What is it about superheroes that we love? Is it their powers? Their mission? Their fight against evil? Could it be that we love their weaknesses? No one says, “Man, Superman sure is the greatest because of that kryptonite!” or “Batman is the best because he struggles to put trust in the ones who care for him!” Nevertheless, we do love these things.
We love to see superheroes rise above their weaknesses. It’s their defining characteristic. We want to see heroes break through any obstacle thrown their way. To do what we cannot: to single-handedly overcome all hardships despite their vulnerabilities. However, on September 26th, DC Comics will be launching a new comic event, called Heroes in Crisis that will change how we see the heroes we’ve loved for so long.
If you have read a DC comic recently, you probably know there is no greater trial a hero could face than when there is a “Crisis” in the title: a la Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis, and Identity Crisis. Written by Tom King, a former CIA Counterterrorism Officer, Heroes in Crisis aims to show a side of superhero-ing we rarely ever see: the emotional burden that comes with being one. In this series we will see heroes—and the occasional villain—that have to come to grips with their trauma, PTSD, and mental health.A side of superhero-ing we rarely ever see: the emotional burden that comes with being one.
Heroes in Crisis will tackle these issues through a new setting in the DC Universe created by Tom King, Sanctuary. Sanctuary is a superhero hospital located on a farm in Nebraska established by the Trinity: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Sanctuary is meant to be a safe space for heroes to be rehabilitated. A place where they can be treated by caretakers who understand the struggles that come with being a hero.
Although new to readers, Sanctuary has actually been hidden in the background of the DC Universe this entire time. This idea is perfectly illustrated in Ryan Sook’s variant covers for Heroes in Crisis issues #1-3, showing some of the Trinity’s darkest moments (Superman in Death of Superman, Batman in Knightfall, and Wonder Woman in Infinite Crisis) in the form of Sanctuary health records.
These covers feature DC’s finest at arguably their darkest moments, showing that even they, the Trinity, have needed help fighting their inner demons. And that’s what I think is so important about Sanctuary. It displays the Superhero community looking out for one another, creating a safe place and support group made up of others like them. Where heroes can get the help they need from those who understand what they’re going through.
Just as comic readers have been unaware of Sanctuary until now, so has the general population of the DC Universe. “It’s something they kept secret from the public,” Tom King mentioned in an interview. “…they have a fear that if the public knew how broken they were sometimes, they would also lose faith.” That feels all too familiar.
We don’t want to let others know we’re broken because we’re afraid of how they will see us. We want to appear strong, not weak. We want to be seen as people who can overcome our problems alone. We want to be seen as a superhero. But that’s why we need a comic like Heroes in Crisis, to show us that we are more like superheroes at our weakest than when we are at our strongest. Dan DiDio, DC Comics Publisher, probably said it best in this month’s issue of DC Nation, “Our heroes have the same human problems we all do and they try to put them aside to be superhuman, but these are people, and we have to show their humanity by telling stories like this.” What Heroes in Crisis shows us is that it’s not possible to do it alone. Even the mightiest of superheroes need help.We are more like superheroes at our weakest than when we are at our strongest.
While the Heroes in Crisis story has yet to unfold, one take away we can already gain is this: if you truly want to be like a Superhero, start at your weakness and look forward. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. And as a part of a community of Nerds, Geeks, Jedi, Otaku, Christians, and Human Beings, we need to be able to stand there with a lending hand, ready to be a Sanctuary for our fellow Heroes.
“The idea that we can reach out to each other, and I can say to somebody that I used to fight Al-Qaeda, and also sometimes I can’t get my hand to stop shaking. Those two things can be true. You can be a man and also be a little weak; you can be a man and still love your family and still say that ‘I got through this with help.’” – Tom King