We have a bit of a grim Poll Position question this week, but I think it could lead to some interesting discussion:
The choices are a bit more limited than usual on these, but I did that deliberately. Each of the choices is not just a costumed adventurer, but a living symbol to one large group or another. They represent something primal in the Marvel Universe that is more than just "Ooo, I want those powers!" That's why I didn't include Iron Man, for instance -- Tony Stark is basically just a guy flying a suit, there's nothing about him or his super-hero identity that represents a vital interest to society (or the mythos) at large. Anyone could be in the suit, although obviously some people would be a lot more heroic than others.
Anyway, here goes.
- Captain America: Cap's a great hero because he represents more than just "strong guy". He's a leader of men, a living embodiment of that ever-changing, yet ever-constant "American Spirit" at its best. Like any group of humans, America has done some pretty reprehensible things in the past, but Cap is the pure distillation of only the best this country has to offer. Living up to that kind of legacy would be really, really hard. Yes, Marvel killed him off recently, but let's be honest -- that was just a stunt, we all knew he was coming back ASAP. And this question is about what you, personally, trying to replace him. Yes, you'd have the same serum and powers and the same basic training, but would you be able to replace his moral and symbolic presence as well? That's a damn tall order to fill.
- Hulk: Killing off Banner and the Hulk is an attractive option on the one hand, because of the carnage the creature is capable of creating. But like Cap, The Hulk is about something both metaphysical and all-too-physical, that unreasoning, base, rageful part of who we as humans are. He's the will that cannot be subdued, the strength that cannot be denied, the urge to survive and win that exists far below and beyond the intellectual. That kind of wild independence is, I think, why the military and the government have mostly been his opponents, because in many ways he represents the opposite of ordered and civilized violence, an anathema to that kind of spirit. Taking on that kind of monster, having to constantly live in fear of your own anger, that's a heavy burden to carry. I don't know if I would be willing to sacrifice that. Would you?
- Professor Xavier: Xavier is to the mutant community of the Marvel Universe what Cap is to the humans, a leader and a symbol and an active defender all at once. His loss would be monumental, far out of proportion to his power set. Replacing him would require tremendous courage, leadership, vision, and greatness of heart. Yes, you'd have his mutant abilities, but it's his fundamental goodness that made Xavier great.
- Thor: To be a god ... that's quite a challenge. Thor has become the leader of an entire nation of gods, shouldering the responsibility for not only their lives but those of their mortal followers as well. Would you be able to overcome your human frailties and foibles to be a literal god?
Those are some big shoes to fill no matter which way you go. I honestly don't think I have the moral fiber to replace a Steve Rogers or Charles Xavier, they're just too big, too important to their followers, too vital to what it means to be a part of the Marvel Universe. I'd feel like I could never possibly fill their shoes, and would be constantly reprimanding myself.
Thor tempts me because I am not Asgardian, and don't feel the same responsibility to those people as I would to regular humans (or mutants). But, the prospect of having to battle other gods is daunting. And I don't think I have the ability to handle the responsibility that goes with being a deity. That's just too much for me to handle.
So I am left with Hulk. At least there, the sacrifice Banner would be making is equaled by the sacrifice I would be making by taking on the burden of the beast. I'd feel like I was actually doing something good, that I was paying a price for the "powers" I'd be given. Plus, the power to stop something from going out of control entirely in my hands. I might not be up to controlling my anger, but it's something at least I can understand. It's not entirely beyond my normal experience, so I can see myself being able to do it.
What about you, which would you choose?