The Problem with Invincibility

“You can’t see me!” – John Cena, 10 time World Heavyweight Champion

Before we begin, prepare for grammatical errors and what not. I’m writing for the sake of writing and not really self-editing. Apologies, and I hope you were able to get what I meant rather than what I wrote when (not if) you’re confronted with an error.

Since the 2000’s, Spider-Man has been rebooted 3 times, and all 3 times finding commercial success.
We started off with the Tobey Maguire Era (and let’s face it, Spider-Man 2 is one of the best superhero movies out there). Then the Andrew Garfield Era, although, maybe not as successful as the other two. But Garfield was a really good Spider-Man. Then we have the current Tom Holland Spider-Man. Oh, not to mention Miles Morales in the Spider-verse movie.
(No Way Home; Into the Spider-verse; Spider-Man 2 are the best Spider-Man movies, in that order, IMO).

Batman has been rebooted three times.
The dark and ”realistic” Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale Batman which gave us the best iteration of the Joker in The Dark Knight.
Then we had Bat-fleck and — well, I actually really liked Ben Affleck’s Batman and was super curious to see what more that Batman could do.
Then we had the Edward Cullen’s Batman — which killed, btw.

Superman, on the other hand.
We had the Brandon Routh reboot in 2006 which really was a continuation of the Christopher Reeve Superman.
Then we had Henry Cavill’s Superman in Man of Steel. I, for one, liked Man of Steel but it still is a mixed bag. Batman v. Superman should’ve been so much better. How does a clash of titans end because of the name Martha?
Anything DC did with their attempt to catch up to Marvel has been bungled at best.
Don’t know if Snyder was the best choice to helm the vision. Then we had the whole debacle with The Justice League and Joss Whedon.

But there’s just something about Superman that doesn’t click with box ticket sales.
And I think the sports entertainment world of wrestling can tell you a bit on why.

During the Ruthless Aggression Era, John Cena’s star began to shine.
The Company (read: Vince McMahon) started pushing Cena to the moon. The push seeped well into the PG Era.

But the wrestling fans that were over the age of 12 adamantly rejected what WWE was trying to make in Cena. He was supposed to the face (hero) of the company but you started hearing Cena get booed and chants of ”Cena sucks” during his intro music. And it wasn’t really about Cena as a performer (he’s always been a great performer). It was the idea of him being forced down the throats of fans as the man.
He was positioned as a superman; as someone who couldn’t lose.
When Cena was involved in the match, you’d knew that he would win.
He would go beating everyone. And well, it got boring; his character and gimmick got boring.

We’re seeing this again with Roman Reigns.
He was forced into fandom as this unbeatable force and the fans rejected him. He won the Royal Rumble a while back and the Rock (the Dwayne Johnson) came out to lend support and a way to get him cheered. The fans booed the Rock. The Rock. That never happens. You could visibly see how irate the Rock was at getting booed. But it was a loud and clear message to WWE that Roman wasn’t going to be accepted.

Years later, they revamped Roman’s character. His real life bout with cancer lessened the boo’s as fans just appreciated his presence. Then they turned Roman into a heel, which was something fans begged WWE do to Cena.

It was a great revamp of his gimmick. But now, they’ve run into a problem
He legitimately has no rivals. He has beaten everyone he’s encountered. And we know going in, he’s going to win.
There’s no element of surprise. And he’s invincible; unbeatable. And therefore, it’s getting old and stale and hard to invest in. He’s gonna win. What’s the point.

Invincibility is fun when you’re like 10!
Who doesn’t love Superman at 10 years old? He can do everything.
Fly? Check. (the first iteration of Superman couldn’t fly. But he could leap tall buildings with a single bound…)
Super speed? Check.
Super strength? Check.
Bulletproof skin? Check.
Invincible? Check.
X-ray Vision? Check.
Heat ray vision? Check.
Able to breathe through space and underwater? Check.

But, much like Cena and Roman Reigns, the older you get, the more boring the idea of invincibility gets.

What makes Batman popular? Because he’s relatable. He’s a human being with no super powers.
His super power is that he’s super rich.
He literally risks his life when he’s out there fighting crime. At any given moment, he can die.

Spider-Man? While he possess super powers, he’s always struggling to make the right choice.
He feels the call to protect the world and in order to do so, he’s consistently and constantly confronted with the choice of making personal sacrifices for the greater good.
He wants the best of both worlds and is always met with the heartbreaking reality that he cannot.

That’s relatable.
We often focus on the human side of Spider-Man and Batman and understand that the struggle is real for them, as well.

The past Superman movies have not done a good job to make Superman vulnerable and the box office reflects that.
And we don’t really like winners the way we say we do.
We really like the underdogs.
Think about sports. Outside of their fandom, no one likes a dynasty.
We love upsets.
March Madness is only great when it’s filled with madness and madness is provided by the underdog upsetting the favorites.
We don’t like it when the Final Four is all #1 seeds.
They make movies out of underdogs.
Do you believe in miracles? is one of the most famous calls in sports-dom when the underdog US Hockey team upset the Russian Powerhouse.

Invincibility doesn’t make for compelling; engaging; relatable stories.
But vulnerability is relatable and draws us into the narrative. It makes us human.

I basically wrote this to talk about wrestling a little bit.
My favorite storyline of all time was the NWO invasion in WCW.
It introduced us to the crow Sting (one of my favorite wrestlers of all time).
What made it intriguing was, Sting became recluse because none of his allies trusted him and so he declared himself a free-agent and hung out in the rafters. They exploited his vulnerability in this storyline. Alone; unfairly mistrusted and misunderstood; watching everything from afar assessing the sides of this conflict… and then it became an underdog story.

It became, basically, Sting vs. the powerhouse of NWO (oh, New World Order) and all the wrestlers NWO recruited. All this led up to Sting (the perpetual underdog) and the World Heavyweight Champion, Hollywood Hulk Hogan (the dominating force of WCW) in — I believe — Starrcade of ’97.
They spent a long time building this match up and we all knew it’ll be Sting vs, not just Hogan, but the entire NWO.
And Sting won.
The payoff was great.

That’s enough wrestling talk for one day.
And comic book talk as well, I suppose.

Superman is great for kids under 12 (much like John Cena and Roman Reigns).
But once we get the bitter taste of the real world, invincibility is child’s play.

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