This week we had, Professor Chris Gavaler from Washington and Lee University speak to us about the origins of superheroes. The origins of superheroes is a fascinating topic since American comic books and superheroes were essential to my early childhood development. The comic books I read were all about beings who had super abilities fighting villains, which I believe, subconsciously, embed a sense of duty to do social good in me. Frankly, serving the community with social good wasn’t the only thing I wanted to do, in my childish and naïve mind I thought I could develop superpowers within the boundaries of today’s science.
Professor Chris Gavaler’s book “Origins of Superheroes,” intertwined the ideas of eugenics, evolution, sports, and superheroes. Similar to the comic books I read during my childhood, in his book the superheroes he talks about are super beings who are good people that were providing outside justice for the society against villains. These super beings were thought to have very desirable traits and that these traits were only inheritable. This les to eugenics in the United States in the early 20th century. Eugenics in the United States was led by wealthy Caucasians who believed that genetic quality of the human population would improve if they stopped reproduction of non-white children. People who led the eugenics in the United States believed white genes were superior and did not like the idea of diluting the white desired characteristics. The main idea that was widely accepted was that a superhuman would be created after generations of selective breeding. People believed that if they create superhuman, it will end all social problems like crime, poverty, epidemics, etc… Th.is idea of eugenics was more popularized in Nazi Germany when Hitler believed in the same ideology of superior Aryan race. Hitler wanted to make Europe with superior Aryan genes and thought eugenics would produce a pure Caucasian superhuman. Hitler believed that a new superhuman would bring greatness to Germany to the likes of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, however through eugenics and human testing led to deaths of millions of people.
In the lecture, Professor Chris Gavaler also mentions that in the superhero universe superheroes share the same trait and the root of all other superheroes could stem from the first superhero. However, the first superhero isn’t the origin of superheroes since there are many different factors such as, cultures, religion, and eugenics that came before the first superhero. We can conclude that superheroes came from different cultures and religions from all around the world creating its own unique superhero culture.
It is not surprising people want to become extraordinary. It is human nature to become better in all aspects of life and wants change within oneself. However, eugenics or any form of testing on humans or any living thing which can lead to harm should be avoided. Today, there are many breakthroughs, in the biotechnology industry and in the fields of artificial intelligence and genetic manipulation which has promising results that can improve human traits. We should look to always progress but at the cost of negatively affecting others.