Editorial: Learning to Respond to Tragedy from Comic Books




This weekend the world lined up to watch the latest entry in the Batman movie franchise, The Dark Knight Rises. It is the third superhero movie this summer, following The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man to theaters. There is something about superheroes that obviously fascinates us, captivates us, captures our attention and inspires us.

Unfortunately, what should have been a fun weekend of escapism in the world of spandex and supervillains turned very real and very tragic in the wake of the shootings in Aurora, Colorado. Many of us have spent the weekend imagining what it was like in that movie theater, what we would have done if we were faced with that situation. At least I know I’ve been wondering that. It’s had me thinking a lot of about the heroes we love and the stories they tell.

One common, recurring theme in the world of comic book superheroes… beyond spandex outfits… is something you might not think about at first.


Peter Parker (Spider-Man) never knew his parents, instead being raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. After receiving his powers, he chooses not to stop a robber because “It’s not my job”. Later that night the robber murders his beloved Uncle Ben.

Young Matt Murdock (Daredevil) has radioactive waste splashed in his face, robbing him of his eyesight forever.

Benjamin J. Grimm took an experimental spaceflight with the other members of the Fantastic Four, which resulted in his being mutated into a monster covered in orange rock known as The Thing.

Clark Kent (Superman) learns not only that he is adopted, but that he is the last survivor of his people from the planet Krypton, destroyed long ago.

Bruce Wayne (Batman) watches the murder of his parents in a dark alleyway, only moments after leaving a screening of Zorro.

The X-Men are feared, hated, and persecuted just for being born differently.

Tony Stark suffers massive shrapnel wounds and invents the Iron Man armor to keep it from hitting his heart and killing him.

Steve Rogers helps save the world in World War II as Captain America, only to be frozen in a block of ice, waking decades in the future, with everyone he knew and loved long since dead.


The stories go on and on. The superheroes that we grow up with almost always have one thing in common: at some point in their lives, they were met with great adversity and tragedy. Instead of letting it ruin their lives, they take that pain and let it inspire them to be a force for good in the world. That’s why superheroes resonate with us so much… why they have continued to be so popular over the years. Why these people were in that theater at midnight in Colorado to watch a Batman movie:

We need to see good triumph over evil.

All of us, at some time in our lives, are affected by evil, adversity, defeat, or all of the above. It is, sadly, a fact of life. How we deal with those things in our life, how we choose to overcome, how we choose to let it shape our lives… in our choices we can take inspiration from the spandex-clad superheroes. We can take inspiration from the heroes in the audience of that movie in Aurora as well.

This article isn’t about comparing what happened to comic book stories… what happened in Aurora was, unfortunately, very real. I would never try to trivialize it.

What inspired this article was the emotions I felt when reading stories of the victims… the men who stood in front of their girlfriends, shielding them with their bodies. The people who stopped on their way toward the exits to try to carry out the wounded. The man in a next door theater who saw the gunman coming toward them and barricaded the door, and stood there while the shooter pounded on it.

When confronted with very real evil and tragedy, these people became heroes.



Jessica Redfield was an aspiring sports writer in her mid-20s who had narrowly escaped another mass shooting in Toronto just last month.

She had recently moved to Denver from San Antonio to pursue her dream and was working as an intern at a Denver sports radio station.

Her brother wrote on his blog Friday, “The outpouring of support for my family is overwhelming. Hearing from people from all of the world. My family thanks you.”


Alex Sullivan was at the movie as part of this 27th birthday celebration. Sunday was to be his wedding anniversary.

His family released a statement Friday night saying, “The Sullivan family lost a cherished member of their family today. Alex was smart, funny and above all loved dearly by his friends and family.”


Matt McQuinn was killed while trying to provide cover for his girlfriend, a family spokesman said.

McQuinn and his friend, Nick Yowler, dove on top of Samantha Yowler to shield her from bullets, the family said.

Yowler was shot in the knee, and is recovering in the hospital.


Petty Officer Third Class John Larimer was a U.S. Navy sailor from Crystal Lake, Ill.

He was assigned to the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. Tenth Fleet at Buckley Air Force and worked as a a cryptologic technician.

His family said they were making arrangements to bring the remains back to Illinois. “We love you John and we will miss you always,” the family said in a statement.



Micayla Medek is among the dead, her father’s cousin, Anita Busch, told the AP.

Busch said the family heard the news after waiting for 19 hours.

“I hope this evil act … doesn’t shake people’s faith in God,” Busch said.


AJ Boik graduated from Gateway High School this year where he played baseball, a family spokesman said.

According to a statement from the family, “AJ was a wonderful, handsome and loving eighteen year old young man with a warm and loving heart.”

Boik was at the movie with his girlfriend, who was not hurt.


Jesse Childress was injured in the shooting and died at the hospital.

He was a reservist with the Air Force and worked as a cyber-systems operator at Buckley Air Force Base.

He lived in Thornton and was single.



According to friends and family, Blunk wanted to be a hero.

“He always talked about if he were going to die, he wanted to die a hero,” his estranged wife, Chantel Blunk, told NBC News.

Blunk was at the movie with a friend who credited him with saving her life.

Blunk leaves behind his wife, Chantel, and two children.



Veronica Moser-Sullivan was just 6 years old. She went to the movie with her mother, Ashley.

Ashley, 25, was wounded in the attack and lies paralyzed in a nearby hospital, authorities said.




Rebecca Wingo, 32, lived and worked in Aurora and was the mother of two.

She worked at Schryver Medical as an intake specialist.

Wingo’s father wrote an emotional Facebook post about the loss of his daughter.

“I lost my daughter yesterday to a mad man, my grief right now is inconsolable, I hear she died instantly, without pain, however the pain is unbearable. Lord why, why, why????,” Steve Hernandez wrote.



Gordon W. Cowden was 51, and was a “Loving father, outdoorsman and small business owner,” said a family spokesman.

“Cowden was a true Texas gentleman that loved life and his family. A quick witted world traveler with a keen sense of humor, he will be remembered for his devotion to his children and for always trying his best to do the right thing, no matter the obstacle”, spokesman said.

Cowden had taken his two teenage children to the theater the night of the tragedy. The teenagers escaped unharmed.


In the face of such evil, we should celebrate the good things in this world. We should honor the men and women who put on a uniform each day and go to work to save lives. We should honor the regular men and women who suddenly find themselves in the midst of tragedy and rise up. We should honor goodness and decency when we find it, because if we don’t… evil wins.

We have seen some great examples of people standing up for the victims of the shootings this week. Warner Bros. donated a “significant lump sum” to charities who will be directly working with them. Batman actor Christian Bale and his wife went to Aurora on their own accord yesterday and spent several hours visiting with survivors in the hospital and laying flowers at the memorial. Donations have started coming in from all over the world.

Unfortunately, unlike in comic books, people don’t come through tragedies in real life with fantastic super powers. They come through them with broken hearts, broken bodies, and broken dreams. Unlike the comic books, there isn’t a way to physically fight the evil that lingers in the aftermath.

It falls on the rest of us, then, to step up and be the heroes to them. You can make donations for the victims at http://www.GivingFirst.org. There are several stories emerging, such as this one, about victims who didn’t have health insurance and are looking at medical bills in the millions.

You can choose to make a difference where you are too… volunteer for something. Help someone you know who may need their yard mowed, a little extra grocery money, a babysitter for a much-needed date night, or may even just need… a friend.

Comic books tell the stories of every day men and women who meet with tragedy and come out determined to help those around them.

In that way, let’s strive to live our lives like a comic book. Let’s strive to be heroes.

Let’s make sure that evil doesn’t win.


(information on the victims courtesy of the Ventura County Star)

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