I have always been a fan of powerful heroes battling powerful villains with epic music playing in the background. The powers that these two combatants wield would be so great that they could demolish entire cities as they clashed with one another. It is like watching two gods fighting amongst the heavens . . . a thing of utter combative beauty! I have seen these kinds of battles countless times in anime, films, and superhero comics. In the final battle of my new superhero series, I will be depicting one such duel to the death where the main character fights the main villain in a titanic struggle that would level multiple cities. I am getting goosebumps just imagining it!
I have started watching a new History Channel show called Knight Fight, which depicts a group of men in armor pounding the crud out of each other. The weapons they use are blunt yet represent real historical weapons such as swords and axes. The armor they wore was thick and provided decent protection yet was also modeled after historical armor. In the latest episode of the season, I was introduced to this man, Paul Friedel, who was fun to watch fight in the ring. He is six feet seven inches tall (5 inches taller than me) and he is incredibly strong in a contest of brute strength. The armor he wears is modeled after medieval Russian armor and he usually wields a five foot long battle axe. In the final round of the episode, Paul fought with rhomphaia (pictured above) and he was a beast with that blade. In addition to striking his opponent with that sword, Paul used his armored hands to punch his foe repeatedly in the head. This left his opponent dazed and mostly on the ground. I was VERY impressed with Paul’s performance and I wish him the best of luck in the battles to come. I am thinking of drawing inspiration from him for one of the characters in my spin-off fantasy series. The character I am thinking of will be a giant of a man who is inhumanly strong, wields a large weapon, and fights with great ferocity.
In my spin-off fantasy series, one of the main characters will be armed with these two weapons. One is the Viking bearded battle axe and the other is the Scottish dirk dagger. The bearded axe originated as a common woodcutting axe before being modified for war. Not only can the axe chop into an enemy, but the beard on the blade is designed to hook into the opponent’s flesh or tripping an opponent’s leg in battle. The Scottish dirk was a common dagger in the Scottish Highlands around the 1800s and was later adopted by the Japanese navy. I have chosen to include these two weapons in a main character’s arsenal because they symbolize two sides of my heritage: Vikings and Highlanders.
As a fan of the original Top Gear hosts (Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond), I am always amused by their antics. In this video, they prepare for a big road trip to the North Pole by receiving special Arctic training. Their instructor was a former Special Forces soldier who was super bossy and had no patience for their stupidity. This soldier’s face was pixelated for security reasons since he was Special Forces. Because of his pixelated face, the Top Gear boys called him “the man with the ruined or funny face.” He taught the Top Gear boys how to erect a tent on the snow as well as pushed one of them into a frozen lake. Whenever the Top Gear boys did something idiotic, the Special Forces guy went nuclear at them and got increasingly more irritated with them.
Even though most of the kingdoms in my fantasy world are based on medieval Europe, there is one kingdom that is based on feudal Japan. As a result, they have similar armor and weapons as samurai. Among these weapons are the katana long sword and the wakizashi short sword. When these two blades are used at the same time, they become what is known as the Daisho Sword Pair. The long katana is used for offense while the short wakizashi is used for defense. When these two swords are used simultaneously, they become a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. In my spin-off fantasy trilogy, one of the main characters will come from this Japan-like kingdom and will carry a Daisho Sword Pair wherever they go. In the heat of battle, this character will become a demon with a blade.
I discovered a rather frightening weapon from the medieval period. It is a two-handed variation of the falchion sword with teeth at the tip that is designed to bite into an enemy’s armor while chopping. I first discovered this weapon while watching the film Ironclad and I initially thought it was a made up weapon for the sake of creativity. Now, I find out that this was a real weapon and a terrifying one. This blade is shaped like a sword yet has the weight of an axe with each blow. If this blade’s wielder is big and strong enough that it can be a completely scary weapon on the battlefield. I am thinking of including this variant of the falchion in my spin-off fantasy trilogy and it will even have a funny ironic nickname.
I have continued watching historical documentaries about the superhero genre and I came across new information. In our darkest times, America needs heroes. Superheroes may be fictional, but they are still important symbols that reflect America’s current state of mind. This was reflected in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
There was a Captain America graphic novel called The New Deal, which depicted Captain America trying to find survivors in the rubble of the World Trade Center. Later in the story, Captain America battles a terrorist cell as they threatened a small town. In the end, Captain America punched the terrorist leader so hard that he broke his neck and twisted his head all the way around. Even though the aftermath of the 9/11 attack was depicted at the beginning, the later battles deviated from 9/11 just enough to prove the same point. The point that was being proven was the American peoples’ strong desire for justice against terrorists and who better to show this than America’s best patriot. The writers and illustrators used the creation of this graphic novel as a form of therapy to deal with their emotions regarding the 9/11 attack.
When New York City needed time to unite and heal, the Tobey Macguire Spider-Man trilogy was released. The reason Spider-Man was an important superhero at this time was because he was a New York superhero, the Kid From Queens. Spider-Man symbolized our desire to help one another in times of darkness and the film trilogy was helpful to remind people of those values.
However, the Spider-Man trilogy provided a temporary release in an increasingly complex world. To depict the growing complexity of the post 9/11 world, the Dark Knight Trilogy was released. In those films, Batman’s rogue gallery were not just supervillains but terrorists as well. Batman Begins revolved around fear and how to overcome it, which highlighted the fear that America felt in the wake of the 9/11 attack. In The Dark Knight, Batman was seen battling not just the Joker, but also the difficult questions that we deal with in the real world in terms of terrorism. To find the Joker, Batman turned every cell phone in Gotham City into a microphone in order to better pinpoint the Joker’s location. Batman’s armorer, Lucius Fox described this as “beautiful, unethical, and dangerous”. With this new system, Batman would definitely find and stop the Joker, but at what cost? This concept reflected on the Bush Administration’s policy to bug emails and phone calls without a warrant.
On the downside, as fear of future terrorist attacks grew, so too did hatred and prejudice against Muslims. To counter the growing Islamophobia, Marvel Comics created a version of Ms. Marvel known as Kamala Khan. Kamala Khan is a Muslim American superhero who demonstrated that not all Muslims were terrorists and to highlight America’s ever-growing diversity. Kamala Khan has a similar backstory to Peter Parker, a superhuman teenager who juggles her double life as a high school student and a vigilante. Even though Kamala Khan is a fictional character, the message she was conveying made its point. The character was a complete success to the public. In one instance, there was hate speech graffiti against Muslims painted on the side of a bus. In response, comic book fans painted an image of Kamala Khan over the hate speech.
Overall, even though the real world will never see superheroes, the messages and symbolized that they convey are very significant. Even in our darkest hours, the constantly evolving image of the superhero inspires the public and gives them hope when none can be found. Although superheroes can depict an idealized version of ourselves, they can also be used to highlight the constantly growing complexity of the world around us.