Everything about it was cute until she started comparing Buzz Lightyear to daddy: “Buzz Lightyear have wings. Daddy have wings?” With inadequacy in my voice I sadly reply, “No sweetheart. Daddy no have wings.” He’s got me there.
So what has this got to do with anything other than my now-fragile self-esteem? Well, it got me thinking about superheroes. Why is it that movies about Batman, X-Men, Spiderman, Superman, Wonderwoman, Ironman, Hancock, the Hulk, Catwoman, or a host of other superheroes will always attract an audience? Why is it that Marvel has made so much money?
Mankind’s obsession with superheroes is nothing new. The Greeks had gods who controlled the fates of men, but they also had demigods like Hercules who were part man, part god. The demigods could fight for the cause of humanity with superhuman ability. The Germanic tribes had Thor and his powerful hammer, and the Old English had Beowulf, who used his superhuman power to save the human race from Grendel and Grendel’s mother. There are many such examples in classical and medieval mythology.
I find it fascinating that man feels an attachment to the concept of a hero that belongs to the human race yet is also somehow more than human—a hero that will do on behalf of mankind that which man is too weak to do for himself. With Hercules, Thor, and Superman this involves protecting mankind from its enemies. With Batman it involves bringing justice into the midst of corruption.
In case I’m being too subtle, I’m suggesting that mankind conceives of these superheroes because we all know deep down that a Man who was indeed human but who somehow was also more than human has accomplished on behalf of mankind that which man could not do for himself. Hebrews 2 describes Jesus in exactly this role. The Bible is clear that Jesus does indeed protect the rest of us from our greatest Enemy. And when He returns, He will bring justice to this dark and corrupt world.
Everything we project onto our superheroes is nothing more than a hint of what is realized in Christ. Of course, Jesus is more than a superhero. And it would probably be wrong to say that Batman is the shadow and Jesus is the substance. But still, a human fascination as enduring as the concept of the superhero probably comes from a common source. We have a sense of what we need: someone greater than us who can help us do what we know we ought to do. The secular world creates this hero in its image, but the biblical Hero actually creates (and recreates) us in His—we are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26), and ultimately we will be remade into Christ’s image (Rom. 8:29).
So what does this all mean? Well, to tie it back into my daughter’s world, the True Buzz Lightyear has indeed come to the rescue, and one day He will return to bring us to infinity and beyond. (And with that, I win the Dundee for cheesiest closing line ever!)