Superhero Lit: Writer Cindy Grigg on Why Larger Than Life Heroes, Antiheroes, and Villains Are Essential


We know superheroes are entertaining, but here’s why they’re essential!

Whether somewhat believable like Nyoka the Jungle Girl or more extreme like Wonder Woman, superheroes help us push the boundaries of the ordinary with the extraordinary.

I define a superhero as any character with larger than life abilities or traits.

I define superhero literature as works containing an inner view of a character with above-average abilities or traits.

Admittedly, that’s pretty broad. That means it could be fictional. It could also be non-fictional, such as the biography of an incredible sports figure or a cultural / religious tradition a person holds as non-fictional, such as scripture stories.

This type of literature is so important for all ages of readers. For example, anyone living in Gotham knew why Batman is important to their society, though perhaps wary at first. He kept the peace! He saved lives and got rid of bad by restoring good!

But for readers, I say superhero characters such as Batman go beyond entertaining–they’re essential!  Batman as an archetype is perhaps even more potent than if we ourselves were only rescued by him because, rendered in works of fiction, his character becomes an empowering symbol for whatever Gotham we’re facing.

This wouldn’t be possible without a view of the inner panorama or back history–the struggle, the inner tickings, the romances, the conflicts, the decisions, the actions, and the emotions. Even in delightful but somewhat superficial comic book renderings, the reader has the bird’s eye view.

Hence, the enduring popularity of superhero lit: it’s empowering and relevant, not just entertaining.

For a writer, being able to marry the action and mystique with a very human inner character can be an interesting quest. Same goes for creating horrifying yet relatable super-antiheroes and super-villains!

But it’s worth the effort. While ordinary things are important as well, we also have a need for the amazing and fantastical. I tend to roll my eyes when people try to make one or the other a more benevolent appetite.

I think having that balance between the ordinary and the extraordinary is one of the superhero abilities of kids and some adults. Our lives expand if we can be enthralled with things we find commonplace or small as well as readily accepting of the possibilities presented by Wonder Woman and Spider Man!

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