The Six Things Every MCU Superhero Has In Common


Almost nothing about the world and behavior of comic book superheroes as popularly imagined in the Gold and Silver Ages of the medium (i.e. the 3-4 decades during which a solid majority of currently-viable characters were created) makes any kind of logical sense. Even Batman, one of the most "plausible" characters (in terms of foundational conception), requires the suspension of disbelief necessary to believe that the most wealthy and famous man in a single city operates (nightly!) as a vigilante in an animal costume wielding elaborate high-tech gadgets for years on end without being found out by either the police or any of his enemies. Unless, of course, one recognizes a simple truth: They make perfect sense... when you remember that they're all basically children.

For all the sound and fury associated with them today, it's always worth remembering that the bulk of superhero characters (particularly the ones who endure for decades on end) were created specifically for a readership thought to consist primarily of pre-adolescent children - and that the most long-lasting side effect of this is that most of the ostensibly "adult" characters only really make sense if you recognize them as ten year-olds who merely look like adults and inhabit a universe where this is the norm for pretty much everyone. In this context, all the most questionable details (elaborate secret identities, special secret forts where you keep all your stuff, signature weapons instead of just "a gun," cops-vs-robber "games" running forever just because) become intensely clear. They act and think this way because they're kids.

Related: Predicting The 40 Characters In Infinity War’s Massive Action Scene

While that specific energy can be hard to translate into live-action outside the realms of gauzy nostalgic sincerity (see: Christopher Reeve's Superman) or outright parody (Adam West's Batman), the Marvel Cinematic Universe worked out a way - as early as the original Iron Man, no less! - to split the difference and let its heroes retain an unprecedented amount of their comic-book childlike-ness while still functioning as the leads of semi-serious melodramatic action films: All the Marvel Cinematic Universe films/shows/main character-arcs are about "boys" (in the Western fiction archetype sense, not necessarily the literal age/gender sense - though the issue that almost all of them are literal boys is another issue altogether) trying to grow up and become "men;" allowing the heroes to be metaphorical children complimentary to the metaphorical mother, father and sibling figures outlined previously.

Tony Stark & Peter Parker in Iron Man 2

This is most obvious in characters like Star-Lord or Iron Fist, who are yanked out of their "normal" development as children and have thus reached "adulthood" as (at best) a child's idea of what a grown man acts like (and Spider-Man given that he's, literally, an actual child;) but it applies to the rest of them as well: Tony Stark and Stephen Strange are both ostensible "grownups" whose skills allowed them to remain irresponsible teenagers into middle age... until they didn't. The Hulk is, effectively, an enormous tantrum-throwing baby. Thor and Black Panther are both Princes who need to go on journeys to mature into Kings - and while T'Challa isn't a classical "callow youth" like the Thunder God, he's still pretty "young" behaviorally: He endearingly freezes in front of the girl he likes and (more substantively) undergoes an arc that's all about accepting that his father and ancestors were imperfect and human.

Elsewhere the the Universe; Luke Cage, The Punisher, Daredevil and most of The Inhumans (just take our word for it) are still learning Marvel's favorite growing-up lesson about power and responsibility despite no one in the MCU actually having said it out loud yet. Jessica Jones lives like an angry teenager with a grownup's alcohol tolerance. The team-cohesion narratives of the two (so far) Avengers movies resemble setting up an army vastly less than they do getting a handful of rowdy children to all work together on something. And speaking of armies, there's of course Captain America; whose charming innocence (like T'Challa, he's surprisingly awkward around his love-interests) fits his unstuck-in-time persona but renders him the "youngest" Avenger apart from The Hulk - Tony Stark may be arrested in his college years, but Steve Rogers reacts to each new disillusionment (with his country, with S.H.I.E.L.D., with his friends) like he only just learned the truth about Santa Claus.

And yet, while the understanding Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes not only all share so many specific traits but that said traits form a repeating, unified central theme could be interpreted to confirm the criticism that the mega-franchise merely tells the same stories over and over (or that the various parts have begun to blend together); on closer inspection a more impressive truth could be said to reveal itself: Namely, just how much variety can actually be wrung from seemingly similar stories within an established framework... and, perhaps more instructively, that there's substantially more to understanding stories and characters than being able to "call out" a list of tropes.

More: The Biggest MCU Narrative Threads Avengers: Infinity War Must Resolve

Key Release Dates
  • Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
  • Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
  • Venom (2018) release date: Oct 05, 2018
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
  • Silver and Black release date:
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 release date:
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