In 2010, Hugo Chavez popularized the expression “¡exprópiese!” which is hard to translate into English but roughly means “expropriated,” as an invocation to the state’s eminent domain over property. Live, during his television program “Aló Presidente,” he could be seen walking through Caracas’s streets, pointing out the buildings he wanted to keep for himself. A law he had passed a few months earlier allowed him to exercise this power arbitrarily and capriciously, like a spoiled child who craves all the toys of his favorite superheroes in a toy store.
Some superheroes have warned us of the dangers of expropriation by governments.
In 2008, two years before Chávez flaunted his expropriation power, Marvel was running out of options not to disappear. Jon Favreau took the lead in what seemed to be the last film cartridge left for the comic book giant: Iron Man. He made a risky bet by giving the role of Tony Stark to the irregular and conflictive Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man became a blockbuster, completely changing action films for the next decade.
Iron Man, a superhero against forced nationalization
Two years later, ‘Iron Man 2’ was released. The plot revolved around Tony Stark’s legal struggle against the United States government, which was seeking to forcefully nationalize its armor in the interests of national security.
“You want my property? You won’t get it! I have privatized world peace.” These were the strong words of Tony Stark in the face of the expropriation intentions of the government, which was incapable of developing a defense system as effective as Iron Man, despite the billions of taxpayers’ money spent.
Captain America, a superhero against government regulation
In Captain America: Civil War (2016), the question of eminent domain reappears. On this occasion, Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross, together with the United Nations, tries to get the Avengers to sign the Sokovia Accords. With them, the group of superheroes was intended to be under the control and regulation of an international body of politicians.
Although initially Tony Stark is in favor of these agreements, Steve Rogers – Captain America -, is strongly opposed to these government pretensions.
“The United Nations is run by people with agendas and agendas change (…) If we sign this, we surrender our right to choose. What if this panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect but the safest hands are still our own.”
Steve Rogers’ determination saved the Avengers from falling into the clutches of a corrupt agency, which also sought to develop a record of the superheroes’ secret identities, which would have exposed them to all kinds of threats and blackmail.
Batman, a superhero against statism
Just as Jon Favreau resurrected Marvel, managing to revitalize the superhero film genre -and recently did the same with The Mandalorian to save Star Wars-, in the mid-eighties Frank Miller changed the world of superhero comics forever. Until then, comic book superheroes had been degenerating into childish and cartoonish characters, like Adam West’s Batman.
With the publication in 1986 of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, the sub-genre of superheroes acquired a darker and deeper tone, with morally complex characters and highly charged philosophical and political plots.
In this graphic novel, which has an excellent animated film version, we find ourselves before a ucronic decade of the 80s, in which Superman fights on behalf of the United States Government against the Soviet Union, being shown as a wimp in the hands of politicians. The rest of the superheroes, who refused government control, had been eliminated or outlawed.
The city of Gotham is captive to gangs of criminals and looters, who are protected by the media and rulers who are more concerned about not being called fascists than defending the lives and properties of good citizens.
Bruce Wayne had stopped being Batman years ago, precisely because he did not accept this new role to which superheroes had been relegated. However, he cannot bear the degeneration and corruption of a society that is prey to progressivism and good-ism, and he decides to return as Batman.
In an epic battle, Batman is victorious over Superman. It must be remembered that Bruce Wayne does not really have any superpower; if anything, he only has super-purchasing power (like Tony Stark), which makes his victory even more deserving. It is the triumph of the common man, of the individual, represented by The Dark Knight, against the unlimited power of the state, incarnated by The Man of Steel.
Unfortunately, millions of people in Venezuela and all over the world have not been lucky enough to win against the expropriating voracity of rulers like Hugo Chávez, but all those who have fought, are fighting and will fight for their properties and their freedom, deserve to be considered authentic superheroes, at the level of Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Bruce Wayne.