I didn't really expect to be blogging about my experience in the comic book world quite this much, but alas here I am and the thought nagging my mind is once again related to the colorful pages and characters of imagination, so stick with me. I promise this isn't just useful for nerds like me. It's a simple premise, really. One that I never paid much attention to when I learned it in high school all of those years ago (thanks Mrs. Thompson!). It's relevant in comic books because they're about this precise thing, this exact idea, but it should mean something to you too.
Here's the thought:
Heroes have weaknesses because they need to be human. Villains have none because they no longer are.
I do simplify this in a way, mainly for parallelism's sake, but there's something true in there. Superman has kryptonite. Green Lantern has, um, the color yellow. Batman has no powers to begin with. All of these characters have weaknesses because, first of all, we need to identify them as human. They need to be defeatable and try anyway. That's important for us to see.
Villains don't need weaknesses because it's their lack thereof that pushed them into villainy anyway. They possessed something unchecked and it took control of them. They needn't weaknesses because they've already lost their humanity. And, well, most of the heroes in the classic sense abide by a code that won't allow them to kill anyway, so why make them killable?
But there's something else. Something that's right there under our noses and it's worth standing back and looking at. It's that it's those weaknesses, and only those, that prevent our heroes from becoming villains. As I learned in that history class so long ago, "Absolute power absolutely corrupts."
Superman might not be interested in a saving a world that could crumple under his might. Why should he? If he never learned to be human from good ol' Ma and Pa Kent (and humanity's his and any other superhero's weakness, by the way), heaven knows what kind of unruly god he would be.
And I know I'm talking in fictional worlds and superpowers and archenemies and all that, but doesn't it seem to you that if there was a purpose for every single flaw possessed by all the great heroic characters any of us have ever written there might just be a reason for yours too?