Of the late, I’ve come across several superhero movies that have all centered around the protagonist coming into his powers, rather than thrusting the audience into the mythos in the middle. Thor, The Amazing Spider-Man and the upcoming Man of Steel all come to mind. This can otherwise be known as the origin story. I just started to wonder: why are people so fascinated by this? Aren’t people sick of the creation story?
In my opinion, I think the fascination has much to do with the hero being relatable. In the article “The Psychology Behind Superhero Origin Stories”, the author notes, “In my surveys of the genre, I’ve found that superheroes undergo three types of life-altering experiences that we can relate to,” and these, summarized: Trauma (ex. Batman witnessing the murder of his parents), destiny (ex. Superman) and/or sheer chance (ex. Spider-Man). The author suggests that these stories “provide models of coping with adversity” (Rosenberg).
I find it incredible that stories like Superman have survived for so long – I believe it has just passed its 75th year mark. In the olden comic days, superheroes like Superman and Batman didn’t have elaborate back stories, but they are becoming more and more complex. This keeps them alive, as people are wanting their heroes to become more human. They want to live through those characters. When Spider-Man first came out, it was a hit in part because of Peter, who was a geeky, socially awkward teenage boy, probably like a lot of its readership. It combines real life with fantasy, giving the readers just enough realism to connect with the protagonist and live vicariously through him/her.
I think of my childhood and my utter disconnect with Superman for instance, even though he’s one of the most famous superheroes of all time. It wasn’t when I was a preteen and started watching Smallville that I became interested in Superman’s story, and that wasn’t because of the “Man of Steel” – it was because of the self-conscious, relatable Clark Kent, who was dealing with normal teen stuff, while also being an alien with superpowers.
– Diana Harrison