SUPERHEROES/CATHOLICISM – If Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman Were Catholic Saints…
Superheroes inspire a lot of people to go out and be good people. They often embody the ideal virtues and morals, and overcome obstacles for the greater good of others. But before superheroes, the western world used to read about and was inspired by another group of people who’s stories had a similar function, namely, Catholic Saints.
How the Comics are Great Podcast Got me Thinking
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. It started after listening to an episode of the Comic are Great podcast called: Give Your Heroes a Reason to Quit with Ben Hatke
Podcast host Jerzy Drozd and guest Ben Hatke, spoke about heroes in comics in the same way that informed Catholics speak about Saints. And Jerzy, who absolutely LOVES the 80s He-Man cartoons, uses the unintentional Christian morality play that those cartoons are, as part of the basis for his moral outlook.
I find this fascinating but it’s not unusual.
Documentaries like Legend of the Knight, show how people have taken a characters like Batman and have done the same thing that Jerzy does with He-Man.
What strikes me about these things is that, as a Catholic, I do the same thing but not with Superheroes.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Superheroes, but my moral compass and the examples of good morally heroic living are not them, but Christ and His Saints. In fact, I go so far as to judge the moral virtues and faults of Superheroes next to Christ and His Saints to see if they are indeed good moral examples in the first place.
Saints, History or Legends?
Now many stories of Catholic Saints are almost as fictitious as Superhero comics. They are only legends.
For example, just about everything we know about St. George is a legend. The only thing we can say is factual about him is that he was a…
“Martyr…who suffered at or near Lydda, also know as Diospolis, in Palestine, probably before the time of Constantine.“
Everything else about him seems to be legend.
Yet, there are other Saints who we know a lot about and whose stories are NOT “just legend” but history. Though many people wouldn’t believe it, some of these people (but by no means all) showed signs of God given “super powers,” a.k.a. charisms or Charistmata.in Catholic terminology.
Superhero Archetypes vs. “Saint Archetypes”
Once upon a time, in the western world, people would read the stories of these Saints and get inspired by them. ESPECIALLY since they were historical figures. They would read about their heroic virtuous lives, and think, “If they can do it, so can I,” and follow in their footsteps.
For example, St. Ignatius of Layola, founder of The Society of Jesus (a.k.a. The Jesuits) himself became a Saint this way.
All this thinking lead me to wonder, if superheroes have replaced Saints as inspiration, are there any similarities between some Superheroes and some Saints? Are some Superheroes, archetypes of Saints?
I was surprised to find out the answer is mostly no.
I decided not to count the legendary Saint stories and only stick to the historical ones (I’m counting biblical stories as historical even though there are some poetic liberties in them). When I did that, I discovered, that there are no “Saint Archetype” in the same way that there are Superhero archetypes.
Or perhaps I should say, the Saint Archetypes are very different and more diverse than superhero archetypes.
Fortunately I DID find that there are SOME Saints that shared similarities to some Superheroes. Which brings me, finally, to the point of this article.
Which Superhero Resembles Which Saint?
If superheroes where Catholic Saints, which ones would they be? Which Saint do some superheroes most resemble?
I came up with about eleven. Here are only three. Mostly because it took me a long time to draw these pictures.
Here’s the first three from the list, with an explanation of why they resemble each other:
Superman, strange visitor from another planet, who fights a never ending battle for truth and Justice.
St. Michael, mysterious being from the metaphysical world, who fights evil in all it’s forms for He who IS Truth, Justice, Love and being itself.
Superman and St. Michael both are “Princes” or leaders of their respective groups. Both of them fly and fight to save human kind from those who would do us harm.
They are both paragons of virtue and embodiments of what it is to fight for good.
Both are symbols of hope. Superman, with his optimism and heroic moral virtue fighting the worst of the worst. St. Michael because he is the one who will defeat the dragon and his angels at the end of time as he did at it’s beginning (Rev. 12: 7-9).
Superman fights super powered bad guys. St. Michael literally fights against Satan and all his works.
Superman is a good example of goodness and saves people from death. St. Michael rescues “the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death.” - New Advent: Catholic Encyclopedia
Superman is the champion of and defender of the Earth and it’s inhabitants. St. Michael is “the champion of God’s people, the Jews in the Old Law, the Christians in the New Testament; therefore he was the patron of the Church, and of the orders of knights during the Middle Ages.” - New Advent: Catholic Encyclopedia
Superman tends to send the villains he fights to a places where they can be judged and imprisoned. St. Michael calls “away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgment.” - New Advent: Catholic Encyclopedia
If Superman was a Catholic Saint, he would be St. Michael the Archangel.
Batman, loner and crusader of justice.
St. Martin of Tours, hermit and bishop who stood up against injustice.
This comparison is a tad less elegant than the one above.
Batman fights bad guys but doesn’t kill. St. Martin started his career as a Centurion who, after his conversion, refused to take a life.
Bruce Wayne traveled the world to learn the skills he needed to become Batman. After being discharged from the army, St. Martin traveled, seeking to learn from St. Hilary, how to be a better Christian.
Batman fights in a city where truth and justice are corrupt. He often comes home bruised, scarred, and injured from his adventures. St. Martin opposed the Arian heretics who taught a false Christianity through out Illyricum distorting the truth of orthodox Christianity. He opposed them with such zeal, he was publicly scourged.
Batman prefers to work alone and has a secret headquarters called the “Batcave”. St. Martin preferred to be a hermit. He had several “Martincaves,” of sorts. One on the island of Gallinaria in the Gulf of Genoa, one on a piece of land, now called Liguge, and one in a desert, enclosed by a steep cliff and tributary on the other at Marmoutier.
Batman has a “batsignal” which is lit when he’s most needed. He helps those who most need him. St. Martin was on call by all those who needed him. And helped all those he could in many parts of his world.
Batman begrudgingly became part of the Justice League. He prefers to work alone or with a very small team. St. Martin refuses to be a Bishop of the town of Tours. He was tricked into it by having someone tell him his wife was dying and they needed his help, only to find out it was a lie. The town was waiting for him to declare him Bishop.
Batman’s example has lead other heroes to imitate him, such as Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Batwing, and Huntress to name a few. St. Martin’s example lead others to imitate him. He established monasteries full of followers in all the places he settled at.
Batman does what he does to prevent the type of injustice that lead to his parent’s tragic death to happen to anyone else. Near the end of his life, St. Martin defended the lives of some Spanish Priscillianist heretics, who were threatened with bloody persecution, presumably out of both Christian mercy and because he’d been in a similar spot himself once.
If Batman was a Catholic Saint, he’d most like have been St. Martin of Tours
Wonder Woman, super powered Amazon warrior from the island of Themyscira.
St. Joan of Arc, mystic warrior woman of France.
Wonder Woman is known for her compassion for the down trodden. St. Joan was known for her compassion for the poor.
Wonder Woman is an icon and symbol of the strength women possess. St. Joan IS the actual example of this very thing.
In many stories, Wonder Woman had to prove herself in the eyes of those who saw her as “just a woman.” St. Joan had to prove that her help and what she said was true to everyone she was trying to help.
Wonder Woman is an example of feminine virtue. St. Joan, The Maid, truly was virtuous in every way. Not only a great example for women but a great example of strength and virtue for men as well.
Wonder Woman has an origin full of the mysticism of Greek Myth. St. Joan’s journey began through her supernatural experience.
Wonder Woman has some powerful and cool looking armor which she wears over her regular costume when she goes to war. St. Joan donned armor when she went into battle.
Wonder Woman fought in wars. St. Joan did as well.
If Wonder Woman was a Catholic Saint, she’d be Joan of Arc.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Like I wrote above, I came up with a list of eleven comparisons but the drawing above take a long time to do.
I might do another batch of comparisons at a later date.
I will say that I’ve found a match of the 80s He-Man and it’s just PERFECT. I may just do that one as a one off just for Jerzy.
What do you think? Can you come up with some good matches, or better matches? Sound off on the comments below.
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Thanks for reading!