Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Let’s face it: it’s a tough economy right now. Even yours truly finds himself scrambling to line up a job for the coming year as soon as my tour of duty with the current full-time job I work for is all tied up.

Superheroes and employment are interesting subjects, actually. I’m constantly surprised to find that often, a superhero’s secret identity is well crafted to highlight or portray some element of the hero’s mythology or identity. Sometimes this seems like this aspect of the character was well constructed at the character’s inception. Other times it seems like modern day writers have put some effort into making that character’s work a bigger piece of the story.

Selling newspapers and running into phone booths have become the sort of comic staple of superhero parodies. Regardless, the fact that Clark Kent works for a print newspaper actually remains, to me, one of the most brilliant aspects of what makes the character tick.

Nowadays, you’re used to sneering at the news and feeling like someone somewhere was trying to drum up a story to get ratings or overexposing you to pictures of graphic violence in the world that isn’t really informative;just shocking.

It’s an old fashioned point of view, but I think what it boils down to is this.

In the Superman universe, the press is usually the GOOD guy. The job of the press is to help people understand the TRUTH so that they can make informed decisions about what they want to do with their lives. It’s part of what makes the character so squeaky-clean good, but it just pulls at heartstrings a little. I’m not sure if this is the case in the world today but the idea that the news is really run by people who are more interested in serving a city’s inhabitants than making a buck really strikes a chord with me. Not to mention it’s completely in keeping with the whole notion that Kansas, small-town values are the ones worth holding on to, even in a big city.

Of course, Spider-man’s J. Jonah Jameson hardly has the kind of die hard, do-gooder mentality that Daily Planet editor Perry White does. In fact, I’m a little surprised this doesn’t stick out to people more often, but you could argue that ‘Spider’-man was developed to be an outright parody of ‘Super’-man. The Daily Planet, the Daily Bugle. It could really be kind of a spoof on all of the superheroic storytelling DC was doing in Action Comics.

Regardless, the fact that Peter is photographer remains an under-appreciated aspect of Spidey. In fact--maybe I’m wrong--but there’s something about the camera and the fact that Spidey can crawl high to reach places that screams spider. Kind of like ‘be a fly (spider) on the wall’ kind of thing: Spidey might see or hear things other people might not notice and snag a photo while he’s there.

Of course, there’s nothing like having your own private fortune to fund your one man war on crime. Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark could both decide never to work a day in their lives, I suppose, if they really wanted to. But they won't and that's the thing.

If you stop and think about: Bruce could actually be a huge symbol of corruption in Gotham City, if he wanted to be. He’s rich and young. He could just waste his life raking in dough and dating supermodels. He could be the ultimate symbol of decadence, really, but he chooses to do more than that. And that kind of self-sacrifice and charity is part of what makes Batman such an important character.

As for Stark it’s a more interesting dilemma, being an inventor. He COULD just sit back and let his own company crank out whatever, but SHOULD he? Progress, unchecked, isn’t necessarily progress. Should the atom bomb been invented? Biological warfare?

Invention, alone, isn’t enough. Stark has to have vision to make sure he’s making the world safer, not deadlier. It’s an interesting coming of age story for a guy who doesn’t seem very responsible: finally stepping up to the plate and taking some responsibility for how his work is impacting the world.

There are others too. Barry Alan is a forensic scientist, Hal Jordan is a test Pilot, Donald Blake (Thor’s alter ego, unmentioned in the film) is a doctor. Give it some thought, what it all means. You might surprise yourself, what you learn about a character…