You either die a hero...
Do you remember that quote from The Dark Knight "You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain"? It encapsulates the entire faith of a hero.
The quote is based on the theory of the Monomyth proposed by Joseph Campbell, specifically studied in his book "The Hero with a Thousand Faces". In the book, Campbell explains all the phases and challenges that a hero should face and accept to become one. It also analyzes the mythology of the hero as a universal story-telling structure interpreted differently depending on the culture and the purpose of the story. From ancient mythology to religion, classic literature and actual comic books, whether it describes the victory or fatal faith of a hero, the theory is a constant.
The Hero's Journey
Moses, Neo, Superman, Luke Skywalker, Bruce Wayne, Simba, names that popular culture recognizes and accepts as heroes because of the nature of their origin and journey. The Hero's Journey is a concept created by Campbell in which he explains the stages a hero should face becoming one.
The Calling (Initiation) + The Road of Trials (Challenges) + The Return (Achievement of Knowledge) = Hero
The hero is an ordinary guy* like you and me, who receives a calling to walk into a non-ordinary world of great and 'unnatural' powers and adventures. If the hero accepts, he (or she) must face challenges by himself or sometimes with the help of others (like Luke Skywalker who is assisted by Obi-Wan at first and then many more join him as he walks through his venture). The hero must survive to all of these challenges, and if he does, he may achieve a great gift, which often results in the discovery of important self-knowledge represented as an inner change or power. Then he or she must decide whether to return with the ordinary world, often facing challenges on the journey back. Only, if the hero succeeds, may improve the world saving it or making it a better place.
Not every story contains all of the stages, some have a few or only one, but all the heroes are familiar with this journey.
*Heroine's Journey: Joseph Campbell was criticized for focusing on the masculine journey, but he cleared on time that "much of the mythic story-telling of the world are from the male point of view". In 2010, Valerie Estelle Frankel published the book From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine's Journey through Myth and Legend which is considered by the author the steps of the female hero's journey.
One Hero, a thousand realities
There are many examples of the Monomyth in classic mythology like Jesus, Moses and Buddha. In the modern popular culture, we can find that Luke Skywalker (and the entire Star Wars Saga), Batman and Harry Potter are few of the examples with the Monomyth within.
The Monomyth and POP culture
The theory of Campbell has influenced many artists in their work, George Lucas has used the monomyth entirely in the Star Wars saga, there is a documentary called "Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth" where this is discussed. Arthur C. Clarke used some aspects of the theory to write 2001: A Space Odyssey; J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter follow closely the structure. Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer followed the same formula in Man of Steel, if you compare it with The Lion King it is the same story, yet both don't differ that much from the story of Jesus.
I found the documentary in YouTube, if you are interested in watching it:
Influence in your world
Mythology has always been part of the history of humanity. Ancient greeks built their Theogony in stories of epic gods and heroes like Odysseus. Modern religions haven't changed that much. Society builds their own heroes through time to give a message, a word of caution or wisdom. Fictional heroes and superheroes are doing the same now, comic books, literature, movies, the Monomyth is present in many of these creations. There is a resonance of the history of the world in all the creations that are intriguing and interesting to us. These stories become epic, like the tales of ancient gods and goddesses.
A great piece of knowledge
The hero's Journey is a long and confusing one but always challenging and entertaining. There are lots of more symbols and arguments in this theory. You can learn a lot more in "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell. Whether you want to know what is going to happen with Luke Skywalker in the next Star Wars episode, analyze the history of the world through mythology, write your own superhero saga or become your own hero, this book is a great piece of knowledge.
Are you ready to take the Journey?