“Spider-Man tells us that even heroes are human and can be hurt, and that you can be a superhero. Batman tells us this is a dark, terrible thing and you don’t want to do it. He says ‘I’m here to scare the hell out of you.’ Superman is here to say ‘This is as good as we can be. I’m not going to preach to you. I’m not going to tell you this. I’m just going to show you through my actions that, as in the line from the Superman movie, “There are good people”’” – Jeph Loeb, comic book writer
So what Ennea-types are these three characters?
I see Spider-Man as a Seven – the Enthusiast, the Adventurer.
Spidey never stops talking. He cracks jokes as he fights – and he’s hilarious. Sevens are the life of the party, the energizer of their social group. It’s rare to meet a Seven who isn’t funny. And they’re pretty talkative.
Spider-Man revels in the thrill of swinging across the city. He zips around, fighting whatever crime comes up, and rescuing whoever needs saving. Sevens go with the flow, jumping from one situation to another, drinking in sensations, enjoying the novelty of each new situation.
He can be hurt. Central to Spider-Man’s character is a deep and abiding pain for not stopping the criminal who went on to kill his uncle Ben. Same with his responsibility for Gwen Stacy’s death. His sadness surfaces briefly, in moments of solitude (a good example of this is in the opening to Spider-Man: Blue, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale). Sevens harbour pain, and when it comes out, it can look like frantic activity, super-charged socializing, distraction or addiction. The sadness underlying this behaviour can be hard for others to see as pain.
He says that you can be a superhero. Sevens are idealists, and egalitarians. They want freedom and fun, and not just for themselves – for everyone. In the movie Amazing Spider-Man 2, he rescues a little boy who’s being bullied by older kids, repairs his science project, and encourages him. In the movie’s final moment he talks with the same kid, now dressed in a Spider-Man costume, facing the Rhino. Again, he talks to him with respect and camaraderie, making sure he’s safe before plunging into action.
Central to Batman’s character is the trauma of having seen his parents killed as a child. Compounding this (in the movie Batman Begins), he falls into a dry well, out of which hundreds of bats fly from a passage to an unseen cave, terrifying him. He later stands amidst those swirling bats, calmly. Sixes have a strong relationship with fear. They might submit to it, jumping at shadows and looking over their shoulders – or they might move right toward it, becoming daring to extreme degrees, to prove fear has no power over them. Batman makes his base in that exact bat-cave. He adopts a bat’s likeness, using fear as a weapon against criminals.
He’s tremendously loyal to Gotham City. Batman Begins climaxes with him battling a cabal of criminals who intend to destroy the place. He believes there are good people there, despite its powerful mob and corrupt police. Sixes will often identify with a place. They might deride it, and then passionately defend it. Even if they move away, they’ll still identify as a person from that city, or from that part of the country.
I see Superman as a Nine – the Peacemaker.
Nines are modest. Superman works tirelessly to help everyone, and doesn’t expect any reward. He flies away before he can be thanked. Nines consider themselves to be nobody special. They’re embarrassed by praise, and will avoid it or deflect it.
In Superman: Peace on Earth (by Paul Dini and Alex Ross), Superman remembers his youth:
“I still think back to the farm. I remember the creak of the old windmill, the smell of fresh-cut hay, and the warm spring wind in my hair.”
Nines love nature. They’re refreshed by it, focusing on its beauty and peacefulness. Nines also dip into pleasant memories. When things are stressful, they disappear into an inner sanctum where all is well.
Superman then enacts a yearly ritual, flying a big evergreen into Metropolis for an eager crowd, and then decorating it at super-speed. Nines take pleasure in bringing happiness and a sense of wellbeing to those around them.
On hearing a young woman gasp and faint from chronic hunger, he attends to her, and later, comes up with a plan to spend twenty-four hours doing everything he can to fight world hunger. He delivers cargo containers of food to every part of the earth. Ultimately he can’t save everyone, and feels disappointed with himself for the limits of his abilities.
Nines often make good leaders. They don’t put themselves above anyone, so their concern extends to everyone. When they fail, they look in the mirror.
The story ends with hope, as Superman considers that he may not have eradicated this massive problem, but maybe he’s inspired people to do more than they otherwise would have. And with this sentiment, we see the shining heart of a Nine at his best, flowing with selfless love, doing what he can to improve the world, tirelessly, by example, with whatever means he has.
So even though these larger than life characters might seem remote from each of our day to day experience, they really aren’t.
Each of us holds sadness and pain inside us, and it’s all too easy to run from it, or dissipate it in our characteristic way. But we can sit with it, hold it, and nurse our inner wounds, giving them the time they need to heal.
Each of us has a relationship with fear. We can let it shape us, by submitting to it, or charging toward it. Or we can face it, and come to see that we have more strength and courage than we usually give ourselves credit for.
And each of us has the capacity for humble, selfness goodness. We can crumble in disappointment at our inability to solve the problems of the world. And we can still do what we can with what we have.