Since the 2000s we have seen many superheroes move from the panels of comicbooks unto the big screen in Hollywood. Some of them have become very popular and profitable for the movie industries. Think of the X-Men, the Avengers and Batman. With the release of movie trailers in the fall of 2015 Hollywood is promising that more is to come. A list on IMDB reveals that among the top ten “Most Popular TV Series Released In 2015” at least three of the shows involve superheroes that first originated in the world of comics. Superheroes are here to stay.
So why should Christians pay attention to this phenomenon?
By paying attention I don’t necessarily mean that Christians should consume them, though there is Christian liberty, so long as they aren’t sinful. By “paying attention” I mean to be aware of them, to think of them biblically and if one were to enjoy superheroes in the big screen and in slower moving pictures, Christians must practice discernment and also enjoy them critically from an informed Christian worldview. That means at times we point out what is wrong or dangerous in a story. Again, why should Christians pay attention to this phenomenon of superheroes?
- Everything we do must be done for the glory of God. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Everything you do…that includes what we enjoy such as our eating and drinking. Even if comicbooks are read for amusement let it be that we enjoy them in a way that glorifies God.
- Superheroes and comics as part of popular culture if often the indicator of what philosophical worldviews have gain traction in society. In an essay titled “Taking Superheroes Seriously,” William Irwin said “Philosophers specialize in theory, but people tend to learn better when something unfamiliar, such as philosophy, is explained in terms of something familiar, such as television, movies, comic books, music or videogames.” Those familiar with philosophy will be blown away at the passing reference to philosophers and their sayings. While a comic book and a movie will not have the footnotes and analytical language of a philosopher, comic book writers and artists are often the popularizers of ideas into the mainstream culture. He or she who has the ears of the people through popular literatures gets to propagate their worldview. Think of the analogy of Ayn Rand’s writings, Jean Sartre’s novels, etc. It’s the same with graphic novels. We definitely should beware of unbiblical philosophies lest we are subtly taken in by them.
- Superheroes are often today’s heroes. Who are these superheroes we celebrate and mimic (sometimes among some literally who dress up for cosplay and even some go further to patrol urban areas to prevent crimes)? We should be careful of whom we emulate. Does it glorify God? Are there good virtues to emulate but also things to watch out for? Reading graphic novels is not religiously neutral and the more one is aware the more one notices things that are there.
- For some superheroes have become something more than heroes. Irwin also writes that “superheroes are complex characters and have become the mythology of our time (literally, in the case of Thor!).”  Understood in that light, people can sometime make functional gods out of superheroes and have a cult like following of a comic series. Their identity is in comics rather than in Christ, and that must not be, especially for the Christian.
- Those who have children must understand that not everything that is in drawing is good…especially in comics and graphic novels. Christian parents must “pay attention.” Sometimes a graphic novel isn’t necessarily bad, but might not be appropriate for that age, like how certain classics has its place but might be detrimental at the wrong age without discussion and guidance.
- Reading comic books and seeing people talking about them and enjoying them reveals that people…are drawn to stories. I don’t want to get all Post-modern, but people need narratives. Every time I read a good story or graphic novel I come back to the Greatest Story Ever Told and marvel a little more of the Bible’s use of literary device and narrative.
More can be said but that will do for now. Also don’t miss my earlier post “Christian Worldview Discernment with Comics/Graphic Novels.”