Article: Farron Ager – OpEd Editor
Just before the New Years, a Canadian Press article published in the Huffington Post came out that said that National Defence researchers spent almost $14,000 on a survey that asked “whether superheroes can fly through the air; see through walls; hear whispers from miles away; become invisible; and walk through walls.”
When asked the goal of this survey, National Defence spokesman Noel Paine said that it was to “allow cultural scientists to better understand the spread of non-natural and religious concepts but also allow the Canadian Armed Forces” in an effort to “design messages that are more memorable for their target audiences” and “win the hearts and minds” of localities overseas.
To provide more detail, the article reports some of the results, saying that there was a relative agreement between survey participants that superheroes can fly and leap over skyscrapers, but less agreement over whether or not they can become invisible or walk through walls. I don’t care who you are, no matter how you paraphrase that last statement, there appears to be no human way to make the survey sound less ridiculous.
When I first read the article, I felt like I had no choice but to laugh it off. I mean, surely there are countless endeavors that would make better use of taxpayer money, but when I read it over again, my reaction has changed a fair bit, and I’m beginning to see its value.
From what I understand, basically this survey is attempting to connect with people. Granted, it seems like an odd way to go about it, making the whole attempt seem superficial. But, when you think about it, what’s better than superheroes and, by extension, comic books?
Superheroes, and comic books, on a whole, are really creations that know no borders. Numerous contemporary comic book writers, such as English writer Alan Moore, who grew up reading American comic books which, in turn, inspired him to write for the medium later in life.
You can also look at a company like Teshkeel Comics, who, in 2010, worked with DC Comics to create a crossover event between DC’s Justice League of America and Teshkeel’s own The 99, a comic book series about a team of heroes based on Islamic culture and religion. Or there is AK Comics, an incredibly popular comic book publisher in the UK for those learning Arabic. Comic books are cross-cultural. And the concept of a superhero is something that is becoming, if not already is, a term that can connect people regardless of region.
It’s for this reason that I, for one, commend the initiative that the National Defence took for this survey. It’s easy for someone to scoff at such a project, but, frankly, I’d rather have the money spent on this than paying consultants $19.8 million to suggest ways to trim budgets.