What makes a hero a hero? Not a superhero, necessarily, but a hero. Obviously we don’t have Batman and Superman running around the world, but heroes still exist. And they’re everywhere. So why are heroes heroes?
We can answer this question by looking at the stories of various real and fictional heroes and finding a common factor among them. In this article, we’ll look at four heroes. Two real, two fictional. And then we’ll see a common goal between them.
Our first hero is simply known as the Tank Man.
I’m sure you’ve seen the picture. It’s used in all sorts of motivational stuff, showing how one person can stand up for what they believe in. The story of this hero goes as such: an unidentified man in China was walking back from getting groceries when he saw a line of tanks headed toward Tiananmen Square, a day after the Chinese government decided to crack down on protests going on in the square. The man walked up in front of the tanks and stood there. When they tried to move around him, he stepped in front of them again. He stood his ground until he was dragged away so the tanks could pass.
Our second hero here is Deadpool. He seems like an odd one for this inspiring article, but there’s good reason here.
I didn’t just choose these panels from Deadpool #20 because they were inspiring. I chose them because they’re the reason I’m saying Deadpool is a true hero. In this issue, a girl is standing on the edge of a building when Deadpool tells her not to jump. From there, he takes her on a trip, the entire time telling her that if he can’t make her want to get better, he’ll let her make her own decision. It seems like a scummy thing, telling someone you’ll let them commit suicide if they want to, but at the end, we see that that isn’t the case. That was never Deadpool’s intention. The girl tells our hero that while she had fun, he could let her off wherever and she’d find her way. And so he lets her off at a hospital, where he’s been texting the staff, telling them he’s got a suicidal girl for them to help. The entire story, he says that he can’t help her, and yet, we see that he does what he can.
Hero three is Joan of Arc, the heroine of France.
As a teenager in France, Joan received visions which she attributed to various saints telling her to relieve France from the English in the tail end of the Hundred Years War. She was entrusted to help end the siege of Orléans and with that victory, led an army to many other victories, ultimately raising morale in France, leading to a victory. In the end, she was tried by the English for various crimes, including dressing as a man and being a witch, which led to her being burned at the stake.
And our final hero here is Dream of the Endless.
A comic book character, but not a superhero, one story that paints Dream as a hero to me is the story told in Sandman: Overture. In this story, a vortex is threatening the universe after an aspect of Dream is killed. After an adventure showing him what has happened, Dream and his sibling Desire work together to save the universe, sacrificing loads and weakening Dream to the point that he’s able to be captured in Sandman #1.
So now that we’ve looked at our heroes, what’s one thing that they all have in common? While most of them brought hope, Dream did what he did without it being known to many, so I don’t think bringing hope solely makes you a hero. The defining feature that all these heroes share is that they worked to save people.
Tank Man tried to save the protesters in Tiananmen Square. Deadpool saved a girl from suicide. Joan of Arc saved many French people from English tyranny. Dream saved the universe from its untimely end.
So I was asked what makes a hero. And I contemplated what makes a hero. And I decided that saving people is what makes a hero. Not saving everyone. Not saving just those important to you. But saving anyone you have the chance to save. And if you do that, you too can be a hero.