Why Do Superheroes Need Other Superheroes?


Full disclosure: When it comes to superheroes, I am not all that knowledgeable. I didn't grow up reading comic books; the few that I did were mostly "Richie Rich," which if you were to analyze me would probably mean that I crave money, power, and respect without having to work for it. (All true.) So it's safe to say that I am fairly ignorant in the ways of DC and Marvel, which in this day and age makes me the outsider...and lame...and uncool. Hey...irony?

So, being an outsider, I think I am allowed to ask this simple yet poignant question: Why do superheroes need other superheroes? What's with all the teaming up? Can't one superhero get the job done? 

Look, I get that part of the reason for so many superheroes to come together is the whole concept of, "working together as a team to get the job done." All good stories have morals and that's a great life lesson to teach little kids. At the same time, it's also kind of crap. In the real world there are many times where people work horribly together. Egos get in the way, personalities clash, when there is failure everyone blames each other and when there is success everyone takes credit. Teamwork ain't everything.

Whenever superheroes team up it feels like it diminishes the superpowers that they actually have. When Wolverine needs Gambit and Cyclops to help battle the bad guys it makes it feel like their respective super powers aren't all that super. Green Lantern needing Shazam, Martian Manhunter, and Phantom Stranger just to beat up some toughs kinda looks like all three are wimps.  I mean, Superman can't close by himself? Seriously? SUPERMAN!?

"Hulk need to spread wings! Hulk fly solo!" Marvel Comics

You know why most supervillains don't team up? Confidence. They know that they can rule the world on their own. They don't need or even want assistance. And even when they do need a helping hand from a few of their fellow supervillains, you know it's only temporary and that they will all eventually turn on each other until it's just Last Supervillain Standing.  But with superheroes it always seems like they can't do it on their own. I know this because in any superhero movie with at least more than one superhero they will always say, "You can't do this on your own." It's like there's this insecurity with their abilities that forces them to team up, kind of like when nine guys go out to a club together because they are too scared to go it alone. Just take a look at the three classic teams below:

X-Men: Cyclops, Iceman, Wolverine, Beast, Phoenix, Storm, Colossus, Gambit, and the list goes on and on. At this point there are more X-Men than people who aren't X-Men. They have so many members that they should be running things by now.


Avengers: Falcon, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and Thor. Come on!  Do they all need to be in the mix? Can they at least trim it down to a trio? I mean, couldn't Captain America and two lesser members "“ I'm thinking The Wasp and maybe Starfox -  clean it up all by themselves?!  I'm pretty sure Thor could do it all by his lonesome.


Justice League of America: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and later on Green Arrow, Atom, and Hawkman. They recruited even more. Really? They had to recruit? The villains they fought against were that difficult to defeat? Someone is not pulling their weight here. (It's totally Aquaman.)

I mean, this is just getting ridiculous. DC Comics

Ultimately, seeing superheroes team up - not just for one mission but for multiple - smacks of a serious case of co-dependency. From Mental Health America, "Co-dependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to that same weakness in the love and friendship relationships." Another term for co-dependency is "relationship addiction." Co-dependents need to feel needed, almost to the point of compulsiveness  Again, from Mental Heath America, here's a checklist of co-dependency characteristics:
  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others.
  • A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time.
  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships.
  • A compelling need to control others.
  • Lack of trust in self and/or others.
  • Difficulty identifying feelings.
  • Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change.
  • Problems with intimacy/boundaries.
  • Chronic anger.
Hmm, who does this sound like? How about every superhero that was ever created - ever. I mean, the above is basically The Fantastic Four in a nutshell.  So when you think about it, superheroes don't team up so much because of a practical need for teamwork but for a serious psychological itch that needs to get scratched. They could probably save the day on their own, but due to their low self-esteem - a trait shared by many co-dependents - they need to surround themselves with as many like-minded people as possible.  And when you put a group of co-dependents together who won't acknowledge that co-dependency, then you just have a bunch of damaged people eagerly feeding off of each others' neuroses in one, big, co-dependent, superhero block party.

Honestly, it's a miracle that the supervillains don't win every time.

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