In celebration of National Superhero Day (yes, that’s a thing), let’s return to an old blog post asking a question I get a lot regarding my work. Edits and updates have been made where appropriate.
While I love a great many different types of stories, the superhero genre has always had a certain appeal to me. After all, I never considered being a writer until I discovered comic books — X-Men, to be exact — and even today, the superhero genre is one in which I proudly plant my flag.
Granted, the term “superhero” can have a pretty broad definition. Most would agree the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, and Daredevil are superheroes. But is Batman? Is Spawn? Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The Punisher?
Arguments can be made either way for most of them; to this day, I will argue Buffy is very much a superhero. It’s not always about the cape and the secret identity.
Superheroes are all the rage these days, what with the near-ubiquitous nature of superhero films. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically, is largely responsible for the mainstream popularity of the genre (to say nothing of DC’s films and cadre of TV shows — particularly the Arrowverse on The CW). I think the reason superheroes speak to so many is because they represent a reality in which there’s some semblance of control.
Let’s face it: things are really scary in the world these days (and not just because of a pandemic that doesn’t seem to have an end in sight). Fact is, there isn’t anything the vast majority of us can do about any of it. What can I, just a 38-year-old dude, do about international corruption and espionage? What can I do about school shootings? About the hate that has seemingly run rampant everywhere? Or the virus that has most of us holed up in our homes?
For the most part… not much.
Superheroes leave us feeling less helpless in the face of such horrors. Want the wicked wiped off the face of the Earth? There’s the Punisher. Want to believe it’s possible to exact justice on evildoers in the aftermath of personal tragedy? Maybe Batman’s more your speed.
Serve your country in spite of not being what one might consider the ideal soldier? Captain America. Want to serve your country and community, even after it’s cast you aside because of who you are? Batwoman. Work to protect your own kind while working to get a world that hates you to be a little more understanding? There’s the X-Men. Some mystical ring decides you’re worthy of protecting… oh, you know… space?! Green Lantern.
Superheroes tap into that deep-rooted desire to do more, to affect the world in ways he can’t as regular people. They show us a reality in which the big scary things can be defeated. They give us hope that the individual can make a difference in the world at large, even when reality continues to slap us in the face and tell us no.
That philosophy guides me every time I sit down to write one of Jill Andersen’s stories. She took up the mantle of Bounty because of her desire to do right by her hometown, her need to serve beyond what she can do with a badge on her hip. Early in her law enforcement career, Jill saw that being a cop only accomplished so much. If she wanted to do more, she had to become more.
Most of us can’t become more. So we turn to stories of those who can.
It’s not about the superpowers or the costumes. Not really. Stripped of the flash and the bright colors and the larger-than-life villains many of them face, superheroes reflect everything we wish we could be — both individually and as a society. We’ll never leap tall buildings in a single bound, we’ll never close a Hellmouth before it devours the Earth, and we’ll never lead the wicked in handcuffs to Arkham. But so long as we have heroes who can and do, maybe the world isn’t quite as hopeless as it seems.
Then again… the powers and costumes are pretty kickass, huh?
Want to celebrate National Superhero Day? Bounty is now just 99 cents, and Blood Ties is just $1.99! Pick those books up, and grab my new release Betrayal. All proceeds from sales made on April 28 will be donated to first responders and medical personnel, who right now are the closest thing we have to actual superheroes.
About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard, scratching a pencil over a piece of paper, or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.