iFanboy Video Podcast

iFanboy #60 – Why Do We Love Superheroes?

Show Notes

Over the past year, iFanboy has explored many topics when it comes to comic books, and while we’ve discussed a lot of superhero comics, we’ve never actually explored the idea of superheroes.

What is a superhero and what makes them so darn fun to read about?

Find out why Conor is drawn to street level heroes like Batman and Nightwing, why Ron loves the X-Men and why Josh likes blond guys with bows and arrows.


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  1. Erm, maybe I misunderstood, but I wouldn’t consider Constintine a superhero. He meets superheroes, but on his own usual terms, if he’s a superhero than the X-Files characters are, and they’re not. It’s mostly science-fiction and horror.

    Sometimes it feels that Daredevil and Captain America *almost* aren’t super-heroes because of how their stories have an emphasized crime noir or poltical feel. So I think we have to factor in how the framing of the stories can affect whether we perceive the characters as superheroes or not. Superman could have been done as a straight science fiction story if the creators just played down the costume and only showed "superheroic" acts very sparingly.

    This discussion is interesting, though, and it’s always neat to discuss where the boundaries of the genre lie. In my opinion Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing wasn’t a superhero…

    Gordon’s interlude was fantastic. Before we saw him, with that opening monologue I thought he was going to do a parody of the pretentious "Obsession for men" Calvin Klein commercials from the ’90s!

  2. nice shirt ron 🙂

  3. I think the Green Lanterns are great super heros that I find relatable. Something about working hard, overcoming great fear, and then be rewarded with induction into the greatest crime figting force in the universe is awesome. Also the idea that Green Lanterns are patrolling the universe and keeping an eye on things is a nice thought.



    Josh, I think i had the same Superman pajamas and my mom made me take off the velcro cape for the same reason! 

  4. Is it me or does Ron look a little more tan. He looks much healthier. I’d still suggest a make over for Ron. I don’t know if you have a girlfriend, and take this with a grain of salt: Shave the fuckin’ awful mutton-chops. It’s not funny and they’re disgusting. Maybe if you were a hundred pounds heavier and worked as an Elvis impersonator they’d be cool… but Logan Sidburns are disgusting… and shave that horse hair off your chin. You’re not an ugly dude so why are you making yourself less attractive. Yuck. Just being honest. Always love the shows.

  5. @electricyoda – Who asked for your opinion? Ron’s look works for him. 

    Go watch the relationship show.  All the iFanboys have/had girl friends and all the ladies on the show were total hotties.

  6. @Brandon2
    I’m not meaning to be "crasshole" (crass asshole) about Ron’s yucky gay mutton chops but if you had some huge penis hanging off the side of your head you’d want a Bro to be honest with you and have you remove it, right? I’m sure his goyle-friend/wifey is at him all the time to shave ’em off.

    I’m just trying to be a good Bro to my iFanboy brothers. Shave dem shits off. They’re gross as fuck. My opinion of course. Maybe they should do a "shave the burns" special. Woot! Motha-fizukaz. Just bustin’ balls. Don’t take everything so seriously.

  7. Given the superhero’s origins steeped in the pulps, and certainly early superhero tales, the moral code (re: killing) is irrelevant to defining a superhero.

    I think the idea of "super powers" seems to be a subject of confusion too.
    Batman, the most prominent example of someone without "powers", far exceeds the abilities of mortal man. Which is the point of superpowers. Becoming dangerously self-referencial, something I’ve tried to explore in some of my own comics work has been the idea of money/freedom as a super power. Something more people can’t aspire to.

    I think it’s just that ability to exceed human capability – on a repeated instance – is the key to a superhero. Code, isignia, enemies… All incidental staples of the genre.

    Punisher’s totally a superhero!
    Mows down criminals, evades long-standing detention, plants diving gear all around New York without having it stole. THOSE are superpowers!

  8. @electricyoda – Your iFan-Bros don’t give a shit about what you think of sideburns.  And you can’t expect to say somebody’s burns are "disgusting" and not have people call you on being an out-of-off-line "crasshole."

    I regularly disagree with the big three iFanboys and I let it be known on the boards.  But you’re going of topic to insult a man’s personal style. Which is uncalled for and potentially dangerous.

    How would you feel if Ron only kept his burns that long to hide some sort of hideous deformity?

  9. Great show as always, guys! I swear one day I’m gonna have a a coronary from laughing too hard at Gordon’s little sections. Dude, those promos slayed me this week!

    I was always a Batman guy from as far back as I can remember, and for similar reasons that Conor said; as a little kid you kind of think ‘well, I’ll never be able to fly but yeah, I could do what Batman does’. Same kind of reason why I used to run around the house pretending to be Indiana Jones (I spent hours re-enacting Temple Of Doom with my dad’s belt as a whip and his ill-fitting fedora!). They’re just regular guys with incredible skills who go on amazing adventures.

    Ron, as far as I’m concerned you look great (yep, I’m comfortable enough to say that to another dude), especially in that awesome t-shirt. And nice to see Josh still rockin’ the beard!

  10. No fightin!

    Brandon, thanks very much for the defense, but let’s just stick to talking about comics, and we’ll handle the slings and arrows of public approval.  

    Yoda, at least you like the show, and that’s what important to us.  We’ve got thick skins.

  11. @Josh – Ahmen!

    Now that I have that out of the way I must say Hal Jordan Green Lantern.  Why do I love Hal, because he was a hero before putting on the ring.  I know this gets said a lot but it’s one of the reasons I like him so much.

    I would easily read a comic about him flying in the air force as well because unlike a lot of heroes I don’t feel he has an "alter ego" he feels like he’s Hal all the time.  Also Hal is the only guy that can stand up to Batman, which has always been cool in my book.  I love Batman too but it gets tiring when everyone is afraid of him for some reason or another.  As it was put in Rebirth, how do you scare a guy who has no fear?

    Even though I said I would read a book with Hal even if he wasn’t reading the ring, him being in space does play a big part as well.  It goes to the childhood fantasy that everyone has at one point of wanting to be a astronaut.  I think it would be cool to go to new worlds and meet new species.  This guy gets to do it all.

    Lastly the reason I think Hal is so fantastic is Sinestro.  He has a villain that was his mentor and best friend.  I love what Johns has done with this as well.  He makes it feel like they are still friends with each other and that they do respect each other.  Any hero that can show respect for his greatest enemy I think is awesome.

    Lastly I feel so bad for Gordon in this episode.  I mean he had to hide in a bathroom!  Look what you guys have done to him. 

  12. @jstump – thanks for the empathy.  I will say that setting up and shooting the bathroom took the promo to a whole new level of creepy for me.  But I’ll do whatever it takes to keep it funny.

  13. electricyoda?! are you going to take that?

     brandon said the iFan-bro don’t give a shit what you say. Stick it to him dude. C’mon man DO IT!

  14. Great show. Looks like I was wrong about what which iFantom still had the beard.

  15. "How would you feel if Ron only kept his burns that long to hide some sort of hideous deformity?"

    Humans yes! Mutants no!

  16. I totaly agree that Superman Batman and Spider-man are the three iconic superheros. I was also thinking isnt it a little weird that the top 3 superheros are orphans? Just a thought.

  17. @bakerskater – Interesting observation there…

  18. Yeah because it would seem that comic readers love to read about people with shitty lives and good morals, and honestly whats shittier than being an orphan?

  19. Somewhere I read that Walt Disney never gave parents or children to any of his characters, only uncles and nephews. This was to mantain the timelessness of the characters and free them from the strenght of the father figure strength of the father figure.

    Maybe the same applies here, I don´t know. I just  Know Duckburg is a weird society.

  20. Making a character an orphan automatically makes their backstory more interesting to some extent.  There are quite a few orphans or even characters with only one parent in comics.  Quickly off the top of my head I can come up with Rogue, Cyclops and Havok (originally), Darkhawk (father killed), Jolt (Thunderbolts), Daredevil, Tony Stark as a young man looses his parents in a car accident.  That’s just a quick and dirty scan of my brain.

    There’s probably a Women In Refrigerators-like website somewhere in this… though less politically charged.  I wonder what orphans might make of this.

    Personally, I always liked reading about the Silver Surfer when I was young.  Here’s this guy who saves his people by giving up everything there is to be one of his people.  But he got to ride the space ways on a silver board.

  21. I had the same pajamas, I used to jump down the second flight of stairs in my house when I was a kid.
     My mom took away my cape after that.



  22. @bakerskater  I know I’ve mentioned this before on the boards at Revision3, but it’s no coincidence that the three most famous superheroes are orphans.  It’s part of the heroic cycle that Joseph Campbell wrote about for years.  In fact, it was in doing research for teaching The Odyssey to high school kids that I read Campbell’s stuff, got really interested in the connections he made to heroes like Superman and Luke Skywalker, and started reading comics in the first place.

    Ron, Josh, Conor — you guys seriously need to read Joseph Campbell’s stuff about heroes.  It’s mind-blowing.

    Another great show.  Can’t wait to listen to the audio podcast on the way to work tomorrow!

  23. Reltib wrote (on the subject of orphans): Cyclops and Havok (originally)

    Reading that and knowing exactly what you meant is just the kind of thing that makes me proud to be an X-men fan.

    Should there be an orphans-with-an-asterisk category for "heroes who need a PhD to keep track of their own repeatedly-retconned family history?

    Havok: But I thought we were related to him.

    Cyclops: Not THIS week. 

  24. hey Josh


    does the beard mean you’re not carded at bars anymore? 

  25. It probably makes it more likely that I will be.  The door guys are sniffin’ for glue…

  26. great show! had some thoughts.

     one thing you didn’t mention was the whole secret identity metaphor- "i might look like a nerd, but if you only knew. there’s so much inside of me that no one sees." spiderman probably does this best. 

     also, wolverine is one of the best ‘passionate heroes’. everything he does is 100% full of emotion, nothing detached or calculating about it. superman doesn’t enjoy beating people up.

  27. Really enjoyed the show. Very thoughtful and interesting.

    As a teenager, I really liked Wolverine – particularly reading the Miller miniseries. I always liked that despite all his strength & powers, the one thing he can’t seem to master is … himself.  I loved that take on him – the slightly tortured guy who wants to be more than he is. Plus, he had major anger management issues and most teenage guys can relate to that.

    I also loved Daredevil because he turned his greatest liability into his greatest strength – what could be more heroic than that? Also, he hooked up with all the best superhero chicks and most teenage guys would like to be able to relate to that.

     Lastly – Batman – for all the reasons Connor said – "If I work out REAAAALLLLY hard everyday, maybe I could be that tough" – until you discover girls, junk food and beer and lose focus 😉

  28. This is a great show.  The idea of a heroe really goes back to Joseph Cambell’s Hero of a 1000 faces.  The idea of a mythology for the heroes.  Someone earlier mentioned the top three heroes were orphans, and that plays into what Campell was talking about.

    I think classic heroe stories goes back to Greek and Roman times when they had their own heroes, the Gods, who did fantastic things and mingled with mortals. And I’m sure these themes and legends goes back even further.

    This theme has permeated throughout history, and has congealed in our mass media culture as superheroes.  They have a inkiling to the mythology of the past, and constantly look toward the future to make them longlasting and great.

    The wish fulfillment is a valid idea, as well as the thought that these stories not only contain that stuff, but, also contain some really great moral stories and hell, just good stories altogether. 

    Just my thought.


  29. Angels might be regarded as heroes but not necessarily the biblical clerk like kind, but the one people have created in their minds like guardian angels.

    When kids died easily from diseases etc. There is a giant heart and sadness to that kind of angels that heroes might have – the mythology ones are more towards the sex, big muscles, irresponsible type of hero – showing off one’s power.

    Guardian angels are more sad since they are created to guard kids mainly which is something parents can’t do all the time, and that idea has a great sadness and beauty and a fear of mortality. A hero that resembles that would be really interesting – not just stopping bank robbers, but wandering the earth and dealing with the great depression people seem to have.

    A world where kids commit suicide is a  broken world, and a real hero would have to wander the earth in anonymity most of his life, without stupid costumes but with maybe some feature/s people will remember (maybe just a beard and a hat – doesn’t have to be tights and a cape) and talk to people and make people happier and right the wrongs in this world. That hero will need to sustain a lot of mental pain and keep going despite it and putting himself or herself in the line to save others.

    That hero might not be pretty or attractive, he might lose his mind from all the pain and everything he or she saw and experienced, and fight to return to normal and to return to wandering the earth helping people in anonymity. That might be just giving someone a roof and a hot meal and someone to talk to, or helping someone move or fixing someone’ sink since they can’t pay for a professional.

    The mythology is too much Superman and not enough the simple man/woman.

  30. It’s not only uncanny but rather scary how this episode was spot on to the mentality that people aspire to be like heroes, at least from an early age. The truth of the matter is, the iconic figure of a super hero holds an influence over the appeal of many people, always for various reasons. This truth supplements the tastes towards superhero comics which impulses us to purchase more comics, because of this super hero comics are by far the largest gate way comics to others and that is why it dominates the comic industry. It’s really consumerism in action when you think about it. For example: When people demand more detective comics there will be a surplus in detective comics.

     Anyways I hope that was helpful jumping off point for further discussion even though this post is long over due.

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