I’m not sure when I became a “comic book movie” fan, but growing up I strayed away from anything remotely considered “weird.” There were musicals, and there were costume dramas, and that was the extent of my interest in film. But eventually, you have to explore cinema beyond The Sound of Music and Anne of Avonlea (two of my favorites) and so somehow I stumbled across Marvel film series and — well, what can I say? Once my “weirdness meter” stopped going off, I discovered my love for super heroes — or heroines, as the case may be.
Probably my favorite franchise is the X-Men series, because it has such a large cast of unique and fascinating characters and best of all, two complex friends often at odds with one another — Magneto, who can manipulate any form of metal (let’s just say, you would not want to be in a car in his way!), and Professor Xavier, whose mental powers are unfathomable and who serves as a teacher and father figure to all the mutants at his school.
Numerous individuals have attempted to read between the lines when it comes to the films and their underlining message — what does it represent, is it a social commentary about prejudice? Is it about the dangers of a second Holocaust? Or does it carry a message about our culture’s resistance to homosexuality. (“Have you tried not being a mutant?”) I can see some similarities but to me, this franchise and others like it carry deeper significance. You see, humans have always desired heroes, and nine times out of ten, the heroes we create have super-human abilities. They are capable of magnificent things and their adversaries are also often possessed of similar unique gifts. (Superman and Doomsday… Spider-Man and Doc Ock… Magneto and Xavier.)
I suspect our “need” and “desire” for superheroes goes beyond the obvious. It indicates a deep spiritual yearning in our soul for a world that is superior to ours, in which ordinary individuals possess extraordinary abilities. (Heaven?) Furthermore, the hero indicates our desire and need for Christ, the greatest superhero of them all. Interesting too, how many superheroes give up their lives for a great cause and/or return from the dead. It’s not just in Marvel comic books, either — it’s a theme carried throughout much of fantasy literature, from Lewis’s great lion Aslan to Rowling’s infamous Harry Potter, “the boy who lived.”
This understanding does not excuse comic book behavior but can help us understand our yearning for it, beyond the fact that it is “cool.” I would not go so far as to say that any of the characters in the Marvel universe are a direct representation of our Great Hero, but some of them do carry similar traits — one of them, and perhaps my favorite among the “good guys” in the franchise (not to be confused with my favorite villain!) is Professor Xavier. (Yes, I find the name rather telling too. Sounds a lot like “Savior” when you say it out loud, doesn’t it?) Confined to a wheelchair, his greatest asset is his mind, but it is not his abilities that make him so compelling, but the role he plays in the characters’ lives, especially with Jean.
We learn that since her childhood, the professor has established boundaries within her mind to prevent Jean from straying into her darker nature, an uncontrollable evil that transforms into limitless destructive powers. Xavier has done this not only to protect her, but those around her, but her dark side, Phoenix, resents him for not allowing her to experience the fullness of her powers. His rational voice of calm desires her to return to his established barriers but her continued resistance carries terrible consequences that ultimately, ends in defeat.
To me, this represents our relationship with God as a loving father but also one who establishes rules and boundaries for us to follow. So long as we remain within them, our lives are uncomplicated by the trials and tribulations that wrong decisions bring (not entirely without turmoil, granted, but that is far less frequent the more we align our will with His) but once we break through those walls and unleash our sinful nature, it is difficult for us to prevent our own downfall. (“For the wages of sin is death…”) Like Xavier, He is never condemning, never hateful, and never gives up — merely asks us to take His hand and return with Him to a place of safety within His guidelines.
Jean and Xavier’s relationship does not have a happy ending. In fact, it has a very sad one, but that does not defeat its strength, for reminds me that my “Professor Savior” is much stronger than any of my most powerful sins or weaknesses. He is not shocked or intimidated by them, for He has experienced them. He shouldered them for me on that dark day on the hillside. There is no one who is His equal, and unlike Xavier, he will never be defeated.
* On a minor note, I find it hilarious that Blogger has so many comic book geeks on it. How do I know this? None of the superheroes’ names set off my spell check! 😉