So very often, comic book fans will describe their favorite medium as an escape from reality. The pressures and darker aspects of everyday life can be hard to cope with, and hobbies exist to help us relax, escape, or draw inspiration from the material.
But comic books serve as more than just that escape: hard lessons are learned by some of our favorite protagonists, and their experiences can influence us heavily in real life.
Most comic book fans can name a character that they look up to fairly easily, because these characters often go through and overcome experiences or feelings that readers can relate to. It's hard not to admit that you look up to at least one or two fictional characters, and there are plenty of greats to pull inspiration from - here are just a few that have inspired me personally.
This star spangled hero has one through a few questionable story arcs (I'm all about Secret Wars because of this), but the all-around good guy personality of Captain America reaches far beyond the basic boy scout patriot that he is on the outside. With an extremely complex variety of relationships, Captain America is a compassionate, selfless hero who goes out of his way to understand the trials of people who are not like he is.
To me, Captain America is what we as a people should aim to be: Kind, compassionate, brave, and just. Captain America believes in every single person, no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they're from: they're all the same and they're all to be protected from danger on his watch. Steve is honest, thoughtful, and most importantly, he cares about the little guy. We could learn a thing or two about being kind from Cap.
One of my favorite things about Wonder Woman is that she sincerely cares about bettering the lives of others through empowerment. No matter who you are, Wonder Woman wants you to feel strong. In more shorts and comics than I can count on my two hands, Wonder Woman has knelt down beside a child in need, or told a little girl that she's just as good as the boys. When she faces adversity, she actively tries to reason with her opponent (but, of course, when they pursue, she smacks them down good).
Wonder Woman may be an alien and have some more brutal morals than the rest of us, but when she looks at humanity, she sees strength that hasn't been attained yet, both personal and physical. Wonder Woman's hope if to show us that we can be strong in our own way, using what we've naturally been blessed with as our weapon.
A fairly new character to the DC Universe, Virtue - aka Holly Ann Fields, from The Movement - is almost perfectly defined by the name of her superheroine persona. Holly believes in good and justice, and her powers are built almost entirely on empathy. Virtue is able to use the emotions of other people around her to harness and create various forms of blast-based attacks, but more than that, Virtue is an incredible leader. Inspired by a dream where her team fought alongside the Justice League, Virtue is the perfect combination of every quality that makes the JLA memorable.
Virtue's empathy can be a heavy weight upon her shoulders, but her ability to set that aside and care for not only her team mates, but the civilians they save, is what makes her stand out above other superheroes who have had more than enough bumps along the road. Virtue is determined and unstoppable in the face of adversity, and keeps the coolest head in comics when things get tough.
Xavier had to learn a bunch of very, very hard lessons before (and after) he really got the School for Gifted Youngsters off the ground. The character's long history has seen him face not only moral and super conflicts, but as one of the first paraplegic characters in comics, Professor X brought light and hope to an entire audience that hadn't been given a lot of attention before. His disabilities rarely hinder him, and when they do, he doesn't give up.
He's one of the top ten most intelligent fictional characters in comics, according to BusinessWeek, but he is far from a perfect person. Despite his pitfalls, Xavier is a prime example of a character continuously overcoming the odds and showing the world that disabilities can not hold a determined heart back.
Fierce, humongous, and at first a little daunting, Groot is actually a compassionate soul and easily the most open about how he feels, despite being the least "wordy" member of his team. Groot's beginnings saw him as a terrifying conqueror, on a mission to capture humans for experimentation, but he was reintroduced in 2006 as a changed tree and quickly became the most underground fan favorite character on the Marvel roster.
With the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, Groot frenzy gripped most comic book fan sites and social media, selling mountains of merchandise within months. Audiences adored the dangerous, yet gentle alien, and it's shown: he's officially getting his own standalone comic series (the first for any tree, I believe) and continues to occupy the shelf space of many geeks in figurine form.
Groot's happiness derives from the happiness of those around him; his interactions with others are always gentle and quiet, yet powerful. He will go out of his way to help anyone in need, and sacrifice himself if he must.
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