Why you
Love
Hate
Super
Heroes

Do you smell that? Yes, it’s another putrid wave of so-called journalists expounding on their fetishes for jacked-up spandex crusaders. You know what kind of hack shills it out in promotion for another story about these clowns? One that lacks the brain-cells and integrity to cover the real story.
So they made another movie recently, that’s great! Another $3 billion for Hollywood. Gold-Titanium Alloy Man can use the royalties to buy another government. Or subsidise a few pennies of the $160 billion that the state of New York had to commit to cleanup in 2012 after he and his buddies invited an extraterrestrial invasion force over to play in our backyard? $160 billion paid to his own cronies, let’s not forget.
History has always revered men like this, it’s true. We can’t help ourselves. Pharaohs, Warrior-Kings, Emperors and Chairmen. A history of inequality; of fear and hatred and enslavement; of empires collapsing under the weight of their fat, gluttonous masters. A history of fire and bloodshed into which these “great men” have lead us over and over again.
THE VIRTUOUS AMAZON
Today’s metahumans invoke the names of yesterday’s heroes, hoping to leech off their glory.
The Amazon, for instance, claims to be a daughter of Zeus! Apparently this means that she’s beyond the reach of the evils that grip the hearts of mortal men... but you see, Zeus wasn’t exactly a Good Guy. The divine Greek tyrant was a well-documented sexual predator, for one. He’d usually hide in the skin of an animal or monster, viciously assault some hapless princess, then conspire to murder the demi-god offspring to cover up his crimes.
He also arbitrarily drowned the entirety of mankind once, save two very frightened mortals. Which of his traits did the Amazon inherit again?
But we can’t hate Superheroes just for the bullshit they spin into their origin stories.
XAVIER’S MUTANTS
The School for Gifted Youngsters doesn’t teach civil engineering. Their bucket-headed co-founder holds a particular contempt for iconic bridges. In 1983, he disintegrated New York’s Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges simultaneously. If that happened today… well, let’s break it down.
The I-35W Mississippi River Bridge collapsed in 2007 during peak hour, dropping its entire load of vehicles and pedestrians 35 metres into the river below; killing over a dozen and maiming nearly 150. A national tragedy. Fortunately there were no similar disasters occurring at the time to distract relief efforts, repairs were completed in just over a year to a total cost of $584 million including cleanup and victims’ compensation.
The Mississippi River Bridge’s daily traffic flow of 140,000 vehicles prior to the tragedy is comparable to the 120,000 vehicles, 4,000 pedestrians and 2,600 bicyclists crossing the Brooklyn Bridge every day.
The most recent renovation projects for the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges — deemed less expensive than a rebuild — cost $811 million and $830 million respectively. Sure, the demolition is being done pro-bono in this case but we’re still looking at a $500 million cleanup and $1.6 billion rebuild at least.
More importantly, we’re looking at dozens dead and hundreds injured, if we’re lucky.
Over 200,000 daily vehicles would have to be diverted to the Williamsburg Bridge — almost tripling the daily traffic flow there, not to mention delays on the subway with 4 tracks destroyed. You thought New York traffic was bad already?
Unlike in Mississippi, this time the relief effort will be spread thin. We’ll be lucky if our morning commute normalises within a decade. Hell, the most recent real Manhattan Bridge renovations started in 1982 are still ongoing without a mutant in sight.
For the time it takes for the bridges to reopen, local small businesses can expect to lose 50% of their income, as was the case in Mississippi.
Mag-neato did the Golden Gate Bridge too, remember? Only he didn’t destroy it, he just kinda… stole it, floated it out into the bay and dropped in down between North Beach and Alcatraz. That’s 112,000 vehicles making a 50 mile detour every day through Oakland. They have a great view of the new Alcatraz Bridge for most of the trip, since that megalomaniac prick never put it back.
That’s not the Spandex-Men’s fault though, right? Well... they did bust him out of his cell in 1973 and haven’t exactly helped bring him back in.
If that’s not convincing, we also know that the Three Mile Island nuclear “accident” was in fact caused by the human cutlery-draw and friends. The cleanup took 14 years and cost $1.7 billion by current inflation. 140,000 residents were evacuated, but sure, reports of increased cancer rates in the area were inconclusive.
Believe it or not, when it comes to racking up state bills and ruining citizens’ lives the mutants are barely amateurs.
THE EARTH’S MIGHTIEST EGOS
We already mentioned that tin-man Tony and friends invited $160 billion of structural damages into New York in 2012, according to the experts. To put it in perspective, 9/11 cost an initial $55 billion. Some estimates put the true cost at $3.3 trillion by 2011, due to commitments to the War on Terror. Naturally, that’s money redirected from GFC stimulus programs, infrastructure and utilities.
We have no idea what the true cost for the Battle of New York could be, but the damage to the city dwarfed that of 9/11. Hurricane Katrina’s true cost has been calculated at $250 billion and the affected population of that disaster was 5% the size of New York’s — long-term costs to the city and its businesses could easily reach the trillions.
We did see an immediate and explosive increase in violent and organised crime and concurrent small-scale vigilantism throughout the city. After Katrina a wave of disadvantaged evacuees ended up in Houston, TX, and the rate of murders there increased by 27% immediately afterwards.
Ultimately, the Battle of New York painted an interstellar target on Earth and the US government was forced to respond with Project Insight, involving the construction and operation of 3 Helicarriers. For comparison, the newest Ford class of aircraft carriers cost $13 billion apiece to build and an estimated $50 billion in lifetime operation. Making them fly would prove excessively more expensive. We can expect the Project Insight commitment to have been more than $189 billion. To no one’s surprise, the Project was compromised and very nearly killed 20 million people.
The Revengers and their interstellar war-mongering have caused incredible suffering for humankind, but they’re still not at the top of our hate-list.
THE “MAN” OF STEEL
Dorothy didn’t ride in from Kansas on a tornado. According to Enki Operations’ Kinetic Analysis Corp it was something more like a 20kt nuke that hit Metropolis in 2013, with around 250,000 dead and nearly a million injured. All so a couple of alien humanoids could settle a grudge.
The same experts estimate some $700 billion in initial damage and an overall cost of $2 trillion, not considering any kind of War on Terror-scale national response budget to future potential incursions. It seems that the nation’s response was to build a literal monument to this new, vengeful god and hope he didn’t decide to do it again.
Bat-Wayne had the right idea, putting him in the ground. The Dark Blight has no trouble killing a bunch of people despite protestations to the contrary. Yet when it comes to an extra-terrestrial sentient apocalypse he finds a conscience after learning their mummies share the same name? And not only to spare him, but to resurrect him when someone else did the job?
Of course, he just realised that they’re the same. If only he had the same kind of power; leveling cities would only be the beginning for Bat-Maniac.
These astronomical numbers of dollars and lives have reached the scale where they start to lose meaning. Frankly, we’ve become numb to it. Perhaps we should return to a perspective that we can actually empathise with.
THE SPIDER’S BITE
The asshat neighbourhood Spider-Clown decided to intervene in a local ATM robbery and his escalation resulted in the destruction of Delmar’s Deli-Grocery. Mr. Delmar has been unavailable to comment, but a comparable small business owner has estimated for us a $345,000 rebuild cost which he would be very lucky to recover after years of litigation and income loss.
After the inevitable bailouts of insurance firms across the globe following the first wave of $100 billion+ metahuman-caused damages, it’s unlikely that any insurer would accept a claim involving spandexed teens blowing up a home and business.
No, Mr. Delmar would have had to find his own way to pay, or sue Spidey for all his pocket money and hope that an incognito vigilante could ever respect a court summons. We might protest that Spider-Kid has at least always supported Mr. Delmar with his patronage, regularly lunching upon Queens’ best $5 sandwiches — he would have to have been eating here every day for 274 years to recover the damages.
Mr. Delmar’s life has been ruined, along with countless victims of the everyday movements of these “heroes” that fly under the radar.

A few blocks away, the Green Rage Monster baited a psychopath to a biology lab at Grayburn College in 2008. Big surprise, the lab was destroyed. We had Paddy Neumann of Neumann Space assess some footage of the lab before and after; he estimates a ballpark in the millions of dollars of equipment lost by the College — “most decidedly not a cheap piece of destruction”.
Dr. Sterns was working on gamma technology that could, eventually, have made humans impervious to disease. The incident resulted in the unquantifiable loss of both his work and his sanity.
A LAW UNTO THEIR OWN
Nothing can compel the metahumans to accountability. Their powers — social, political and literal — make them untouchable. Governments legitimise and shield them in the vain hope that they will, in turn, self-regulate and toe the line.
But they don’t. They demonstrate again and again that the rule of power is more effective than the rule of law. The judicial system is futile if they won’t participate in it.
“I would think vigilantism is definitely a response humanity would have to superheroes”, practising lawyer Alice Haskett tells us. “Misunderstandings over building maintenance already blow up into murderous confrontations among normal humans.
“If the powers did break down, as did society, I believe that humanity would experience a great amount of distress and depression at our inability to live as we largely do now”.
The powers have broken down, stamped into shattered pieces by the heels of our “idols”. That is why we hate Superheroes, and that is why we resent the one course of justice they have left us — their own. Let’s see how they like it.
It turns out we’re pretty fond of Superheroes, and it’s not a phase. we compulsively imitate them at social events; we feed our kids food in the shape of their handsome faces; we permanently engrave our flesh with their insignia.
Looking at the unfathomable success ($2.79 billion!) and global adoration of some recent products of the Superhero industry, you might be forgiven for entertaining, briefly, the most blasphemous of questions.
Why do we love Superheroes so damn much?
Why are we sitting in a theatre gleefully digesting this predictable conflict between the champions of Good and Evil again and again?
Truth is, it’s not just today, or even recently. Superhero adoration is no mere product of the postmodern, oh no. Our history reveres them; our philosophy pines for them; our psychology compels them. Our love is timeless and inexorable.
CAPES OF ANCIENT

The Superhero has enchanted every culture in the world for thousands of years. The ancient Sumerians shared stories of their impossibly strong (and sexy) King Gilgamesh and his faithful sidekick Enkidu battling ancient evils.
The New-Kingdom Egyptians bragged about Ramesses II single-handedly swatting off Hittites in the thousands, towering over his puny foes.
The Trojan War unfolded like a veritable Superhero crossover saga, a battle for the future of the world. The (nearly) invincible Achilles; Ajax “The Bulwark”; the Amazon Penthesilea, daughter of War; Odysseus the genius. Tales written in collaboration between the most renowned writers of the age.
First-century Irishman Cúchulainn transformed into a huge, disfigured monster in the heat of battle, slaughtering friend and foe alike in his frenzy. Yes, the original Rage Monster was Gaelic.
Then we have another Amazon fighting through the trenches of WWI to prevent Ares from undermining the armistice; and an incorruptible super-soldier thwarting the German Illuminati’s efforts to conquer the world with alien technology in WWII. If their stories are true, modern society would be a good deal more grim without their intercession.
So humanity has always loved a good story of old-fashioned high-octane arse-kicking. That’s no surprise. Yet our ancestors’ fascination with these figures was not only due to the spectacle of their deeds. These stories have been loved and shared just as much for their moral content. Heroes epitomise the values of their culture and reject any perversion of justice or virtue.
THE SUPERMORAL

Heroes are our compass, they keep us on course. Our legends demonstrate that when they fail to do so, they fall. Either way, they demonstrate that virtue is a supremely powerful universal force — more powerful even than their own superhuman gifts. The promise of ultimate victory for the virtuous shines like a beacon through the trials and injustices of everyday life.
The virtues in question are not always consistent between cultures; what is good to the Sumerians or Egyptians isn’t necessarily good to the Greeks or Ulstermen. Often, it amounts simply to a deference to the discretion of gods whom themselves lack any clear guiding principles. Even in this case, however, these gods are invested in us. Humanity is important. In all of the vast cosmos, we matter!
Reverence for Superheroes has offered cultures both ancient and contemporary an invaluable sense of purpose, continuity and hope.
With so much corruption and perversion abound in our world today, it’s little surprise that many modern Supers model themselves after the heroes of old. Others claim to be literally one and the same. When we see what some of these Meta-Humans are capable of, it’s hard to doubt that they are.
Even when we acknowledge that Superheroes have always been among us and have always been adored, even when we demonstrate why, perhaps, we should love them, the question remains; why do we?
Why do we love them? Are we all suffering from the belief that we are so small and ineffectual that we constantly need saving? Have we always thought the problems of the world so far out of our league that we can only defer them to fundamentally better people, people with a secret ingredient?
Perhaps the question is better posed to psychologists than historians.
PREDISPOSED ADMIRATION

It has been established through studies at Kyoto University that infants as young as six months hold some preconscious admiration for courage and heroism. At ten months, infants in the same study are demonstrating that they may have already begun to develop a theory of justice. Unlike some earlier studies of infantile or childhood behavioural preference, the subject is free from the influence of pre-established role models participating in the scenarios.
It seems that we are already predisposed for this universal Superhero admiration long before we develop the reasoning for any of the existential anxieties that we might want them to shield us from. We don’t necessarily love them, then, like we might love a god.
In fact the guiding thread which weaves through all Superheroes ancient and contemporary is that they are ultimately human… even when they are not literally human.
They are not better than us, they are the best of us. They define our limits and our potential.
Their stories — particularly their origin stories — provide us with a roadmap for this potential. For reconciling loss and grief; for turning perceived disabilities into a source of strength; for seizing opportunities to change for the better; for making the most of a really bad day.
We love Superheroes because through all of our historical, moral and psychological development they have pushed us to become the greatest that we can be.
Love 'Em
Hate 'Em