Superman, Spiderman, Batman: The Enemies of Coyote

In the beginning, Coyote created the universe. Or so many of the old native stories go…

The Joker, Batman’s archnemesis, a madman, born from an accident at Batman’s hand, reborn as he emerged from a soup of industrial chemicals in a Factory vat…

What does Coyote represent, anyway? Some say chance. Some say transformation. The Trickster, who tricks even himself at times. A Fool? A Sage?

The schizophrenic Green Goblin, throws bombs left and right, creating chaos and fear, as Spiderman desperately tries to stop him…

What do many in our culture see, when they picture the living world before the emergence of humans, the world newly made, by Coyote. The jungles, teeming with life. Not a human in sight. What does that look like to modern eyes?

Chaos.

The Riddler giggles and cackles, another mad plan coming together as Batman struggles to solve the newest riddle against the clock…

How does our modern civilization feel about Chaos? To what work would we put our superheroes, if we had them? And what mask would we put on Chaos, to demonize it, to make it an acceptable enemy.

…They called me MAD at the University, but I’ll show them, I’ll show them all! -Anonymous Mad Scientist

Well. We’d call it crazy, wouldn’t we?

Mwahahahah! Nobody can stop me now! Hahahahah! -Anonymous Supervillain

And truly, when our superheroes don’t have these colorful and insane archvillains to fight, they have to satisfy themselves as glorified cops and EMTs: stopping bank robbers, purse snatchers, putting out fires. But what about corporate polluters? What about enslaved workers at sweatshops? What about inethical and illegal logging practices? Fishkills from oil slicks? Well, we don’t employ them for those things. Their real work lies somewhere else.

Our superheroes don’t serve the world of life. They serve the prison that we all live in. They protect civilization [if you have any doubts about the prison-nature of civilization, I recommend you follow that line of inquiry, starting with the book Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn]. Of course, some of their archvillains can seem no more than glorified bank robbers. But we all can observe our superheroes reaching their pinnacle when a worthy enemy comes to threaten the integrity of the prison they guard…

Yes, my pretties, yes! Attack! Oh, my beautiful rodent army, no one can stop you! Kill, kill! -Anonymous Supervillain

…Magneto returned to his attempts at global conquest, being opposed time and again by the X-Men and a number of other heroes. In his most audacious attempt to conquer the world he threatened the governments of the world with earthquakes and volcanic activity…

Always our greatest enemy, insolent in her defiance, never submitting to our control, Mother Nature. She attacks our crops with insects, our cities with rodents, throwing hurricanes and floods our way. But Mother Nature…we like her when she behaves. So let’s blame Coyote. He never behaves.

The Green Goblin, poisoned by his own scientific experiment…the Hulk, chased and hounded, his powers the result of military research…the Joker and his chemical soup…the Riddler, victim of his own machine…

Our villains and our superheroes quite often seem born from the same womb: the arrogance of modern science. Its arrogance to study whatever it wishes, though the tools may injure and scar. To go wherever it wants, though it may threaten our lives, our children’s lives, our grandchildren’s lives.

So, if any of this does describe the stories we tell our ourselves, what do we do with this knowledge?

Well, we can start by firing our superheroes. Or putting them to new and better work. We can start by writing new stories, knowing full well what we do: that these new stories amount to nothing less than a vision of the world, and our place in it. What do we want that place to look like? Do we want it to make a future with great-grandchildren possible?

For we know one thing. As our superheroes zoom from one earthquake to another, from one robbery to another, stopping counterfeiters and mass-poisoners and mad arsonists, great-grandchildren really fall low on the list of priorities. With all this Chaos to control and stop, who has time for thinking of a seventh generation?

Written by Willem