Chris Peruzzi is a comic book superhero historian who is passionate about how today's comic book heroes are the new mythology for America.
The Real Heroes
Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory had once said, “I couldn’t become Green Lantern unless I was chosen by the Guardians of Oa, but given enough start-up capital and an adequate research facility, I could be Batman."
In saying that he's exposed a universal truth about comic book heroes. A person with enough drive, ability, intelligence, and resources could, indeed, become a comic book hero in reality.
Comic Heroes Who Could Exist Today
- The Punisher
- Mister Terrific
- Captain America
- Moon Knight
- Shang-Chi, The Master of Kung Fu
He's a man on a mission. The Dark Knight who was scarred at age seven swore to keep the very tragic event that had hurt him from hurting anyone else in his city. In his quest to fight crime, he studied the art of detection. He became a master tactician and hand to hand combatant. He forged his body into not only the perfect fighting machine but second only to Mister Miracle as an escape artist. With the backing and technological resources of his billionaire family, he's an unstoppable hero.
Could he exist? I think with the exception of his cape... absolutely. No one fights well in a cape. His protege, Dick Grayson, had the right idea by ditching the cape and suiting up with Kevlar.
It is very much like Sheldon Cooper said, "with enough time, resources, and dedication" he probably could be Batman. You would need to understand that the time and resources would be extensive. The billions of dollars that Bruce Wayne has inherited and built upon was the perfect financial resource for a life long war against crime.
Bruce Wayne's crime-fighting expertise took the better part of a decade and a half to perfect. He did most of his "internship" abroad among many mentors - each was the best in what they had to offer. A master thief, a master of disguise, a master of gymnastics, several masters of combat in different disciplines, a master of forensic science, and several others.
Given that Batman's body is perfectly suited for crimefighting, he had to step up his workout regimen to include body building and endurance.
He also had to build the Batcave alone (either that or he found someone who was terminally ill and was willing to do the job of advanced masonry to carve out stairs and platforms from igneous rock).
Batman also had to master some kind of martial arts form that specialized in fighting with a cape - when you think about that, it's very had to do. Is it impossible? Who knows? I've just never seen it done in the real world. His protege, Dick Grayson, had the right idea by ditching the cape and suiting up with Kevlar.
The fact that he doesn't have to work in a nine-to-five job gives him the opportunity to dedicate the majority of his time to crime fighting. So long as the financing and the dedication are there (which for many, fades after a few years), he could be that hero.
His only obstacle might be how he works with the authorities. Once again, I'm sure his wealth, one way or another, would open some doors.
2. The Punisher
The question is "Could he exist?"
When we talk about these characters we have to look at ability, resources, opportunity, and mission.
Does the Punisher have the physical ability - strength, endurance, stamina, and focus - to do his job?
If you kill a former green beret's family in front of him and give him enough money and guns to work through his permanent anger issues, a man like Frank Castle could certainly exist. Similar to Batman, his origin was from violence and he has had the training and skill to take out any of the underworld who cross his path.
Frank Castle's training was in military combat, which means that the government trained him to do what he does. The fact that he adapted well to it while he was on his military tours just makes it easier to establish that he could wage a one-man war on crime easily.
The Punisher seems to have the financial funding and access to high-grade weapons. He's found sources of intelligence to keep him toward his goal and his monomania keeps him focused on it.
If the intelligence, tactical ability, and resources were available to people like The Punisher, I'm sure we'd have more of them.
3. Mister Terrific
I think the character is Mister Terrific is inspiring.
We all know people like both incarnations of Mr. Terrific. They are the natural athletes that take to almost anything like a fish to water. And the fact that we all know people like Mister Terrific, make him all the more possible for him to exist.
Once again, we should look at ability, resources, and mission.
Both Terry Sloan and Michael Holt had accomplished all of their goals at very young ages. They both excelled in athletics, science, business, and combat. Both had enough resources to support their vigilante careers and decided to make a difference. However, in this scenario, I believe that Michael Holt is the more committed of the two.
I believe that given the personality of Terry Sloane, he'd grow bored easily and may tire of the vigilante business.
The current Mr. Terrific (Holt) is like Batman without the focus. He really just wants to see justice done and fights for "Fair Play". He plays by the rules. In doing that he uses all of his resources. He uses the six or seven black belts that he earned. He uses the scientific devices he invented. He'll fight you financially with the money he earned from his multi-million dollar corporations.
But whatever he does, he'll do it cleanly.
Could they exist today? If the natural aptitude for all of these things happen to one human being without a mission to back it up, I don't see any person going into crime fighting. It is much more likely that they'd turn their attention to fame and wealth.
Michael Holt is a guilt-ridden man who was convinced by The Spectre to pick up the altruistic mission that Terry Sloane left. That drives him.
It's the mission that's the key.
4. Captain America
Captain America is not a superhuman - apparently.
Everything I had read about Steve Rogers said that he's a peak human. Essentially, he's as good as you can get. If he were even a molecule better than he would be a metahuman.
The super soldier serum does give him the edge in one or two things. It's sharpened his reflexes so that his neural pathways react and process stimuli better. This allows him to perceive bullets and things coming at him as slower - giving him enough time to react. In addition to this, his body processes and eliminates fatigue making poisons (lactic acid and such) and gives him superior endurance. That means he can run longer and toxins don't affect him as much.
In making this character real, the existence of a Super Soldier formula would need to exist.
However, let's say that a young man like Theodore Roosevelt, who grew up sickly and through determination and exercise made his body into a powerhouse. This ability could not come as quickly as it did to Steve Rogers, but should an individual wish to fight for his country and learn all the combat and military intelligence techniques needed to be a fighting symbol of America, he could exist.
When you look at Steve Rogers' successors, The Spirit of 76 and The Patriot, they did not have the super soldier serum at all. They got what they got from training and used what they could get (a non-adamantium/vibranium shield). Remember, when the government tried to use the super soldier serum again in the fifties, they got someone unstable.
Like the Punisher, Steve Rogers got his training from the military. He was taught battle strategy and foreign languages to have the intelligence he needed to do his job during World War II. I think that it would be hard to get someone physically to peak human without steroids and drug enhancements - which we DO have. I think the chemistry is not quite there yet given how unstable some of these supplements make people.
What stands in his way? He'd need a light weight, unbreakable shield. I believe the only thing to stop this from happening, in reality, is the science of metallurgy and the skill and cause to produce such an individual.
All we have to do now is keep the candidate out of Hydra.
5. Moon Knight
When we think of a character like The Moon Knight, we should think of the poor man's Batman for Marvel. The Moon Knight's mission is that he's the avatar of Khonshu, the moon god of Egypt. Outside of the supernatural healing from the Khonshu when Spector desperately needs it, he has no powers.
The Moon Knight is Marc Spector, an international mercenary who made an obscene amount of money on military contracts. His mission comes as part of the deal he made with the moon god. The fact that he's alive and breathing now is the deal.
The downside of the character is that he suffers from multiple personality disorder. When he isn't the Moon Knight or Marc Spector, he's his millionaire alter ego, Stephen Grant, or his undercover cabbie persona, Jake Lockley which he uses to gather street intelligence.
This hero is unstable. He's got resources, he's got his mission, and he's got training.
Spector is a master boxer, marine, CIA operative, and mercenary. All of these skills are certainly attainable and in the hands of a mentally unbalanced vigilante... quite dangerous.
Could he exist? Sure, when you think about it, it takes an extreme personality to dress up in a silver, adamantium-coated costume and fight bad guys. He's got the skills. Would he be effective? It's hard to say. When someone is as unstable as Spector, it might be hard for him to keep his mission and investigations focused in real life situations.
6. Shang-Chi, The Master of Kung Fu
Simply put, Shang-Chi is the best there is.
When you think of martial artists in the Marvel Universe, they are all compared to the excellence of Shang-Chi, The Master of Kung Fu. He was a master of his craft by the time he was nineteen.
Let me repeat that - No powers.
Shang-Chi was the son of Doctor Fu Man Chu. He was trained in the martial arts and forged his body to physical perfection. After finding out his father was incredibly evil, he dedicated his life to stopping him.
That's his mission. He needs no futuristic technological might in what he does. He kicks ass and takes names. His reflexes are like lightning and he hits harder than any heavyweight. He has faced armored and armed opponents and come out victorious.
Okay, two things 1) let's leave alone that Fu Man Chu does not exist how easily do we see Shang-Chi in real life? 2) How many Shang-Chi's do we actually know in real life?
Most likely, a lot.
I could say that the majority of serious martial artists who have a strong sense of justice could be a Shang-Chi. Do they all become vigilantes? No. Most are helping the inner city communities and guiding today's youth to a better tomorrow. Martial arts has proven to be a strong catalyst in creating strong personalities as well as a sound mind and body.
What drives a hero? What makes a man leave his entire life behind and pick up a gun or a mission and devote his life to a cause. I don't know. The reasons are as infinite as individual personalities.
In the comics, we know that a character lives a peaceful life until something happens to bring him to a mission. It's all part of the architecture of a story. The hero either has devoted himself to his mission or the mission is thrust upon him and he has to deal with it with whatever is at hand.
When a character goes to the effort of preparing for this mission by putting himself through many physical trials and disciplines, he raises the possibility of his success.
If not, he has to rely on his wits and his luck.
Can we have heroes in real life?
We have heroes in real life. We see their stories every day in the news. When a man or woman acts selflessly for another person or cause, we see heroes. When someone decides to fight the forces of evil in whatever way he can, he's a hero.
I believe in what Gandalf says:
"Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I've found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid, and he gives me courage."
The question for this article is whether the heroes we have in some of our comic books could exist today. I think some of them could, however, I also believe that some would not stay to their manufactured mission. A true hero sees what's wrong with the world and does his best to fight it.
The muscles, machines, and fighting? When the need comes, the heroes will come with them.
© 2012 Christopher Peruzzi
Angel Caleb Santos from Hampton Roads, Virginia on March 29, 2012:
Interesting article. By the way, there are actual Superheroes on the streets, nowadays. Fiction can become reality.