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Off My Mind: Does There Have to be Great Responsibility with Great Power?

When heroes gain powers and abilities, are they really required to be a superhero?

Everyone knows the tragic tale of young Peter Parker. He was a brainy high school student that lost his parents at a young age and was bullied at school. Gaining amazing abilities through a freak accident, he found himself with the power to do things he never dreamed of. Starting a life as a performer and looking out for only himself, he failed to do the heroic thing and stop a thief. This thief would later kill his Uncle Ben and Peter would live by Ben's words or wisdom, "With great power comes great responsibility."

Since then, as Spider-Man, Peter has pretty much sacrificed his entire life in order to be a superhero. He has superhuman abilities and feels it's his duty to do whatever he can to defeat the evil forces in the world and save the lives of innocents. Is this an obligation he absolutely must follow?

The same can be said for other heroes. Most superheroes give up their personal lives in order to put on flashy costumes and fight supervillains wearing gaudy outfits. Would it be bad if a hero decided to hang up their spandex and try to live a normal life? Could they accomplish other great things if they gave up being a superhero?

== TEASER ==

There's no denying that there has been some big catastrophic events that have occurred in comic book universes that definitely required the aid of the superhero community. It is possible that many could use their abilities, those they had before and after gaining superpowers, for other uses that could help people out.

Peter Parker has a job at Horizon Labs and with his intelligence, he could make huge advancements that could help out mankind. Even during his short time there, he has come up with some incredible devices that have aided him in Spider-Man career and some have been allowed to be used by the lab for the public. If Peter could devote more time to actually using his gifted mind, who knows what other wonders he could come up with. Fighting as Spider-Man, he does save lives but he could easily invent something that could save millions of lives.

Sue Richards never had a chance to really live up to her potential. She became a superhero at a young age and never had the chance to pursue any dreams she might have had. In an alternate universe, we did see Sue as a physician. Using her abilities she could easily see inside a person to discover what injuries or ailments they might have and even used her invisible force fields to set a child's broken bones. She wouldn't be saving the lives of an entire city at one time but she could be doing something she really loved. Would it be selfish for Sue to give up being a hero and pursue a career she's actually interested in?

During Civil War we saw others make a choice. Heroes were required to register their identity and abilities with the government. Some heroes, such as Firestar, decided they would rather give up being a hero instead of being forced to do what the government required. These heroes were able to walk away from their profession (for a little while at least). Jessica Jones gave up being a hero and was a private investigator for a bit. Wolverine gave up being an X-Man to be a pig farmer (sort of).

There is a need for superheroes in comics. There's always a crazy supervillain or intergalactic threat ready to threaten the world. If superheroes weren't around, it could be disastrous for innocent civilians. But there are some heroes that choose to do what they do. They want to be heroes. Others don't seem to have much of a choice. The feeling of obligation can be a strong one.

In the real world, if a person has the ability to be a great athlete but doesn't pursue a career in professional sports, are they doing the wrong thing? If someone has the skills to be a great writer but decides they don't want their work to be published, are they doing the world a disservice?

The world needs heroes but it's not fair to have them live with guilt if they wanted to actually have a life of their own. There are also many different heroes running around. Maybe the solution could be to have stricter measures against supervillains so the war between good and evil can finally be put to rest.

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Posted by Daveyo520

Are you sayin you know better than Uncle Ben, Tony?!

Posted by NightFang

@Daveyo520 said:

Are you sayin you know better than Uncle Ben, Tony?!

I know I do.

Posted by wowylied

There is something i will never understand in the marvel world :

They have reed, mccoy, pym, cho, stark, parker, banner and tchalla and there is still hunger, war, powerty, non-meta and humanity is not the main specie in the univers.

That is why i hate this kind of "brain" character, for me there are more vilain than every vilain in their univers because they are wasting their potential to help mankind.

Posted by slick23

Good read.

Posted by AwesomeAquaman

Do they get paid for a being a hero? How do these guys support themselves? They should be able to pursue their passions if they wanted.

Posted by Deadcool

You don't need a SUPERpower to have a responsibility; all you need is power over the things...

If you are a scientist you have the power to create things, to help people, so your responsibility is help people because you are able to. If you are a singer, you have power to entertain people, so is your responsibility to give them what they want.

That is my favorite phrase in comic books and is because "it goes for everybody".

Posted by EugeneSaxe

Your only responsibility is to not be a douchebag with your powers. If you then wanted to go around and fsck with meth dealers, more power to you.

Posted by leokearon
@AwesomeAquaman said:

Do they get paid for a being a hero? How do these guys support themselves? They should be able to pursue their passions if they wanted.

Before Disassembled the Active Avengers were paid $1000 a week, I'm not sure these days
Edited by JonesDeini

Short answer, no. Not in the least.

@EugeneSaxe said:

Your only responsibility is to not be a douchebag with your powers. If you then wanted to go around and fsck with meth dealers, more power to you.

Bingo, folk. If I want to stop the occasional mugger, cool. If I wanted to have super strength/speed/endurance/etc. and work and live as a regular college student who used these abilities to be a pro athlete, also more power to me.

Posted by ANIM8T3R

well, just believe uncle Ben!!!

Posted by Eyz

Well, if you wouldn't have great responsibility, that means right after getting superpowers, your characters would be killing off everybody in the streets, raping, stealing...wait! That's supervillain motto!

See? No responsibility = supervillains!

Posted by Paracelsus

In the case of those who were born with their powers, ie mutants or those who gained them artificially( FF,Captain America, Spider-Man, Hulk, Daredevil, Iron Man), the issue of "free choice" is questionable- you HAVE powers, the only question is HOW you use them.

In "Giant Size X-Men", Peter Rasputin asks Professor X a pertinent question - "If I possess such power as you say, does it not belong to the state?" "Professor X replies that power such as his is meant to be used for the benefit of not just a nation but humanity at large.

Terry

Posted by AirDave817

Excellent read! Tough call, though. I'm sure if the "crisis" in question were an epidemic of some kind, a hero would solve the crisis. But most crises tend to have a villain or a rogue behind them. So, stop the villain, end the event. Peter could invent something that would benefit mankind; but what kind of story would it be? Peter invents something, it works, problem solved, story ends. Paul Dini and Alex Ross tackled that in an oversized Superman story where he tried to solve famine. His efforts failed. There was a JLA story around the same time about an alien plague in Africa. J'onn J'onzz used his psychic ability to comfort the people affected while the rest of the league found a cure. Ray Palmer and Barry Allen were able to do that. Not that DC heroes are better, just the situations are different. Marvel situations tend to focus on Osborne, Magneto, Dr. Doom, Galactus, Skrulls or the Mole Man or some other villain as a source, rather than a natural occurence. It would be interesting to see Dini and Ross tackle Spider-Man and Avengers as they have DC characters...

Posted by PhoenixoftheTides

Absolutely not; but it's a waste of potential for a being with great power to become a masked vigilante. This is why the best stories, often What If?, graphic novels or miniseries, involve superhumans changing the world for better or worse.

Posted by Superguy0009e

sometimes the best responsibility isn't using your powers

Posted by Stronger

Great power comes only with great responsibility.The powers you get are for some reason.

Thats the difference between good and evil.The one who chooses to be evil gets the power,but not the responsibility and becames arrogant and wants more power.

Posted by Vitality

I don't know. You were off to a good start until you made this comparison..."In the real world, if a person has the ability to be a great athlete but doesn't pursue a career in professional sports, are they doing the wrong thing? If someone has the skills to be a great writer but decides they don't want their work to be published, are they doing the world a disservice?" We're talking about people with power beyond the normal and using said power to save people's lives...and you want to compare that to an athlete and writer who just entertain? WOW

Posted by The_Peter_Cosmic

Yay, I kind of guessed correctly on the facebook teaser. Good article.

Posted by The_Kid_Lantern

I wouldn't focus on saving the world, I'd start by saving my community. Somebody would be dumb if they didn't use their powers to their potential, unless of course the government wanted to hunt them down to figure out where the power came from. If nothing else I'd get behind something I truly believe in and speak out about it [like Cap in his movie being the voice of the US Military in the beginning].

~KL~

Posted by Lurkero

@Eyz said:

Well, if you wouldn't have great responsibility, that means right after getting superpowers, your characters would be killing off everybody in the streets, raping, stealing...wait! That's supervillain motto!

See? No responsibility = supervillains!

Are you assuming the only things a person should do are be a model citizen or model criminal? No one can have superpowers and be relatively normal?

There are degrees of responsibility in the world. It goes beyond savior or sinner.

Posted by jhazzroucher

@Eyz said:

Well, if you wouldn't have great responsibility, that means right after getting superpowers, your characters would be killing off everybody in the streets, raping, stealing...wait! That's supervillain motto!

See? No responsibility = supervillains!

i agree with you.

Posted by SteveRodgers

defiantly yes. when your reckless people die

Posted by RazzaTazz

I think another way to look at it is that actions have consequences and that those consequences have to be dealt with.  if a hero doesn't do what is expected of a hero then it is to to them to live with it.  The fact is though that a lot of people in society wouldn't care.  

Posted by Danial79

Not trying to toot my own horn, but I'm actually a pretty smart guy, and it drives me insane when my family tells me I should be doing more with my life. It's my life dammit. If I don't want to be a rocket scientist, I don't have to be. In a world with superheroes, I imagine there would be some who didn't want to "save the world" and just use their powers as they feel fit in their day-to-day lives.

Posted by SpectrumBlur

Wouldn't the responsibility be to do what you can?  I've always likened choosing to be a superhero to choosing to be in the National Guard, for most characters.  You want to do something for the greater good, but you are still living your own life.  If you look at it that way, with the Avengers or the FF as a version of the Guard, then Peter is living his life, working at Horizon, and then gets called to active duty as Spider-Man as needed.  His solo activities could be viewed as volunteer work.  A similar conversation I had with a friend was how to view DC's Trinity.  If you look at how they are characterized, then Superman responds to crimes or crises like a firefighter or a first responder would.  Batman responds in a similar way to the police.  Wonder Woman reacts as a soldier.  The characters have chosen to take up the responsibility, and then choose how they act upon that responsibility.  But I don't think it's mandatory.  It still comes down to choice.

Posted by Kairan1979

I liked several other options for super-powered people presented in comic books.
1. Search and Rescue division of Damage Control. Locating and saving civilians instead of trading punches with villains.
2. Atom Eve used her powers for aid work in Africa.
3. Jeremy Briggs recruited several of super-powered teens to aid people directly, without masks (too bad they turned Jeremy into villain).

Posted by G-Man

@Danial79: I can feel where you're coming from. I was a high school Math teacher for quite a bit before running this place full time. I do have to say I was good. I even got a teacher of the year award thing in my county. But I gave it all up for Comic Vine. Is it wrong that I'm not teaching Math when I had a natural ability to do it well?

Posted by victoriancuckoo

Comics need to have a superhero go off the rails Lindsay Lohan style, I feel like being a superhero might easily go to your head the way fame does.

Posted by MetropolisKid41

TO answer the question, no, thats why we have super villains! People with great power and no responsibility who take what they want because they can.

Posted by Pokeysteve

If we remove the great power element then we're left with regular people. A fireman that doesn't rush into a burning building. A surgeon that doesn't perform a life saving operation. Having these abilities and not using them isn't irresponsible per say. What separates the heroes from regular everyday citizens is that will to act. Not being able to sit back knowing you can help but not helping. It's pretty simple.

Posted by pspin

If you aren't responsible the Boys will have a visit and that won't end well for you. It comes down to can a hero live with themselves after seeing a disaster they could have stopped but did nothing.

Edited by arcanineryu2

well you have to take into account the society they're living in. i mean the marvel universes are more different form ours than most think. being a superhero or villain is a highly ingrained tradition in that universe. its whats expected of you should you have useful powers. otherwise your highly susceptible to the mutant bias that's so prevalent throughout the marvel universe, even if your not technically a mutant. unless your willing to hide your powers completely, you must face the bias against super humans, making it very hard to get a job, let alone one where your powers would actually be useful.

think about it. if there wasn't such bias, what would magneto be doing? well he'd probably be in charge of a very profitable mining, steel, and building company, using his magnatisim powers to create unique skyscrapers and find untapped veins of ore.

or storm. she could easily be hired for various agriculture projects, creating rain in arid areas or during droughts for farmland.

there are all sorts of useful non-superhero things heroes could be doing. but bias prevents them. and not only bias, but supervillains. how many times have superheroes been brainwashed to work for the villains? or captured and tested on, cloned, blackmailed, used to power weapons, killed "just in case they decide to go against me." and so on. if you have powers, and you let those powers be known, you immediately become a target, no matter how cool or lame your powers might be. you could be a mutant, and your only mutation is that you can turn you hair blue at will, well now you a target for anti mutant groups just because your easy to kill.

and about the "withholding technology that could benefit mankind." well you know who it would benefit first? that's riiiiiight, supervillains. a great deal of the marvelous new tech that Reed Richards and Peter Parker create can be weaponized really easily, so if it were accessible to the public, it would just make it that much easier for villains to get their hands on it, and the heroes would no longer have any advantage when it comes to the new tech. i mean for pete's sake, Norman Osborne was able to weaponize the cure for cancer! THE-CURE-FOR-CANCER! reed isn't being a jerk, he just knows he's too far ahead of the curve and has to wait awhile for people to catch up before releasing his tech, otherwise we may have WW3 on our hands.

Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

See now this is a great article because it looks at the very heart of the matter for why superheroes do what they do. Is it an obligation to have responsibility with power or not? In the end this question is interpreted in the eye of the beholder, and for me, I personally think the only responsibility lies with the metahuman, mutant, or superhuman learning to use his/her powers responsibly. There really is no logical reason why a person with abilities and/or powers beyond those of mortal man should have to invest in a larger responsibility to the world around him/her. Responsibility in the end is just an extension of the human emotional spectrum which is learned over the span of a lifetime. In other words, the super/meta/mutant should only take on responsibility with their powers if they themselves feel they are honor bound to do it. There should be no requirement for civic mindedness and/or duty to be part and parcel of having a superpower...it should be handled if one concludes themselves whether it is the right thing to do. So Superman does act responsibly because thankfully he had a couple of good natured Kansans to teach him right from wrong...otherwise had he been reared and raised on Krypton he would have taken a very dispassionate view of responsibility (my opinion). Batman does what he does because he feels it is necessary to not only right the wrong of Joe Chill having murdered his parents but because deep down I know he doesn't want another child to suffer an injustice like he did that night. All heroes then have their reasons why they fight the good fight, but in the end I believe that is because they came to the conclusion themselves that they had a duty to do so with their powers and/or abilities, not because there was an unwritten rule that with great power comes great responsibility.

Posted by cbishop

I've never understood why more superpowers don't also use their powers for financial gain - there's nothing ignoble about it. In the House of M arc, everyone knew who Parker was, he starred in movies, and was selling his webshooters to police departments as non-lethal weaponry. There was absolutely no reason that couldn't have happened for him when he unmasked during Civil War. The Iron Man movies thrive on the idea that Tony Stark can be public as Iron Man, and still be selling stuff through Stark Industries. What's to stop Hydroman from being a marine bioligist, or something simpler like the guy that uses his powers to water plants at the flower shop? There are plenty of things people with powers could do to make money and live normal lives. However, I do think they should step up to the plate, when their powers can make a difference, as should we all, in real life, step up when we can make a difference.

Posted by HalfShellHero

I don't think it would be too terrible to not be a hero. Everyone is entitled to a normal life, but when called upon, I think it would be selfish to not help at least a little bit. I think the statement "With great powers, come great responsibility" is pretty spot on.

Posted by ThomasElliot

I think there's been TONS of content... fictional comics, books, even movies and TV shows... that have explored this topic to death.

Does every super powered being in comic books need to have responsibility?

Well, does every fairy tale princess have to have a prince?

Conventions of the medium which are, ahem, CONVENTIONAL and at the same time have been busted time and time again. Its not like none of us have never seen the anti-hero or the reluctant hero in some form, so its not a new idea at all.

Sorry, it just seems like this question has been answered many times over and its perplexing me why you would need to ask it again.

Posted by kfhrfdu_89_76k

@HalfShellHero:

I agree.

But, it might be that being a hero isn`t that bad either. I mean, you get to do alot of great stuff. And if you suffer enough, you`ll probably get to spend rest of your life with a would-be-woman or man model, who you love passionately. Even if you have to break up with this person you love (or lose this person), from time to time, because it`s a tradition...

Posted by Sammo21

Another great article. I think that it all depends on the person, but yes I think that if you are given the ability to do something great then you should.

Edited by -Vigil-

Should they patrol for trouble? It's great, but is it morally imperative? No. Should they stop any crimes they see in progress, including big disasters they see on the news in their area? Yes, they should.

Posted by HalfShellHero

@kfhrfdu_89_76k: This is true. Although I think sometimes we, as readers, forget that these heroes are actually in real danger of losing their lives frequently. I mean fighting Asgardian gods and Anti-Matter beings isn't without consequence, but the good guys just rack up more wins than the bad guys

Posted by kfhrfdu_89_76k

@HalfShellHero:

They win, `cause it`s best for the universe, naturally. Besides, the many heroes...ah well. I guess you`re right. But they mostly don`t die, so we don`t really have to worry that much.

Posted by Delphic

@Danial79 said:

Not trying to toot my own horn, but I'm actually a pretty smart guy, and it drives me insane when my family tells me I should be doing more with my life. It's my life dammit. If I don't want to be a rocket scientist, I don't have to be. In a world with superheroes, I imagine there would be some who didn't want to "save the world" and just use their powers as they feel fit in their day-to-day lives.

I can relate to this in a sense. My family wants me to take over my family business one day, but I have no desire too. Still telling other's "It's my life and I should be able to do what I want with it." Is not that easy, because:

@RazzaTazz said:

I think another way to look at it is that actions have consequences and that those consequences have to be dealt with. if a hero doesn't do what is expected of a hero then it is to to them to live with it. The fact is though that a lot of people in society wouldn't care.

@G-Man said:

@Danial79: I can feel where you're coming from. I was a high school Math teacher for quite a bit before running this place full time. I do have to say I was good. I even got a teacher of the year award thing in my county. But I gave it all up for Comic Vine. Is it wrong that I'm not teaching Math when I had a natural ability to do it well?

I have a natural ability to manage money and if I applied it I could utilize my natural talents from growing up in a money oriented family to create investments that would send my financial self worth through the roof. I have no desire to do this, and rather pursue ventures that would exercise my talent in writing which is what I enjoy much more. Does that make me selfish though? No it does not, because when you enjoy what you do, not only is what you do more worth while to you, but the things you produce are of much better in quality.

Posted by LB70145

I know this is just an opinion article to spark discussion. But seriously why is this even a question?

Posted by -Vigil-

@Deadcool said:

You don't need a SUPERpower to have a responsibility; all you need is power over the things...

If you are a scientist you have the power to create things, to help people, so your responsibility is help people because you are able to. If you are a singer, you have power to entertain people, so is your responsibility to give them what they want.

That is my favorite phrase in comic books and is because "it goes for everybody".

Absolutely. The only thing I would change is, if you are an entertainer, your responsibility is to give them what they need, in a way that they'll accept it. You should always create entertainment with a message that you see as important. In the words of George Friedrich Handel, I should be sorry, my lord, if I have only succeeded in entertaining them; I wished to make them better.”

Posted by Deadcool

@-Vigil- said:

@Deadcool said:

You don't need a SUPERpower to have a responsibility; all you need is power over the things...

If you are a scientist you have the power to create things, to help people, so your responsibility is help people because you are able to. If you are a singer, you have power to entertain people, so is your responsibility to give them what they want.

That is my favorite phrase in comic books and is because "it goes for everybody".

Absolutely. The only thing I would change is, if you are an entertainer, your responsibility is to give them what they need, in a way that they'll accept it. You should always create entertainment with a message that you see as important. In the words of George Friedrich Handel, I should be sorry, my lord, if I have only succeeded in entertaining them; I wished to make them better.”

Interesting, I want to make a thread about the comics that has improved the way they think, that is what comics hsould be about, inprove people, it not about a guy that fights against supervillains, is about improve the people as an overman...

Posted by Bobzenub

It's funny how I finally decided to pick up Ultimate Spider-Man vol.1 the same day this article came out...

I always thought the more interesting question is how the research of particular powers would make a positive impact on the world which the heroes are living in other than giving dangerous technologies to the hands of insane maniacs, making them villains against humanity. Of course, in order to invent new things that are able to significantly improve everybody's lives one way or another, these heroes with metahuman abilites would have to sacrifice their precious times to be in a research lab co-operating with scientists, not just looking out for and stopping baddies 24/7. I hate to say it, but logically this would be a more responsible and overall: better choice for humanity on the long run, unless of course we speaking of threats that able to eradicate humanity altogether. I understand the current state of the relation between superheroes and science in comic books serve much better storywise, but as a sci-fi loving guy, for me it would be just as exciting to see the background changing over the course of different stories (perfect example for this would be of course: Watchmen).

Posted by trailofdead

Two books that have explored that most recently are Irredeemable and The Cape. Two instances of people using their powers in less than responsible ways. With Irredeemable you have a Superman like hero that has had enough and he decides to just not give a shit anymore. With The Cape you have a person who was given a chance to use the power of flight for good, instead he chooses he feed his ego and get revenge.

Posted by Primmaster64

To be honest I always believed that this fall more to Superman than any other Superhero.

Posted by difficlus

@Primmaster64 said:

To be honest I always believed that this fall more to Superman than any other Superhero.

yep

At the same time G-Man is one had incredible powers/abilities/skills like these heroes wouldn't they be doing the world a disservice by not using them to the best of their ability to help those who can't help themselves?

Posted by difficlus

@arcanineryu2 said:

well you have to take into account the society they're living in. i mean the marvel universes are more different form ours than most think. being a superhero or villain is a highly ingrained tradition in that universe. its whats expected of you should you have useful powers. otherwise your highly susceptible to the mutant bias that's so prevalent throughout the marvel universe, even if your not technically a mutant. unless your willing to hide your powers completely, you must face the bias against super humans, making it very hard to get a job, let alone one where your powers would actually be useful.

think about it. if there wasn't such bias, what would magneto be doing? well he'd probably be in charge of a very profitable mining, steel, and building company, using his magnatisim powers to create unique skyscrapers and find untapped veins of ore.

or storm. she could easily be hired for various agriculture projects, creating rain in arid areas or during droughts for farmland.

there are all sorts of useful non-superhero things heroes could be doing. but bias prevents them. and not only bias, but supervillains. how many times have superheroes been brainwashed to work for the villains? or captured and tested on, cloned, blackmailed, used to power weapons, killed "just in case they decide to go against me." and so on. if you have powers, and you let those powers be known, you immediately become a target, no matter how cool or lame your powers might be. you could be a mutant, and your only mutation is that you can turn you hair blue at will, well now you a target for anti mutant groups just because your easy to kill.

and about the "withholding technology that could benefit mankind." well you know who it would benefit first? that's riiiiiight, supervillains. a great deal of the marvelous new tech that Reed Richards and Peter Parker create can be weaponized really easily, so if it were accessible to the public, it would just make it that much easier for villains to get their hands on it, and the heroes would no longer have any advantage when it comes to the new tech. i mean for pete's sake, Norman Osborne was able to weaponize the cure for cancer! THE-CURE-FOR-CANCER! reed isn't being a jerk, he just knows he's too far ahead of the curve and has to wait awhile for people to catch up before releasing his tech, otherwise we may have WW3 on our hands.

Very well said !! amazing post...One of the things driving Iron Man crazy is use of his technology to kill and enslave people.

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