“But somewhere out there you have another father too, who gave you another name. And he sent you here for a reason, Clark. And even if it takes you the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is”Jonathan Kent
Over the years, comic books have provided us with numerous characters. The audience developed appreciation and love for those characters. Those characters were then brought into our daily lives through films. But, sometimes we seek some essential aspects in the character that help us to relate with them. One of those essential aspects is the influence of family on a character.
It would be correct to say that every living creature was born within a family. Although all creatures are different in a variety of aspects, what is true is that their family, in some way, has had an influence on them. That influence, positive or negative, is essential in forming the nature of a creature that doesn’t know what it even is yet. Such a simple yet profound relationship between a person and his/her family is often overlooked in films.
Since the beginning, Comic books have succeeded in establishing and developing this connection between a character and his/her family. Now that these comic book characters have been integrated with film, the audience has the opportunity to witness this connection in a range of creative ways. Unfortunately, not many comic book films have managed to demonstrate the influence family has on a specific character. But with the ones that have it, the intensity and the depth is visible which distinguishes the film from others.
One particular relationship that I find to be superior to most relationships is one between a mother and her child.
Although both Marvel and DC have provided us with characters we can relate with, I believe that it was with the beginning of the DCEU where developing such integral relationships achieved excellency. Man of Steel established the DCEU that we know of and from the very first moment until the end, the relationship between a mother and her son stands out.
Kal-El and Lara’s relationship isn’t talked about that much but that doesn’t make it any less superior to others. A mother loses her sleep, her comfort and her time to take care of a child from even before they are born up until the time they learn things and eventually do them by themselves. Lara didn’t have to sacrifice much of that. Instead she had to give up her child so that he could live.
But out there amongst the stars he will live.Jor-El
It is obvious to the audience how hard it is for her to give Kal-El up. Jor-El had a stronger belief that he had a better chance of surviving outside of Krypton but Lara had her doubts just as any mother would. The consequences of their decision are not clear at the time when Lara asks Jor-El about the possibility of the ship not making it. Along with that she is also concerned about that fact that he’s a baby away from his family and his future on this unfamiliar planet is unknown to them. When Jor-El wants to proceed with uploading the Codex, Lara stops him just so she could look at her baby. It is at this moment when the extent of her sacrifice is shown in depth when she talks about the simple things every mother gets to experience like seeing your child walk for the first time. Jor-El tells her that even if he would be away from his family, in a foreign planet, he will get to live. And that is enough to convince her.
Lara is often overlooked when discussing the influence of mothers in comic book films. Perhaps it is because she didn’t spend any time with her son but even though she didn’t, her influence on Kal-El was much greater than what was projected in the films. Kal barely even mentions his birth mother in the films but every time he is presented with a challenge, he uses the same will to sacrifice that his mother had used when she sent him away. When choosing between Earth and Krypton, Kal chose Earth, even though it was probably the most difficult decision he had to make and he did it because of the strength of his beliefs. That strength was something he inherited from his mother.
Superman’s adoptive mother, Martha Kent, was just as big of an influence on him as his biological family was. She took in a child who had no one else and loved him just as any mother loves her child, if not more. In Man of Steel, she mentioned how she used to lay by his crib and listened to him breath and how hard it was for him. She worried about him even though she didn’t know anything about his origin or his biological family. Clark was supposed to be a child they found in a field but instead they never made him feel that way.
Every conversation Clark has with his mother clearly displays the love he has for her. When he finds his own people, he feels an even greater need to protect her and we see this when Zod appears at the Kent farm and has a conversation with Martha. He asks her about the ship in which Clark arrived in and this is where Martha’s reciprocated love for her son, his beliefs and his task is clearly seen. She firmly tells Zod to go to hell. Martha’s firmness angers Zod and his inability to locate the codex fuels it more and he yells at Martha, asking her of the location of the Codex. This is where Superman appears and he takes Zod with him through the fields, striking him as he asks him if he thinks he can threaten his mother. Clark feels safe in a different planet because of the love his parents provided him with ever since he came into their lives. Even when he is unsure of who he is and what he is capable of, he has his mother to calm him. His love for Earth comprised of his love for his parents and that is essentially why he chose Earth over his own planet.
Clark’s relationship with his mother is developed even more with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The first time we get to see it is where Superman is wrongly accused of killing the civilians in Nairomi and he’s upset about what the public thinks of him. That is when he calls his mother in the middle of the night. She is unbothered, only concerned about the fact that something is bothering her son. It displayed the trust Clark has in his mother and even though he lives in Metropolis now, it’s her he calls whenever something is on his mind. The scene lasted less than a minute but it was enough for the audience to see that Clark Kent loved his mother. Lex Luthor knows this and that is why he exploited his love for his mother to get the world to see the ‘truth’ about Superman.
Every boy’s special lady is his mother. Martha, Martha, Martha. Now, the mother of a flying demon must be a witch. The punishment for witches, what is that? That’s right. Death by fire.Lex Luthor
He tells Superman that he will have to fight Batman and kill him. “You think I’ll fight him for you?” Superman asks him to which Lex answers that he does and he will fight him for the “special lady” in his life. Superman misunderstands and believes that he’s talking about Lois telling him that she’s safe on the ground. Lex tells him that every boy’s special lady is his mother. Superman’s expressions were that of fear. He has had to ensure his mother that she would not be losing him, not realizing that he could lose her. As strong as he was, his love for his mother was his weakness and you see how powerless Superman feels.
While Superman’s love for his mother is his weakness, so is Batman’s. Bruce Wayne experienced the trauma of watching his parents die in front of him. The vividness of his memory is seen multiple times within the film. And his Thomas Wayne’s last word, “Martha” is embedded in his memory ever since. His mother’s name has become a trigger for him. Even though he has lost his original path in Batman v Superman, Bruce’s mindset is to somehow undo the loss he faced. He does that by fighting crime and doing good and decades later he is still trying for it but mentally, he is stuck on the day his parents died.
When he’s about to kill Superman with the kryptonite, Superman says, “You’re letting him kill Martha” not knowing that his mother’s name was also Martha. Bruce freezes as the most traumatic time of his life flashes before his eyes again. It’s likely that his mind couldn’t comprehend what was being said to him and asks him what he means by it and why he said that name. Superman is desperate though; he just wants his mother to be saved and asks him to “Find him. Save Martha.” Bruce is triggered by hearing his mother’s name and repeatedly asks him why he said that name. It’s Lois who shows up and tells him that it’s his mother’s name. Bruce’s expressions show guilt and it’s almost as if he is thinking of himself as the person who killed his parents.
It is truly incredible how the entire conflict between Batman and Superman was initiated and built upon for an entire film and ended only with the love they had for their mothers. There was one commonality between them but it was the strongest thing possible and that lead to the end of their conflict.
These two films weren’t the only ones where an influence and love of a mother is explored. In my opinion, Aquaman was another film where the relationship between a mother and her child is seen in depth. Queen Atlanna has to make the same sacrifice that Lara had to make. They both essentially gave up their children in hopes of securing a better life for them, away from them. Atlanna didn’t love Arthur any less than a typical mother. The circumstances were what lead to her leaving Arthur with his father. The attack on her had put Arthur’s life in danger and although it meant leaving her family, Atlanna couldn’t have anything else ever being a threat to them, just because she was unwilling to sacrifice. She is in pain not knowing if she would ever meet her family again but she ends up making this sacrifice.
Arthur grows up confused about why his mother left but as he grows up, his only aim is to see her again. When he finds out that Atlanna was killed, his heart grows bitterness towards Atlantis because the people of Atlantis were the reason he lost his mother. When he is called to claim his right to be king, he only does so because his mother wanted him to reunite the sea and the surface world.
The loss of his mother remains in his mind though and it affects him. From the beginning until the third act of the film, it is clear that Arthur is unable to grow mentally because it is that loss that’s holding him back. When he sees his mother again, we see Arthur turn into a completely different person. That resentment disappears and nothing is holding him back anymore. His mother’s presence is what gives him the courage to retrieve King Atlan’s trident and exercise his right to be the rightful king of Atlantis. We also get to see Orm’ relationship with Atlanna and she loves him just as she loves Arthur. As a mother, she dislikes seeing her children fight because one of her sons was misled. Arthur’s relationship with Queen Atlanna is among the strongest ones in the DCEU and as underrated as Aquaman was as a superhero, the film explored his character and his relationships to a deeper level and that emotional aspect of the film was a big reason for its success.
Wonder Woman didn’t explore Diana’s relationship with her mother to a very great extent but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t present. Throughout the film, we see Hippolyta’s need to protect her daughter. It would be true to say that Diana inherited her bravery and willpower from her mother. Although Hippolyta wants to protect Diana, her sacrifice shouldn’t be overlooked. She let her daughter go, not knowing what was to follow. Before Diana left, Hippolyta looked visibly upset as she told her that she had been her greatest love and that today she was her greatest sorrow.
Family is important and it’s not just for us. Comic books and Comic book films have shown again and again how even the most powerful superheroes require love and support from their families. Mothers play such a vital role in our lives, they are the people who have the ability to love someone unconditionally and the films mentioned have shown that it isn’t any different for comic book characters. But for comic book characters, fathers are just as important. Where we mention Lara, it is important to know that it wasn’t just Lara who made the sacrifice, it was Jor-El as well. He didn’t want to never see his child again but his belief was firm. He knew that it was for the greater good. He even played an essential role in guiding him on Earth, letting him know of the powers inside him. When the time came to choose between Earth and Krypton, although Krypton was Jor-El’s planet, he told his son to save Earth.
You can save her, Kal. You can save them all.Jor-El
Jonathan Kent guided Clark from the moment he became a part of their lives up until he passed away. Jonathan’s love for Clark was as selfless as Jor-El’s could be. He drove Clark’s will to find out the reason for which he was sent. He embedded the values of a good human inside him. If Clark inherited his will to sacrifice from his biological parents, he got his values from his adoptive parents. Jonathan could have let Clark save him but he was only thinking of his greater good. He didn’t want the world to reject him, instead he was hoping for the right time to come when the world could accept him. He didn’t get to see that time but according to Martha, he did.
When families play an important role in our lives, we aim to explore that relationship. With films as well, we hope to find a commonality between the characters and us. Superheroes are not supposed to be relatable. They have got the powers that only exist in books and movies and that is where it gets difficult for filmmakers. They have to make the audience feel like they can relate to these characters no matter how powerful they are. In my opinion, this is where the DCEU succeeded. As powerful as Superman, Batman and all these characters are, they still have a family and that relationship between a person and their family is real. There is nothing artificial about it and that is where the audience can feel like they know these characters. That is where they can understand and begin to love characters.
As children, we hoped to be just like our favorite superhero but as we grew up we realized that we cant because, firstly, we’re human and secondly, because superheroes aren’t real. We loved superheroes because of their strength and their ability to defeat their enemies as children. To revive our love for these characters, all the filmmakers and the writers have to do is to show us a human aspect of these characters. Some question the love people have for the characters of the DCEU because for them, ‘superman was weak, unsure and not confident at all’. These arguments occur because people watch films for different reasons. Some people watch comic book movies to relive their childhood in adulthood, some watch it to escape reality and some watch it to relate to the characters they have loved since their childhood. None of these reasons are wrong; they are why preferences are formed.
There will always be movies to escape reality, there will always be films that show just how powerful Batman was in the comics but not many show us how we can relate to heroes that are nowhere as human as us in terms of strength. Family is one part of a person’s life that should be projected in films regularly. It is a piece of our lives that has existed from even before our births. As we grow up, we think about topics that include family. We are not concerned about our strength or our need to become a superhero. Life takes over and things don’t stay simple. We are expected to grow up and stop living in the dreams we have had.
Films such as Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Wonder Womanand Aquaman prove to us that we can still dream the way we used to, because superheroes aren’t unreal. They have families just like us, they have weaknesses among the strengths just as we do, they express their feelings just like us and if we wish, we can grow up and still dream of being the superheroes that we had wanted to become, just in a different way.