Do Characters Influence our Personalities?

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Whilst in the pub, the course of conversation altered from how badly England were doing at the football (Soccer for those uninitiated with the English language) to why everyone should just watch the rugby (a bit like American Football but for hard-core men) to which comic book characters we like the most. Everybody that reads comic books can say that they have their favourite characters. For this conversation, mine included Batman, Deadpool and Wolverine. All are dark and cynical individuals much like me (or so I like to think). A friend of mine however prefers Superman and Captain America and I find that he is overall positive about life and responds to the good in individuals.

This raises the following question - Does our personality shape the character we like or do the characters we like shape our personalities?

I for one tend to believe that I was cynical before the comics came along. I discovered comics again in my mid 20’s after a dalliance with them in my teens. I’ve never been a Superman fan and find the patriotism of Captain America annoying, though this could be more of a British-ism than a personality based opinion.

In relation to Deadpool especially, there is a sense of fun that I can appreciate. He says the things I’ve thought and has insulted the characters I don’t particularly like. There has been a lot of Deadpool recently; Deadpool verses this, Deadpool vs that and it has watered down what Deadpool represented for me.

All the characters that I like seem to have dual personalities. Wolverine is a killer, plain and simple yet over the years he’s taken Jubilee under his wing, has tried to protect X-23 and has created a school where he hopes all will be safe. Deadpool is the mercenary and killer who longs to be the good guy and has also shown value in his friendships with Cable and Wolverine. Batman is the quintessential anti-hero with duel personas throughout.

In some respects, it was my experience before reading comics that shaped what I read and it would be very simplistic and insulting to say that the comics young people read will shape them. But there are positive things that can shape them. Comics have now covered a vast range of issues from drug addiction to gay marriage. They are mediums that can continue to push the barriers and explore the challenges that modern life can create as well as documenting the history of society. They have moved a considerable distance from the hysteria that was created by Dr. Fredric Wertham during the 1950’s censorship.

There have always been critics of comics, as there have been critics of video games and film to mention merely a few. Laughingly the majority of critics in the 1930’s were from teachers who believed that comics would destroy a young person’s reading ability. Comics allowed children to pick something that interested them, that were quick to read and entertaining too. As with all forms of art however, there was a fear of immorality in relation to the art and writing. During the post-war era, eminent psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham campaigned for the banning of comic sales to children as it was widely believed that they could create juvenile delinquency. The comic industry through fear and a little self-presentation became self-regulating and developed a comic book code that was in place officially until around 2010. 

But, something needs to change. The sexism, not necessarily of the comic book industry but of the reader in some cases needs to change (and I classify myself in this also). There is a section of the community that have become keyboard warriors and who battle any criticism with anger. As comic book fans, we are a community and it is only through criticism that the medium can change for the better. The comic book industry itself needs to continue to be courageous with its medium and be wary of a return to the days of over self-regulation too.
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