Choosing Strength: What Comic Book Villains Teach Us
Whether you believe that you are strong or weak, you are right. Vrilock truly believes that life does not end, nor are our problems resolved, by merit. Heaven’s gate does not swing wide open by our entreating of the oracles of ancient masons. The oration of the intellect in the great halls of science is as inconclusive to the cosmos as the preacher’s interpreting of scripture. Praise, whether great or mild is forgotten in the epochs of space/ time. The battle of spirits and unconscious chaos is eternal, and the earth is no sanctuary from this cosmic script. Ride off and your problems will hitch a ride after you. Chaos is the void of this world, and its law is entropy. Through this medium of darkness the Divine invades and makes creation possible, order and beauty a reality.
What you must learn to do is to focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses. And it is with this direct point where I draw your attention to the classical comic book villain.
While you can be the hero of your own story, it is perhaps wise to begin our venture into greatness by first considering the worthiness of a good old super villain. What makes this villain super? Why are we drawn to him/ her? I believe that the answer is typically not a conscious realization of the ultimate truth, but rather a primordial recognition of the ultimate unconscious strength of the character. It is all in the essential character and presence of this villain.
So, let us now consider a few circumstances which often befall our favorite classical villains.
In contrast to the classical Greek tales of heroes, the most common difficulty for the American comic book villain is that the bad guy tends to be outmatched. Often ridiculously to the point of which the ordinary person would think an act of resistance against the super hero to be not only feeble but recklessly hopeless. Take the Superman comic book series for an example of an impossible obstacle to the villain.
Superman is the man of steel. He cannot be broken, pierced, or bludgeoned to death. And unfortunately, he’s a degree brighter than the average musclebound clod roaming the streets of New York. In contrast, and in absolute opposition to Superman is the rather thin and physically weak Lex Luther. And just to rub salt in the wound of this misunderstood genius, God (the illustrator in this case) threw in absolute baldness for our unsung—ahem—villain. The ongoing feud between Superman and the super weak man, Lex Luther, seems almost comical. Yes, well, that’s because in our western society we degrade the value of intellect in favor of brawn. But, Lex Luther isn’t going to just whine about his predicament. Being a super genius (which is better than being super brawny) coupled with the fact that he is a criminal mastermind, and rather cunning, our super villain is hell bent on removing Superman as an obstacle. In many cases, Lex Luther brings the battle right back to the red caped super-fool in tights.
Now, consider how most of us in the real world would behave if given the same circumstances as the narrative plotted for the villainous Lex Luther. Be honest. You of course must realize that a greater majority of us would complain that we are no match for the ‘Man of Steel’ flying around in blue tights. Yet, Lex Luther is a man of poised conviction. His mission to defeat his adversary, Superman, is a relentless feud between might and true strength (intelligence being the true strength). For a specific example, there is an old comic book wherein one episode Lex Luther is freed from prison, and upon returning back to his lab he dedicates his time to use his mind machine to contact the greatest intelligence in the universe to help him defeat Superman.
In consideration of these circumstance we learn that whether you are persistently the villain or redundantly the hero, the important thing is to measure here is your weaknesses against a good dosage of your true strengths. This is fundamentally necessary to resolve problems and meet challenges effectively—And in the case of comic book villains these problems are resolved with cunning, ruthlessness, and intelligence. Whether your means are a direct approach or artful, the bottom line is whether or not you have a mind that is capable of acting in any situation.
Oh, come now. Still not convinced that you have strength underneath all of those complaints? Well, stop your whining and perhaps my next example will sway your heart over to the super villain’s point of view.
Alrighty, it is time for perhaps a more modern variation of the classical villain. And I believe that nothing hits closer to home for those of us alive today than the world of Star Wars. What an epic drama of fun filled space-age sorcery, yes! And as a matter of course it would not be so exhilarating in the world of space fantasy without our space villains. Of these villains none is more exemplary of the presentation of true power than the character and presence of Darth Vader.
Unlike the half nude barbarian swinging around a sword and guzzling tankards of wine and winning himself the red lips of every woman he comes into contact with, Vader is not solely reliant upon physical strength. In fact, Vader rarely does any labor at all. Sorry, Conan. Darth Vader is cooler than you.
Now, Vader is not the terminator. That is, he’s not a true cyborg or robot. Vader can actually experience pain and the usual difficulties of life, albeit with the additive of being crippled without his machine suit and breathing apparatus. What we have is a man so severely injured from battles against the ruthless jedi knights. So, we acknowledge that Vader is physically confined to his machine suit, breathing mask, and space helmet, and the rebreather apparatus that is fixed into his suit—for which without he could not live. Yet Vader’s presence as he steps on to the set makes precedence for this villain to be considered rather super, as opposed to just the ordinary bad guy. We hear Vader breathing through his machine suit, and see him peering out from the iron holes in his mask with all the power of the dark side of the force penetrating all that surrounds him.
Now consider again the whining of the average person when faced with certain oppositions in life. How would Darth Vader deal with these minor setbacks the majority of us think of as impossible barriers to our goals?
Think about this. Does Vader stop in the midst of pursuit of destiny to bitch and whine about how he’d prefer to not be confined to his machine suit and space helmet all the time? I don’t seem to remember any gripes about how difficult it is for Lord Vader to consume his meals with that mask and helmet on. Do you?? Of course that never happens. True super villains do not complain. They are persistent, pragmatic, and ruthless in the pursuit of their destiny. At the heart of this aptitude to take on challenges is the power of the willful mind.
But, now if these examples of the comic villain offends your thoughts, perhaps we can pass for an example of the heroism and short lived wisdom of one of the hobbits from The Lord of the Rings. Namely, Merry Brandybuck. In the midst of forest two hobbits contemplate the words of their Entish elder, Mr. Treebeard. These are the hobbits, Merridock Brandybuck and Perrigrin (Pippin) Took. Merry’s compatriot, Pippin, suggests that they give up the quest to save Middle Earth and just return back to the Shire because that is where he sees himself belonging to in his very small and weakling’s view of the world of Middle Earth. To this absurd suggestion by Pippin, Merry set his compatriot right by telling Pippin that there will be no more Shire to go home to if they abandon their fellowship to destroy the one ring (Their only hope in hell to save the green hell of Middle Earth). Well, this all goes back to what I was writing of how our problems follow us. This is irrefutably the truth because if we choose weakness we will inevitably carry that same quality within ourselves wherever we go in the world, and quite likely wherever we go in the afterlife.
Whatever you decide to do, you must have no doubt in your rightness to pursue your destiny. Face this simply fact, that regardless of who is right or wrong, the more determined person is going to be more likely to win out. It’s called determination, son! Strength—true strength—is your ally. Being the victor does not require brawn. Having bulging muscles isn’t going to be the means by which we solve the elusive cure for cancer, or beat the Chinese to Interstellar space travel, or create perpetual energy flying-cars. Some of the biggest bosses in the world’s history were smaller than the people who worked for them. In fact, this king pin of the story need not even be youthful. Age might suit him better, and in many cases the young can be too restless and overconfident to fulfill the role of super villain.
Presence. Character. Intelligence. Cunning. These are your devices for winning the big game of life.
Cultivate these attributes in place of the more popular wish-fancies of the general majority. One should acquire the attitude that anything measurably ‘popular’ is likely the choice of fools. Foolishness typically a belonging characteristic of the weakling’s society-handed mind.
You must decide for yourself. Will you play life as a fool like Pippin? Or do you choose to accept that you have the potential to think and act in any situation? Will you pursue your destiny even if the sky is falling, fire pouring down upon the planet, and the ground breaking beneath your boots as you hold your adversary fixed in your eyes? Well, perhaps it need not be so dramatic. Rather, consider that the exaggerations of the comic book villain are liken to the archetypes of the cosmos. Even in the classical Greek tales of heroes like Perseus and Hercules we recognize the great obstacles that these champions are against. The great individualistic power which burns in the heart of such warriors is only matched by the fury and favor of the fatherly god, Zeus and his malevolent sibling Hades. Yet, the lone warrior is not expected to behave as the gods, nor is he fixed in stone as the oracles in the temple of fools. The classical comic books super villain, however, better illustrates this distinction of true power, which is that of willpower, determination, and intelligence. The Greek hero of mythology is more of an example of brute power, but compensated with the additive component of some conviction or the winning of a lovely woman or the praise of a king. The super villain needs no king. So, crave not subjugation as the hive mind often does.
Here is your great challenge to stand outside of the multitude, and rise above the expectations—typically followed by complaints—of the horde. See yourself in a scene from a classical comic book. You are the super villain kicked off the top of a tall building. Where others would scream in terror, you revel in wicked laughter as you fall upon the winds of darkness. From your utility belt you quickdraw your grappling gun and fire—piercing the biggest of the heroes who was gloating from aloft. You hang on tight! Then, crashing through the nearest window of the tall building, you roll to the floor and get back up. You sneer a sly smile, because over your shoulder you hear the screaming musclebound clod impaled by your grapple hook falling to his doom. Quickly, you sever the cord and watch him plummet to the concrete far below. You are alive, and so you have won a battle.
In my dramatic example you see how fast thinking, fearlessness, and above all else resourceful preparedness have allowed for the super villain to win the round. There was no need for strutting around like a peacock. Besides, you have an image to uphold.
Of all things the super villain in a comic book is typically not going to do all the fighting. Why waste his time doing that sort of thing? Let people less intelligent do that for him. Well, no where else is there a better example of this than in the classic Star Wars films. In fact, the evil mastermind Palpaltine builds himself a clone army. Better still, Palpaltine succeeds in having his enemies, the jedi masters to bring the entire clone army to him! Which Palpaltine then turns this army against the jedi masters with the flick of a switch and a brief command to execute order 66. We see similar examples of others doing the fighting in some of the Fantastic Four episodes. It was not uncommon for villains like Doctor Doom to send robots to do his fighting or other men on his behalf. The same was true in the Batman comics. The Penguin and the Joker both made use of other people fighting their battles for them.
These examples from which I draw upon various points of truth may seem rather alien to the ordinary person on the street. But, consider that the real world has worked like this for quite some time, and in much the same way as comic books can illustrate a hint of this dark truth.
Having demonstrated what comic books villains can teach us about strength, it is equally important to decide what it is that you deem is worthy in your life. Prosperity, for example, will not come from a life of being an overlord or a king pin. There is just as much misery in it. As well, one need also weigh the words at the beginning of this argument, which states that life does not end with merit, nor does the gate of Heaven swing open to a man who simply copies what others tell him or program into him. The soul and mind of the man must be willful to continue existence in the universal tug-of-war between the entropic and creative polarities of the cosmos. And for this one need not be truly a man of the world, but rather a child of the universe, existing in eternal wonder and awe of the magnificence of a universe that is truly wondrous. To such a mind all possibilities open. Secrets are shewn to this mind.