The pleasure of reading a story and wondering what will come next for the hero is a pleasure that has lasted for centuries and, I think, will always be with us. -Stan Lee
This world we live in is broken. Each day, the news reports another school shooting, suicide bombing, or a child molester who has been harming children years and no one knew about it. The social media platforms which were meant to bring us together are tearing us apart. For many, homes are not a place of refuge, they are a prison.
If this is the world we live in, how are we supposed to survive? How do we have the strength to pursue something better? How can we have hope in a time where hope is lacking?
The answer is ideals. These ideals are things we can look to and find hope. Many people find hope through religion. They believe their god(s) made them for a purpose and have a plan for things. For others, science is their hope. Defining the structure for the universe is calming. If one can describe how an atom interacts with matter and the shape of the universe, then the uncertainty of life subsides. Our questions are answered and we are not left wondering anymore.
Religion and science are great, but they often are not enough. What do we do when we walk into seasons of life which can only be described by this quote from Dante’s Inferno? “Through me you pass into the city of woe: Through me you pass into eternal pain: …Eternal, and eternal I endure. All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”
We look to our heroes.
Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul I swear: Until my dream of a world where dignity, honor, and justice becomes the reality we all share, I will never stop fighting. Ever. -Superman, Action Comics #775
There have been many times in my life where I have been discouraged. Actually, I just exited a phase of life where all hope left me. Things were not going as I planned, and I suffered a number of personal setbacks. I lacked the courage to continue at times. But, living is not for the weak. You have to keep going, even when times are tough. We must have the grit to continue.
Angela Duckworth, a MacArthur “genius” grant winner, researcher, and author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, defines grit as “a combination of passion and perseverance for a singularly important goal.” When times are tough, one must have the grit to endure all that comes our way.
One of my favorite analogies about grit is: “going the distance.” A twelve round boxing match lasts around an hour. “Going the distance” means one fought all twelve rounds, and even though he/she lost, they finished the match. The best example of one “going the distance” is Rocky Balboa in Rocky. Although he lost to Apollo Creed, he stood toe to toe with the champion for all twelve rounds. The crowd cheered for him because he hung in there. He had the grit to keep going.
The future is worth it. All the pain. All the tears. The future is worth the fight. -Martian Manhunter, Martian Manhunter Vol 2 #1,000,000
So, where does one get this grit? Well, that is an interesting question and one Angela Duckworth can better answer. I will say this, we can get grit from our heroes. And where else are great examples of heroes than comics?
Comic book heroes are incredibly courageous. They lay their lives down for others despite the consequences. They are the best of us; the potential of what we could be. The best thing about comics is that they are relatable. For those who have lost their parents, they can turn to Batman. For those who feel like aliens, they can turn to Superman. For those who lack courage, they can turn to Wonder Woman. Jessica Cruz allows those who struggle with anxiety to find hope. Barbara Gordon was shot by the Joker and made paralyzed from the waist down. Daredevil was rendered blind as a kid.
There are even other heroes and comics who are not so mainstream. In Jeremy Whitley’s Unstoppable Wasp (Marvel), the protagonist is a teenage girl who is struggling with being bipolar. When Carol Danvers (She is currently Captain Marvel in Marvel Comics.) was Ms. Marvel, she was raped. If one reads DC’s Identity Crisis, there are many awful things that happen in this story: Dr. Light raped Sue Dibny (wife of the Elongated Man) and some members of the Justice League covered this up, Sue Dibny was murdered by the Atom’s ex-wife, and Tim Drake’s father was murdered.
For those who are survivors of child sexual assault, there is a comic book by Dean Trippe called Something Terrible. He details his struggles and how superheroes gave him hope.
For those who have abusive parents, comics might be the only way to escape their hellish homes.
I have no idea where I am going to be tomorrow, but I accept the fact that tomorrow will come. And, I am going to rise to meet it. -Donna Troy, Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day #1
Comics are not meant just for the big screen or to be collected and displayed on shelves, comics are meant to inspire us to keep going on. We can find stories of our heroes struggling with the same things we are. We can be inspired by their grit. We can find refuge in their strength. We can let go of our struggles and be lost in the miraculous and the fantastical. They give us the courage to stand back up when life knocks us down.
This is why comics matter: they give hope to the hopeless and grit to those who just want to give up.
For men must never feel a cause is hopeless– men must never feel an enemy cannot be beaten! -Stan Lee