I saw the new X-men movie (X-men first class) about a week ago and loved it. I’ve been a huge x-men fan for a long time now, ever since the second movie came out and my mom took me to see it in theaters. I was hooked. I went home, watched the first one, returned to the theater to watch X2 again, then went to barns and noble and started on my large collection of graphic novels (collections of bound comic books). What can I say? There’s just something about teenagers with flawed and dangerous super powers that attracts me.
For those of you who are not comic book fans, and scoff at the idea that they have any value beyond pure entertainment, I’d ask you to reconsider. Take Spiderman, for example. The story of the web-slinging teenager is a classic heroic tale, yet it is filled with life lessons and societal morals. The champion of good overcomes much peril in the form of physical enemies as well as his own self-doubt and insecurities. In Amazing Spiderman # 36 he contributes by helping NYC with the aftermath of the all too real terrorist attack of September eleventh. In the Ultimate series, there is a greater focus on his home life, on his struggle to maintain his ‘normal’ teenage life, including relationships, school, and work, while still making a difference. He has to determine when to make sacrifices and when sacrificing goes to far. For, as the classic quote goes, "With great power comes great responsibility."
The X-men have always been my favorite super hero team, because, unlike Spiderman, Superman, and Batman, they aren’t trying to be heroes, but trying to overcome real life struggles. As many of them are teens, they’re trying to find their place in the world, learning the balance between blending in and standing out. In a world where mutants are seen as less than human, they are all faced with prejudice at one time or another, choosing to cope how they see fit. Some want to blend in to society, while some want to stand out. The balance between changing who you are to fit in, and staying true to yourself when the world seems against you, is something many teens struggle with today, whether it be because of race, gender, religion, sexual preference, appearance, interests, and many more subtleties most people wouldn’t think would make a difference. Everyone has to grow up and find their place in the world, deciding who they are and what they stand for—super heroes and real life readers alike.
So, then comes the question “Well, if you want to read about real world problems, why not read mainstream fiction? Why all the super powers?” There are many answers to that. It all comes down to personal preference, really. I’d rather read about a mutant who needs to learn to control their anger because they could accidently kill someone if they didn’t, than an ordinary girl like me who could get grounded. Realistic problems can hit too close to home. Comic books, as well as all works of sci-fi and fantasy, give us the illusion of an escape from the real world by showing it to us in a different way, allowing us to break down the defensive walls we put in place and look at human nature and ourselves from an artificial distance.