Marvel Comics and the creators behind these legendary characters that populate their universe did an amazing job crafting fantastic heroes that are somehow still relatable. Stan Lee, Archie Goodwin, John Byrne, David Michelinie and countless other authors found a way for me to relate to this character that should otherwise not work. What was the quote from the Avengers movie? Without the suit of armor, Tony Stark is still a “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” four things that, despite how wise I may think I am, I'm about as far from being as possible.
So, what was it that at such a young age I was able to relate to? A large part of it was that I had no idea what was really going on in these issues aside from the action. The other factor was that I envied Tony Stark's ability to overcome his setbacks, but also turn those setbacks into an advantage; all the while being a an 'ordinary' human, well as ordinary as a comic superhero could be.
It's those similar qualities that I look up to Batman as well. His career as a hero very similarly mimics that of Iron Man. These two beyond human, yet still human, heroes give readers the understanding that we can accomplish so much more than what's already before us; and the tragedy of the Stark's and Wayne's shows us we can overcome any tragedy that befalls us. Whether it's a personal injury or a death in the family we learn that nothing can hold us back if we dedicate what resources we have at our hands, even if we don't have multi-billion dollar international corporations at our disposal. We need to learn to rely on ourselves at times of crisis.
At the time of his creation Iron Man used transistors in his armor which were the height of technology. In his first issue, Batman used a grappling hook to get around. As the world advanced technologically so have these characters, ushering the advancement of other heroes in their worlds as well. The gadgets Iron Man has used both in his comics as well as in his blockbuster movies are on the trend of where our real world applications are heading. The first time I remember seeing a portable computer was in an issue of Batman, and although it wasn't called a tablet it's easy to imagine the developers of the tech that has taken over our lives, this 2-in-1 laptop/tablet combo I'm writing this on for instance, were inspired by the fictional adventures of characters like Iron Man and Batman.
Just as the technology within comic worlds evolve, so do the characters and creators along with them. The biggest factor that has contributed to the longevity of this medium filled with masks, tights, and capes is that the people behind the pages refuse to limit themselves or their imaginations. If the public feels Superman has gotten stale and too predictable, kill him. Sure, he was brought back no too long after, but there isn't a person alive that considers themselves a comic fan that doesn't have the black bagged death of Superman issue. Readers that grew up with Peter Parker from the day he was bit by a radio active spider, began to feel that while their lives moved on, the hero they loved hadn't. What does Marvel do? Amazing Spider-Man Giant Sized Annual #21, the marriage of Spider-Man and his long time love interest Mary-Jane Watson. This issue came at a time when many of the readers that followed Spider-Man as kids were now getting married themselves. Again, similar to Superman coming back to life, the Spider-Marriage was wiped from history several years ago.
This all goes to show that while constantly evolving to updating characters to better fit the times, as well as the technology we read today's comics with, simultaneously things stay the same. Dick Grayson, Otto Octavious, James Rhodes, John Walker (the character not the whiskey), John Stewart (the marine not the comedian), Carol Danvers, Wally West or Eric Masterson; all of these characters took over the mantle of an established hero in an effort to evolve the character, some with a substantial career and fan-base of their own (Wally for Flash, anyone?). Although each of these stars relinquished the title to the original person behind the mask (soon in the case of Otto as Spider-Man) they each went on to carry their own long lasting careers.
Whether you prefer Eric Masterson as Thor or Thunderstirke, or if your Green Lantern is Hal Jordan, Guy Gardener, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, or Simon Baz comics have something for everyone. Both young and old, new reader, lapsed fan, or devoted weekly shopper, male or female, straight, gay, bi, or unsure, there is a comic out there for you. Hollywood and TV knows this and as long as this remains true, we'll all have more comics than we can handle, but just maybe not as much as we want.
Whether you read the funny pages or watch them in the theaters, always remember to enjoy it and come back for more.