by Nick Linger
So after reading my copy of DC’s seminal masterpiece, Kingdom Come (written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Alex Ross), I began going through some the extra commentary in the 20th anniversary edition, only to find myself immersed in the Mark’s thought process of why he wrote a story like this. All this reading got me thinking of the central themes in the story: changing of the guard and what does it truly mean to be a hero.
The first theme kind of took over more of my thought process, seeing as I’m part of the “millennial” generation and as such I could relate to this subject much easier (plus I don’t have qualifications to be hero in the sense like the DC’s pantheon). I grew up being raised to respect the old ways of my grandparents’ generation as well as learn from my parents’ generation. So essentially, I was being raised by to two successive generation simultaneously. Now this wasn’t that difficult when I was young because there was a lot of overlap between my parents’ and grandparents. However, the divide started to grow exponentially after I reached my early 20’s at which time one must begin to sort through everything they’ve learned for decades in order to make sense of what they learned. This process results in one of the two things happening: we either explore and mold past ideological constructs to continue to make them part of who we are as a developing human or reject them and replace them with something that makes more sense to us individually. Now every person is different and so the process works differently.
Same thing can be said about the successive generation in Kingdom Come. The Justice League have all retired out the public eye (except for a select few) and has since been replaced by their younger counterparts. Now ordinarily there will be clear differences in how each generation will act and respond to the world around them and when it happens, differing perspectives will be noticed. The global populous, sees the values of the aging Justice League as archaic and old fashioned. But the new generation’s brand of those values are more brash and harsh then what the global populous has lived with for decades during the era of the Justice League. And because the differences become increasingly more apparent, the populous doesn’t know which “brand” of Truth and Justice they really want. Do they want the old fashioned Justice League or the new generation that would rather make their own stamp on the world? But in order to answer this question, all both generation have to figure out, what does it mean to be a hero in a continuously evolving world.
For example, any comic fan knows that Superman (in terms of most DC continuity) doesn’t kill, even villains. In the story, there was an opportunity to finally deliver justice to the Joker but Superman continued to stand by him respect for human life. Magog (a younger hero that was mentored by Superman) saw the opportunity to kill the Joker and did. Superman was obviously appalled by this but Magog defended his actions as justified. Magog’s rationale is that no matter how many times the Joker got locked up, he would never change and never stop causing chaos and death to those around him. Therefore, his life should be forfeited. We all can understand this logic but does this make Magog’s argument “right” overall? To be a hero, can you live with making the choice to end a life that causes nothing short of mass chaos in order to preserve the greater good? While Superman’s intentions are admirable, it truly is a tough call. To those that believe that all human is precious, can you live with the knowledge that letting a psychopath like the Joker continue to live? Do these people truly have a remotely useful function in the continuous contributions necessary to make society safe and productive? Personally, I believe that there are people in this reality that are just evil and barbaric. Many can probably agree with my sentiment. But as a hero how would you handle this. Taking a stand for truth and justice has cost and as we’ve seen many times in comics over the decades, it’s extremely personal.
To be the kind of hero the world needs, a synthesis must be made between the generations. The old guard shouldn’t be so quick to judge the different methods of the new guard if it enhances the safety and overall effectiveness of being earths protectors. However, the new guard can’t ignore the true value of what the old guard is attempting to pass on. By collaborating together in order to reach a new understanding, can the definition of being a true hero be redefined for ages to come.