"The wicked are wicked, no doubt, and they go astray and they fall, and they come by their deserts: but who can tell the mischief which the very virtuous do?" -William Makepeace Thackeray
Our poor little world has always had to cope with good vs. evil. We find most of the examples in the Bible, but because our imaginations dare to breathe, we have created 'superheroes', those with the supernatural powers constantly in conflict with their human side. The good ones have a conscience; the evil ones...not so much. Which makes them a bit more fun, wouldn't you say?
In Tom King's new novel, "A Once Crowded Sky", he takes us into the realm of superheroes who, along with their leader, Ultimate, have sacrificed their powers for the common good. Except for one. PenUltimate walked away from the constant battles in order that he could live a somewhat normal life. But if he had stayed just a bit longer, he, too, would have had to sacrifice his powers. Which would have let to that 'normal' life. He was the only one in his group of superheroes who managed to retain his powers. And he was the one called back to fight the evil they all thought had been vanquished.
The Soldier of Freedom was content to exist without his powers, but a new threat engulfs the city of Arcadia, and he feels that it is his duty to enlist the aid of his once-powerful brethren. But they cannot do it alone without their powers, so they seek out PenUltimate, the only one who can make a difference.
The world of novels and graphic novels is filled with superheroes and villains. Some of them are heroes from long ago, created when the world needed to believe in someone who could fight their battles and save the day. Hitler was a popular villain in comic books during the '40s, and almost every artist and writer had a field day avenging the poor souls who fell onto his path of destruction.
We need heroes; we will always need heroes. Some evil is constantly lurking about, ready to destroy our world, be it in the physical or the mind. And when we read about the exploits of Superman, or Batman, or Spiderman, or the whole host of 'super avengers', we cheer them on, secretly wishing we could trade places with them. As we grow older, so do the heroes. We discover their inner conflicts and learn that some of them hate themselves.
Just like us.
So maybe we are all superheroes in some way. Certainly soldiers and food bank volunteers, doctors, nurses, scientists, and teachers are all heroes. But the villains do exist. Read the newspaper, watch television news, learn about them in sickening exposés.
And just when we think that this evil will rule our world, a superhero will come along to remind evil that decency still exists...and it has a conscience.
Author Tom King served in the CIA as an operations officer in the Counterrorism Center. Prior to that, he interned at Marvel and DC comics. 'A Once Crowded Sky' will be released by Touchstone books in July 2012.