I watched Captain America: Civil War again last night. There’s an interesting concept in any of the super hero movies. Do villains appear because the heroes amped up the power level?
For the history of comics, this is true. Superman existed uncontested. He stopped meteors, trains, exploding factories, and so on. I remember these when I was younger and I watched them on VHS. While VHS is ancient and dates me, not nearly as much as if I’d admit to watching Superman when it first aired.
The people making the heroes had a good heart. Let’s start with the best in people. Then they darkened it.
Villains started appearing to create a better conflict. They were stronger, more clever, had some ability to keep down the hero. The hero came first.
Now that we have our super hero origin stories, usually starting with them facing up against a major terrorist, the villains don’t appear until later. As they say in Civil War, like the challenge is there, and they have to live up to it.
There’s a problem with this. Escalation of power rarely starts with defense.
Cities were conquered. Walls were built. Battering rams were deployed. Hot tar was poured down on them. People used swords. The bow was created to keep them at a distance. The shield had no reason to exist until someone was trying to kill someone else.
The Great War was so bloody because offensive capabilities completely outstripped defensive capabilities on a scale rarely seen, possibly never seen. They used machine guns and gas. Trenches and gas masks were utilized. Mortars were used to force machine gunners to hide so charges could be mounted with some hope of success.
Historically, the defense, the protector, comes after the offense and destroyer. Joker should have gone on a rampage, and after seeing the destruction with no end in sight, Batman would rise up to defend his city. Now he may have already been defending it from street thugs, but when you’re trained as a master assassin, you really don’t need billions of dollars to defeat a guy who barely knows how to shoot a gun.
In your own stories, keep that in mind. There are heroes that are greater than life, but they rarely come out without a challenge. How do we know they’re incredible if they haven’t been forged in equally great strife?