Statues and monuments aren’t about the people to whom they owe their likenesses. Not really. Such memorials immortalize the ideas, struggles and virtues of ages in the forms of figures who represented and distilled them.
The bust of General George Custer in my hometown represents not the man - who, I gather, was kind of a dick - but the myth that surrounded him: roguish man of action who - by will and grit and skillful heroism - rose through the Union ranks during the Civil War to eventually help secure America’s westward expanse.
Lincoln’s Monument is more a testament to resolve and righteous fortitude than the man himself. Washington.org describes the purpose of the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument off the Tidal Basin in DC as a “a lasting tribute to Dr. King’s legacy [that] will forever serve as a monument to the freedom, opportunity and justice for which he stood.” The monument inspires the sense of justice and willingness to fight for change that he represented - it is an attempt to replicate his effect on people as much as it is a way to honor the historical figure.
Statues of fictional characters like Rocky Balboa and - only slightly less fictional - Paul Revere stand as tributes to their roles in the American zeitgeist.
Similarly, superheroes often function as embodiments for ideas and ideals. In a sort of reverse fashion from those who earn monuments through notable deeds, the genre demands that superheroes execute acts of greatness (usually great violence), so what they do is less compelling to readers than why they do it. This is why the superhero origin story is such an important component of the mythos: we need to know the idea the hero represents while doing cartoonish battle.
As such, it comes as no surprise that superheroes - like our historical myths - have for almost 80 years now represented our ideologies and anxieties in their flashy, pow-filled “conversations.” They’ve become a part of the way we interpret our culture and world, a sentiment now recognized by the erection of the world’s first public superhero statue.
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