Heroes face hard decisions. The choices that heroes make define their journey. Prophecy can foretell the heroes that are chosen to fulfill a destiny. Some heroes are not destined or chosen. Their choices are heroic.
Choice or Chosen?
Are heroes chosen? Or, do the choices made by ordinary people define a hero?
These two questions have led to a recurring argument in storytelling. To begin with, there is one side that claims that something or someone decides who becomes a hero. This side believes in fate, destiny, and fulfillment.
Conversely, the other side claims that a hero is an ordinary person who takes action, and chooses to be heroic. The difference is that there is neither destiny nor fulfillment. In this case there is only the choice and the will to act.
Two writers are using a comic book character, and his universe, to further the argument that heroes are not chosen.
Heroes make choices and those choices have consequences and often demand sacrifices.
“I think the corollary to that is, in fiction, in sci-fi, someone will be special by birth. There are a lot of people I know in real life who chose the path — they’re not special for any other reason than they chose a path. They made a choice,” said Bechko.
The Earth One label from DC retells the origins of class comic book characters. It’s an invitation for new readers to try them out. DC has used the technique with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and The Teen Titans.
Decisions That Define Us
I like the choice to join the argument. Heroes make hard choices. It is why their path can be lonely. It is easy to accept the idea that some people are chosen to be heroes. It’s easy to leave the result to fate or say that such things are out of your hands.
But, nowhere does it say that the life of a hero is easy.
Being chosen is part of the original concept of Green Lantern. The signature trait of the Green Lantern Corps and the Guardians who created them is fearlessness.
Hal Jordan was a test pilot for experimental aircraft. This made him the natural choice when his dying predecessor Abin Sur, sent his ring to find a successor.
When Hal joined the Corps it was his fearlessness that made him a star. Time and again Jordan relied on the ability to overcome fear and doubt when all seemed lost. That didn’t mean that this made things any easier. Chosen heroes still have to make hard choices.
When a hero is not The Chosen One (TCO), the choices involve different risks. Things change when the hero is guaranteed to succeed. Director Rian Johnson demonstrated this in the latest Star Wars installment.
Johnson said that Rey’s ability to use the force in The Last Jedi breaks from George Lucas’ tradition. The Force is destiny. Luke and Leia were strong in the force because their father, Anakin, Darth Vader, was a powerful Jedi.
Dominant traits pass from parents to children. This is fact. These traits include gifts that are not common. But, they do not produce a hero. The decision to act, to do something hard, is the hero’s choice.
“They made sacrifices,” said Hardman. “Heroes make sacrifices, and that’s something that gets lost in long-form superhero stories.”
Joseph Campbell claimed that heroes received a call to action. Campbell created his Hero’s Journey by researching the myths of the world. He traveled to their origins to read books and speak with elders.
“The usual person is more than content, he is even proud, to remain within the indicated bounds. And popular belief gives him every reason to fear so much as the first step into the unexplored.”Campbell
The reasons for the hero to act outnumber the stars. So, are the reasons to not act. Answering the call is not always the first response of a hero. Like Luke denying Obi-Wan’s offer to join the rebellion, many, as Campbell terms it, “refuse the call.”
“The adventure is always and everywhere a passage beyond the veil of the known into the unknown; the powers that watch at the boundary are dangerous; to deal with them is risky, yet for anyone with competence and courage the danger fadesCampbell
In some cases, the choice to act is one of survival. Instant or imminent, it is this choice to answer that begins the hero’s journey. It is the choices that the hero makes on that journey, which will define their identity.
About the Storyteller
Seth Singleton believes in a common thread that connects us all.
In the end, everyone has a story to tell.
He is the author of This is a Language of Fists.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org about a writing or podcast project.