“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (Yoda, Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, George Lucas, Writer and Director)
The dawn of the second half of The Silver Age of Comics (the early to mid 60’s), Marvel Comics joined the fray and created a new archetype of the Super Hero: Flawed heroes with realistic problems! The heroes of the Marvel Universe were not overly confident, boy scout archetypal heroes of yore, with weaknesses such as Kryptonite, Running out of energy on your ring etc, They were dealing with heavier issues, often used against them by villains, or even by the ones they love and trust.
Spider-Man’s Peter Parker had to juggle helping out his Aunt Mae with every day tasks she was too feeble to perform on her own, take a job to pay the mortgage on her home and buy food, maintain his High School Grades and Date the popular, hot girls in school, all the while, being tasked with Saving New York City from every menace 1950’s B Movie Sci-Fi Horrors that passed off for Super Villains at that time. Even a man with all the powers of a 5’6, 150 pound Spider would have issues with.
Unlike the Justice League of America (JLA) in DC comics who were all best friends(until future Retcons*), Marvel Super Hero Teams more often than not squabbled over the littlest things. The Fantastic Four were like a bickering dysfunctional extended family. The Avengers straight up hated each other for obvious reasons. Iron Man was hated by the counter-culture despite being a hero as his alter ego, Tony Stark, was a military industrialist. The X-Men were hated for being different and Hunted down by those they helped. The Hulk was chased down by the military for being a monster who is only trying to coexist, while trying to find a cure, and is at odds with his Alter Ego, Bruce Banner. Thor, A god trying to be Human and often times, failing miserably.
However, In Spite of all of this, they remain to be heroes. Villains, on the other hand, were to have tragic pasts, choosing wrong paths on the forks of destiny for all the RIGHT reasons in some cases. Super Villains often wanted to make the world a better place, but would do so with Nazi like zeal, or simply become corrupt like Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde or would just become to drunk with so much power and so much darkness that they become the very thing they would rather fight against. They would often bully the Super Heroes and those they loved by putting them through severe moral dilemma’s. Spider-Man, might have to choose between keeping his relationship, saving his Aunt or saving New York all too often. Many times he was able to do all three, but more often than not, he had to make tough decisions, some of which haunt him long into the Bronze Age (the 70’s-80’s and even into the Dark Age(the 90’s to Now).
Many of the biggest and worst threats to humanity and to Super Heroes in the last part of the Silver Age (the mid to late 60’s) weren’t by outright Villains at all, but by forces of nature, simply doing what they do. Galactus simply get’s hungry and eats worlds but is neither heroic nor is he malicious in his intent. He is just a God Like figure of immense proportions on a ridiculously galactic scale. The Living Island Just wanted to be left alone, but also, like Galactus, needed to feed. They would lash out innocently enough to do what they needed to do, and then the Heroes would have to intervene regardless of the insurmountable odds.
Next Article, I will examine the Bronze Age of Comics and how society would perceive Super Heroes if they really existed, and real people would react to instantly having Super Powers.
(*Retcon=Retroactive Continuity, a plot device to go back even further into a characters past or origin, to establish new relationships with other characters, and or to explain how a character may have been brought back from otherwise uncorrectable events in present continuity)