Heroes of Darkness and Light

My essay, “Heroes of Light and Darkness,” went up this morning on smartpopbooks.com, and will remain available until Wednesday at 12:00 AM at
To whet your appetite and pique your interest, here is the opening.

1. Dark Knights and White Knights

My girl tells me that she would never date Superman.

She reads comics with a woman’s eye, so perhaps she sees something I don’t see, but she assures me that of the iconic superheroes of comicbookdom, the one with the most animal magnetism, the one the ladies swoon over, is the Batman.

Why is it that Batman has the romantic allure of Zorro, whereas Superman has no more sex appeal than an Eagle Scout? On the other hand, if Batman has all the glamour, why is it that Superman has a steady girlfriend, and he does not?

The two heroes are as different as day and night. There is something in the souls of three generations of readers that reacts to these characters with a shock of delight and recognition: as if by instinct, we recognize that they are icons or archetypes, a modern pantheon of the demigods like those who fought before the walls of Troy.

Some dismiss cartoon characters as childish; and so they are, but not in the way that word is normally meant. Children, learning about a world as castaways might learn about an undiscovered mystical island, find out first about the most important things, the deep things from the roots of the world, the eternal things—it is for adults to concern ourselves with daily surface details. The noble self-sacrifice of heroes is one of the first things children read about when they read adventure tales. It is one of the basic truths of the world. When heroes act selfishly, or for personal gain, they lose what they cherish most: that is the message of every story about superheroics penned, ever since the day Achilles lost his temper.

This essay intends to explain the inexplicable, and say why glamour and mystery shroud the Batman, the most famous of the famous heroes of the night, and to contrast him against Superman, that most glorious of the brilliant heroes of the day. This essay will attempt to say in what part of the human psychology they find their roots.

The quickest shortcut to examining human psychology is to talk about romance, because it is the one issue that is touched by all others: find out what kind of girl a guy is attracted to, find out what kind of girl he attracts, and you find out all about him.

2. Criminals Are a Cowardly and Superstitious Lot

The Batman is all about fear.