their wives. Is okay to save the world as long as you don’t neglect your significant other.
- Power Man and Iron Fist’s lesson: Mentor your competition. Imagine someone else, some kid, running around using your old moniker and old business. But when Victor Alvarez started calling himself Power Man (Luke Cage‘s old code name) and started a Hero for Hire thing, Cage and Iron Fist were not happy. However, rather than forcing him to quit, or sue them for copyright infringement, they decide to mentor and train the new Power Man. Because life and businesses are not a zero-sum game.
Spider-Man’s Greatest Lesson
Everyone loves Spider-Man because he is so relatable. He is a true blue-collar superhero. Likewise, everyone is familiar with his motto: with great power comes great responsibility.
There are decades of Spider-Man’s stories with very touching moments and shows of bravery.
And yet, no story from the comics had the cultural impact of Amazing Spiderman # 248 by Roger Stern and John Romita Jr., “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man”.
In this 1984 story, Spider-Man visits Timothy Harrison, a child in a hospital suffering from leukemia, after reading a profile on the Daily Bugle.
The child was a fan of his and dreamed of meeting his hero.
Before leaving, Tim asks Spider-Man his name. He takes off the mask and tells him his name is Peter Parker.
A few weeks later, Tim passes away. Yet, with his final wish fulfilled, I am sure he passed overjoyed.
We cannot all be Spider-Man. And we cannot cure cancer. However, there are hundreds of people who cosplay for charity and many others who are caretakers for sick children.
Those people are true life heroes. I would love to think they read the 1984 comic and were inspired to do so.
Granted, we are not Spider-Man or Superman but we call all donate to the American Cancer Society or the Make a Wish Foundation and dozens of other organizations that fight to make the world better.
Showing kindness, bringing hope to the sick, making children smile… Let that be Spider-Man’s and every superhero’s final lesson.
Reader, is there a moral or life lesson you learn from comic books? Share in the comments.