Over-The-Hill Superhero: Fail or FTW?

Art, they say, is meant to rouse emotions and cause you to think, or perceive new things using your senses. In addition, art needn’t always be beautiful, or make you happy. Instead, it could provoke feelings of disgust, anger, or even fear.

Fear of growing old or fearing of dying is central to human existence, and there is no human soul that wouldn’t wish to be younger, even if they were superheroes. If they claimed they would like to grow old, and that they wouldn’t mind dying one fine day, it is just another Freudian defence mechanism at play, very simply called denial.

Superheroes, who are meant to be virile, strong and youthful all the time can age too, Swedish illustrator Andreas Englund feels. It seems to provoke feelings of shock and horror at our favourite heroes losing their youthfulness, and end up all wrinkly, helpless, and unattractive.

A society that places so much of importance on youth, virility and physical health may find it difficult to digest when they see a superhero getting older. Swedish illustrator Andreas Englund tries to question the very same duality in which we continue to exist. We adore, and value our youth, and our superheroes extra-ordinary physical beauty and strength. However, if they were to grow old and if they were to look wrinkly and aesthetically not so appealing, would they still be our heroes?

The artist seems to be hinting at a subconscious ageist schema that exists in all our minds, which refuses to acknowledge that death could occur, and ageing happens to everyone and leaves no one untouched.

Time betrays they say, but humans betray themselves when they continue to hold on to beliefs that their superheroes can never age. They can age, and if they did, they would look like the illustrations given here. Not really pleasant, and certainly not what you would expect a superhero to be.

In the pictures, the ageing superhero seems to be doing his job well, but looks tired, old and haggard. These are the signs that we refuse to acknowledge in our superheroes. The archetype of a superhero is that of an eternal youth, who is strong and able bodied, virile and full of life. Perhaps that is why all our heroes are and heroines are young.


Popular culture is a reflection of society, and when popular superheroes are all young, it just shows that we as humans dread growing old, and if one claims to be not afraid of growing old, it is just the denial that is playing its part.

Andreas Englund’s illustrations are poignant, witty, sarcastic and teasing, all at the same time. It sort of reminds me of Three Doors Down’s video ‘Kryptonite’. If this was a little too much for you to handle, and if you would like to regress a bit, do take a look at Social Network Superheroes and Angry Birds Superhero about which we had written sometime back. I am like a dog with a bone, and would like to ask you the same question again: Would you accept your superhero/heroine if they turned old, wrinkly, and haggard?