Two Reflections on Retirement Superheroes

Updated 8/12/11 3:37pm | We all grow up admiring superheroes, we at Alert1 have our own aging in place champions too. For some of us it is Batman, for others, Superman. The Superhero Trinity is complete with Wonder Woman. For those that aren’t satisfied with the DC Comics world, Spiderman and Iron Man from the Marvel universe fill the need for a superhero.

Our superheroes are meant to embody the best in humanity and the qualities that people strive to have each and every day. They are the inspirations, and in their own fictional worlds, the entire world watches them and aspires to be like them. In the real world as well, the influence of these characters can’t be denied. They’re on screens, on books, TVs, magazine covers, shirts, toys, everywhere. And, superheroes are ageless.

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The works of Andreas Englund strike a different chord. Not only is the superhero of this series aged, but they are decaying, withering away, incongruous with our notion of the “hero.” He is smoking, coughing, frightened, hung-over, addicted, arrested, and essentially a counter-icon to the image of the superhero that people hold dear to their hearts.

In an alternate image of the aging superhero, we have the modern conception of Batman: as he grows older, he continues to fight crime as long as he can, and then to train the next generation who would carry on his legacy as the “bane” of crime.

But the most important part of this retirement story is the journey that Batman has to go through in order to successfully grow into the golden years. He has to face the limits of his aging. Bruce Wayne also faces new questions on morals and beliefs as his alter ego has to be retired and as only Bruce Wayne himself is left. Not at all easy, but senior retirement is accomplished in the end.

So no, superheroes will not die as a shadow of their glory days as Andreas Englund would have us believe. They will live in their continued legacies as paragons of the best of mankind.

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Outside of the medium of comic books, we often forget that superheroes walk among us. They don no armor, no cape, or no utility belt. Skin tight body suits truly wouldn't suit them. We see them daily as they walk the streets clad in shawls or cane on hand. They sit in cafes, movies, restaurants and oversee their children with knowing, veteran eyes.

They are our independent seniors. These heroes are marked by their mortality, rather than their immortality.

The works of oil painter Andreas Englund strike a particular chord. Englund’s portrayals of an aged hero in the twilight of his days depict such displacement: a once active hero struggling to remain relevant in a world that has forgotten him. Time, it seems, is the inescapable truth.

Englund’s hero is illustrated to continue his heroics (and occasionally reimagined in less-than-super circumstances). And as the center of Englund’s work, the hero is a deification of the human desire to be respected and acknowledged—though I am aged, my accomplishments are worthy of recognition.

Our senior citizens have depth, knowledge and wisdom that are not to be underestimated. They are the heroes that spun our world and fashioned it towards more tomorrows.

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Images from Andreas Englund