June, 1938

Action Comics releases Issue #1, featuring the country's first superhero: Superman. He is quickly followed by others of the sort—caped crusaders, men of steel, masked detectives—all fighting evil adversaries. The characters are conceived and designed by young men dreaming of an escape from the Great Depression, using simple pen and ink. Through these comic books, our superheroes show us how to be better versions of ourselves. Many have secret identities and wish to remain completely anonymous.

December, 1941

The term superhero begins taking on other meaning. Women, who were formerly depicted as characters in comic books often getting into trouble and needing rescue, are now heroes in their own right. They work in factories building a great many products—some big, some small—that are used to help fight the war overseas. They are no longer damsels in distress; they are warriors. The first female superheroine takes to the printed page: Wonder Woman.

June, 1973

During an altercation with Green Goblin, Gwen Stacy is knocked from the top of the George Washington Bridge in Issue #121 of The Amazing Spider-Man. Spider-Man is unable to save her. Superheroes are not superheroes because they can be relied on, every time, to solve the city's crises. They are looked upon as rescuer because they arrive when they are needed, trying diligently to help. Sometimes they fail.

September, 2001

The term transcends the world of comics and enters real life once more. Countless stories emerge and describe selfless acts of assistance to help those in need. Firemen operate their trucks. Clergymen administer last rites while bodies continue to fall. Traffic officers order arbitrary vans traveling the streets to transport strangers out of the Borough of Manhattan.

March, 2020

We have always been known to flourish in times of great American adversity. This and subsequent months, in New York and elsewhere, prove no exception. Some of our heroes have no secret identity and wear uniforms that quickly give them away: medical staff, transit workers, grocery clerks, and so on. These are superheroes indeed, and we owe them the world. But a hero can really be anyone. And these months will write the history books of the future with each and every one of us in them, superheroes of our own lives and those that surround us.

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