Updated: Dec 18, 2019
Let's discuss that........ Honorable
Vulnerability As a child growing up in the 1980s there were no shortages of heroic cartoon-characters, movie-characters, video-game characters, TV-show characters, and characters from literature to choose from. Let's choose one example to talk about.
Christopher Reeve as Superman While there had been other actors that have donned the cape before him, if you ask 100 people born before 1990 the question of who is the first actor you think of when some says "Superman," I would imagine a large-percentage would say Christopher Reeve.
What made Chris Reeve such a great Superman? Well for one, it looks like God literally designed him to play the role of Superman. I don't think I've seen another human-being that physically looked like a comic-book character more than Chris Reeve did. His facial-features, his 6'4" muscular-fame (which he grew into with the help of David Prowse who some people remember as the man inside the suit of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy,) his on-screen presence, everything was just spot-on. Here are examples in the original Superman films that I feel the character hits on all the marks. ~ Honorable and Trustworthy - There is a scene in the first Superman film where Clark Kent is getting acclimated to his new job at the Daily Planet where he asks his boss Perry White to send half of his salary to his adoptive-mother back in the town of Smallville. Taking care of his mother while working a full-time job as Clark Kent 'The Reporter' and the 'Man Of Steel' whenever called upon is very honorable. His mother knew that one day he would have to leave and never asked for him to take care of her, yet he did.
It didn't matter if he was Clark Kent or Kal-El, in both personas he proved that you could trust anything he said or did. In the original Superman film when he was drowning in Lex Luthor's pool with the Kryptonize-chain around his neck; in exchange to help him escape, the character of Miss Teschmacher made him promise that he would stop the nuclear-missile headed to Hackensack, New Jersey. Now, after he got out, he could have easily just said, "Forget her. I'm gonna go save my friends Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen and stop that nuke from exploding in California and activating the San Andreas Fault causing a much-larger catastrophe than a nuke going off in Hackensack, New Jersey." I mean, who's gonna know he broke a promise to a criminal, or care for that matter.
He cared............and even though he knew the consequences (and did his best to try and stop them to no avail,) he kept his promise. Also, earlier in the film while being interviewed by Lois Lane in an article that he knew everyone in the world would read he looked Lois Lane square-in-the-eyes and said..... "Lois.........I never lie."
~ Gentle, Caring, and Selflessness - Superman is one of and arguably the most-powerful comic-book character ever. The depths of his powers are debated by thousands of comic-book fans all over the world. I feel that it is a pointless-venture because it is hard to quantity how powerful he is or is not because of so many outside-factors. In terms of his gentleness, Superman was always respectful to authority whether it was an elected-official, military-personnel, local authorities or even his old high school teacher from Smallville. He always took time for children and never seamed to be out of touch with them. As much in awe as they were with him, he still treated them like equals. In these films Superman always came across as just a regular-person with a GENUINE concern for humanity. Many times in the motion-pictures whenever the antagonist either threatened to harm civilians; or was in the process of doing so, the first thing out of his mouth was, "Stop! Don't do it! The PEOPLE!" He would literally give his life to defend the lives of others.
Courageous and Vulnerability - True courage is not acting as though you aren't afraid, but admitting that you are afraid and doing what has to be done anyway. It is also courageous to face your mistakes head-on by admitting that you made a mistake and asking (even begging) for forgiveness. This happened in Superman II. Now, depending on if you are watching the Richard Lester-version of the film or the Richard Donner-version of the film the sequence of events are a little different, but basically Kal-El has fallen in love with Lois Lane and wants to have an intimate-relationship with her. He is told in both movies that he cannot engage in such a relationship with a mortal as "Superman" for obvious reasons. In order to live with a mortal he must live as a mortal; giving up all of his powers.
This shows the vulnerability that he had because as powerful as Kal-El was he was powerLESS to the snare of love, as most of us are. He made what he thought was the right decision, but quickly he discovered what a tragic-error he made. Not only did it cost lives (of people who perished in General Zod's attack on Houston and at the White House while he was having "relations" with Lois,) but in the Richard Donner cut of the movie it cost him his relationship with his father Jor-El who was able to still exist in non-corporeal form in the Fortress Of Solitude.
However, realizing his mistake he swallowed his pride and had to hitch-hike his way all the way back to the Fortress Of Solitude in the freezing cold.......as a human. He had to beg forgiveness from his father as he pleaded with him to fix this situation. The Prodigal Son returns eh? In order for Kal-El to once again become "Superman," Jor-El had to give his life-force over to his son.
The son becomes the father, the father becomes the son. This was a lesson in humility for Kal-El. With great power comes great resp.........oh wait, that's a different comic-book hero! However, you get where I'm coming from. Kal-El did not understand the gravity of the responsibility that he was given, nor did he appreciate the blessing of the responsibility that he was given and it took a great-loss for him to fully-understand who he was and that character-growth made Superman more relatable as a character. All of us have made mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes resulted in a huge-loss. A permanent-reminder of a failure. However, admitting those mistakes and facing the consequences not only shows courage, but it shows maturity. As the 'Million Dollar Man' Ted DiBiase once said.... "Maturity doesn't come with age, it comes with the acceptance of responsibility."
So, to get back to the initial-statement I made on what makes a hero, there are many other great heroes in literature, comics, cartoons, video-games, TV shows, etc. that have the same qualities, and many of them have had similar-levels of success. I think that Superman is a great example of the basic-DNA of a hero.