We Need a Hero

End of the world scenarios? Bring it on, says one Burlington Township resident, who has made comics and heroes and the end of the world his specialty.

Robert Repici, a senior at Rutgers University-Camden, is a comic-book fan, and has been since his first pair of Batman footsy pajamas.

But unlike a lot of people — myself included — who read comics and graphic novels as entertainment, Repici turned that love of Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, and everything DC and Marvel into a serious academic bent.

He studies “eschatology.” You may know them as doomsday scenarios.

“While it has its roots in theology and philosophy, the concept of the end of the world has spilled over into many aspects of our life, including our popular culture,” says Repici. “The end of the world has influenced and inspired scholars, theologians, writers, painters, and even conspiracy theorists. At the same time, the end of the world has historically played a very prominent role in comic books. And that’s what my work really concentrates on.”

He even got to talk to Dan DiDio of DC Comics about his paper, “Who Saves Superheroes: An Examination of Eschatology in Comic Book Literature,” at Comic Con, the largest comic convention in the U.S., and hopes to study eschatology in graduate school.

It’s pretty heady stuff for a college kid. But given that every other blockbuster movie released these days is about superheroes (his take on Watchman, released March 6: “The film is visually amazing, and it really captures the artistic essence of the comic. Other than that, it completely missed its target”) why not study what you love?

And don’t expect comics to go away any time soon: when news is bad, comics become more popular.

Comics give readers an identifiable villain and a good guy — who usually wins. We want our superheroes to be who we cannot be. “They validate important virtues such as honor, valor, perseverance, and justice,” says Repici.

Real life doesn’t always provide such clarity. Take the current economic crisis. Who is the villain? Bankers? Politicians? Mortgage brokers? Bernie Madoff? That’s never a problem in the pages of a comic book or movies like Spiderman and Ironman.

“Comic books can serve as a form of escapism for readers, and the characters themselves can show us how important it is to rise even after we fall,” says Repici.

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