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The Redeeming Value of Comic Books

April 5, 2010

Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman!

As the owner of Comic Zone, the only comic book store in Scottsdale, I can tell you with utmost confidence that comic books are not just for kids anymore. Today, I am going to tell you about the value of comic book characters. By exploring the archetypes of three popular comic book heroes, I will show you how they have made a difference in the values and morality of our society.

Carl Jung, a pioneer in the field of psychology, focused on the psychoanalytic features of the archetype. He defined an archetype as “a universal and recurring image, pattern, or motif representing a typical human experience.” Archetypes are patterns and behaviors; primordial images which are part of our psyche and social systems.

Today, I will be talking about Superman, Wonder-Woman, and The Joker

Superman is one of the most popular, and longest-known comic book superheroes of our time. Superman was introduced in 1938, and has retained his popularity all of these 72 years. I would say that Superman represents the consummate HERO archetype.

Christopher Vogler, a protégée of Joseph Campbell describes the Hero Archetype as the protagonist or central character, whose primary purpose is to separate from the ordinary world and sacrifice himself for the service of the Journey at hand – which is to answer the challenge, complete the quest and restore the Ordinary World’s balance.

Superman most certainly does that. He came from another planet – Krypton – and realizing his extraordinary strengths, he uses them to fight for truth, justice, and the American Way. Superman reminds us to value our fight for freedom, to be the hero fighting for the causes we believe in, and to serve the good by our actions.

So remember, when you see a wrong to be righted, just tap into the Superman inside of you and fly to the rescue!

Next we have Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman was created in 1941 by Moulton Marston, who set out to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman. Wonder Woman didn’t just stop criminals – she reformed them! Wonder Woman represents the strong woman archetype, a prevalent archetype known in ancient Irish history as the sovereignty goddess of the land. Wonder Woman teaches us that women can be strong in a different way from men. She, in part, gave rise to the feminist movement that swept our country in the 1970’s. To this day, Wonder Woman is an icon for the strong woman – who is simultaneously a champion and a warrior, as well as compassionate and beautiful. Wonder Woman teaches people, especially women, to believe in themselves.

All women are Wonder Women!

And finally, we have the Joker.

The Joker is a perfect example of the Trickster archetype – a being who, by using chaos and mischief, breaks all of society’s rules to challenge the Hero.

If you saw the recent box office hit, The Dark Knight, you know that in the movie, the Joker was the typical trickster, causing chaos left and right as he even had the hero, Batman, questioning himself and his motives.

The trickster exists to break down old forms and to make us question the structures within which we live so that we can arrive at a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Tricksters are unpredictable and often unassuming. They trick us into thinking!

Have you learned something today about what comic books can show us about ourselves and the world?

See? Trickster energy at work!

In conclusion, comic books have intrinsic values that help shape our view of the world. Superman reminds us that we all have a hero in us. Wonder Woman reminds us that we all have a strong and beautiful self if we but believe in it. The Joker reminds us to question the world and our structures so that we can keep on growing.

Why So Serious??? Why So Serious??? Let’s put a smile on that face!

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