“Gathered together from the cosmic reaches of the universe! Here in this great Hall of Justice, are the most powerful forces of good ever assembled! Dedicated to truth, justice and peace for all mankind!”
So begins the opening sequence to the animated television show from the 70s and 80s Super Friends. As many of you surely did, I grew up watching shows like Super Friends or Batman: The Animated Series, reading comic books, playing with Batman or Spiderman action figures and dreaming of the day I might gain powers and become a superhero. Since that very young age, I have been completely enraptured by the idea of superheroes and what they can say about our society (in addition, obviously, to the fact that superheroes are just “super “ cool – pun intended). In fact, of all the “nerdy” franchises I follow, Batman and his super pals were my first and my favorite. It was only later that I encountered the vast possibilities of science fiction and fantasy. Yet, even after encountering franchises like Star Wars, I find myself comparing them to what I love about superheroes in an attempt both to find commonality among the things I love and knowingly investigate the cultural (and, indeed, popular cultural) lenses through which I view the world. This essay will be the first of what I plan on being a few different articles examining what superheroes can tell us about ourselves as mere mortals and the society, which may or may not need them. First, I want to begin by examining some of the basic characteristics of superheroes and rather than just listing them, I thought it would be more fun and interesting to look into these commonalities to see whether our beloved Jedi could meet the criteria.
Wikipedia has an interesting and basic article that can provide such a list of criteria. This list includes the following: extraordinary powers and abilities, a strong moral code, a motivation (such as a sense of responsibility), a secret identity, a distinctive costume, an underlying motif, a supporting cast, a rogues gallery, independent wealth, a headquarters or base of operations, and a backstory that explains both the powers of the hero and their theme/motif. Certainly, a character need not possess all of these traits in order to count as a superhero, but to the extent that the superhero has become an archetype in our contemporary culture (as well as a “typography-independent descriptive” trademark in the United States), these traits are very literally what defines a superhero. As a way of examining each of these in turn, I will ask the question of whether the Jedi (or any particular Jedi) meets these standards and then sum up at the end.