We Need More Courage in Comics

By | Friday, February 12, 2021 Leave a Comment
Green Lantern: No Fear
People are called courageous for doing things that many others won't do. Running into burning buildings to save someone. Defending a stranger against an armed assailant. Reporting an injustice even under the threat of bodily harm. There's no end to what can be considered examples of courage. And many look to those so-called courageous people as individuals who have no fear. They're real world Green Lanterns, charging into to save the day without even the benefit of a power ring.

But that's not courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is not the opposite of fear. Courage is having the inner strength to do something IN SPITE OF fear. In order to be courageous, you need to be first be fearful of something so that you can overcome that fear.

You can still be heroic without being courageous, mind you. Superman is very heroic. He goes around saving people all the time. But it's not courageous for him to stand in front of a bank robber's gun since he knows that his skin is hard enough to deflect every one of the bullets without so much as leaving a bruise. Heroism ≠ courage. And it's fear without courage that's driving a lot of our problems today.

"I don't really know any gay people. Their culture includes things I don't understand. I don't know what to say or how to act when they display those cultural touchstones that are unfamiliar to me."

"I don't really know any Black people. Their culture seems different than mine, and I do not want to risk theirs superceding mine. I'm very comfortable with my own culture, and not comfortable with theirs."

That's essentially what racism and homophobia and that kind of hatred all boils down to: a mechansim for justifying treating someone poorly because they look/act/sound a little different than what you're used to. They're reacting out of fear. They're reacting fearfully because they have no courage. They fear what they don't know or understand, and don't even have the courage to try to learn about it. They don't have the courage to say, "Just because it's different doesn't mean it's wrong." They don't have the courage to say, "Just because it's different, it doesn't invalidate my preferences."

And perhaps that's part of the problem in comics. There are so many out there that talk about heroism, but don't touch on courage. Spider-Man doesn't fear going against the Green Goblin. Batman doesn't fear confronting the Joker. Those characters are/were absolutely acting heroically, but not courageously.

I can't help but wonder, then, if we would see fewer instances of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. in the comics community if the stories were less focused on heroism, and more focused on courage.
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