Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why I Love Superman

I am of a very endangered breed of geeks who will proudly say that one of my favorite super heroes is Superman. I absolutely adore the Man of Steel. I had a complete fanboy freak out when Lego revealed that they'll be making a Lego Batman 2, featuring Superman, and immediately ran out and bought the Superman/Luthor/Wonder Woman set. If it's got an S on it, I'll buy it.
The disappointing part is how alone I feel sometimes in my love for the Last Son of Krypton. Whenever he's brought up in conversation it usually turns into either "He's too overpowered" or "Batman could beat him". Occasionally the argument comes up that his villains are too stupid, or how could people be so dumb as to not see through his disguise as Clark Kent, or how everybody in the world seems to have easy access to Kryptonite, and I sadly withdraw from the conversation, knowing that it'll most likely end with me making a nasty comment about somebody's mother. Well today I want to address some of these arguments as well share my own geekiness as to why Superman rocks hardcore.
First I want to talk about him being overpowered. It's true, he's a flying impervious super-strong alien that can see through walls, shoot lasers out of his eyes and blow freezing breath, but to me all this does is up the stakes on how bad the bad guys have to be. Batman is cool if he busts a warehouse full of gangsters, but I'd love to see him against a bunch of Darkseid's demons, or invading robots from space. Superman is big, thus he takes on the big threats. In the DC Universe, which has Earth painted with a giant bulls-eye on it for any would-be alien conqueror, there is a constant need for those who can stand up to the worst of the worst.
Probably one of the biggest issue people have with Superman though is that he's a "goody-two-shoe". There is no darkness in this hero. He shows up on the scene from the sky with a bright red cape billowing around him in matching bright red shorts, says something about how he'll help save the day, does it, then flies away, waving and smiling at the amazed populace.The argument is that it's inauthentic, nobody is that nice and shiny. The heroes people follow are guys like Batman, Wolverine and Spider-Man, characters with a damaged past who occasionally have to make hard decisions against twisted villains. Superman is a relief because he can be the epitome of good. Superman isn't about how bad to the bone he can be, he's about there being someone who's willing to fight the good fight, both in stopping the bad guy and just being whole sale good, thus becoming a beacon of hope in a dark world. This is exemplified by Jerry Siegel, one of the original creators of Superman. Before his creation, Siegel's father was shot to death in a botched robbery. Two weeks later, his son wrote a story about a man who could stop bullets and saves people from criminals.   He saw the need for there to be a purely good force in the universe so he created one. 
An interesting connotation to Superman is how affected he is by his own tragic background. Though he doesn't remember Krypton, he does know that if it were to exist he would fit in. Contrary to what David Carradine's character says in Kill Bill, Superman dresses and acts like Clark Kent because that's who he wants to really be. He grew up on a farm in Kansas, so at core he's just a farm boy with simple American values who just happens to be able to fly around the world at a thought. The best illustration of this was in the comic book and Justice League Unlimited episode "The Man Who Has Everything". In it Superman is put into an illusion where he can live the perfect life, and for him it has nothing to do with being a super hero. His illusion puts him as a farmer on Krypton with a wife and son. No powers, just being normal. He could've chosen to stay in his illusion, since the only way to break it was to willingly step out, but he didn't. He said a tearful goodbye to his son and came back to reality, his heart broken. 
Some other great illustrations of the Man of Steel's true character come in Alex Ross's works, namely Kingdom Come and Peace on Earth. In Kingdom Come Superman must take on the responsibility of leading a futuristic army of heroes in a campaign to stop super villain violence once and for all, a role that the Last Son of Krypton is not comfortable filling. In Peace on Earth, he tries to feed the entire planet for one whole day, but is defeated by the greed and hatred of man, thus demonstrating that with all his amazing powers he still can't save humanity from themselves.
Superman of course wouldn't be the hero without an equally challenging opponent, namely  Lex Luthor. Not as colorful as villains like the Joker and Bizarro, Luthor stands alone in his own brand of villainy. All he really wants is to do is either control or own everything he can, and his biggest beef with Superman is that he can't own him. Being human he can't go toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel without a robotic suit, but that's not where he's the threat. His greatest ability is that he's smart. Not only can he invent terrible devices to attack, he can twist whatever plan he's scheming so that it doesn't lead back to him. To the world at large, Luthor is a millionaire philanthropist, comparable to Bruce Wayne. This becomes one of Superman's biggest problems because it's nearly impossible to prove Luthor is a villain and have him put away, leaving Luthor to devise a new plan to defeat the Man of Steel. 
So that's my two cents on Superman. America's first super hero, an inspiration for generations, the Man of Steel holds a special place in my heart as a hero that I can look up to and feel safe in knowing that in the end he will stand for truth, justice and the American way. 
Look! Up in the sky! 


  1. Great post. I never realized that Superman was so different from the other comic book heroes. Personally, I find it a bit harder to relate to a hero that doesn't have a dark side, seeing as I have my dark side as well.

    And on a parting note:
    "If you love [him] so much, why don't you marry [him]? WELL I WON'T LET YOU! How does that feel?" - GlaDos (modified slightly)

  2. Actually, I don't hate Superman. I just prefer Batman. And I think it's funny how alone you feel yet all growing up everyone I knew preferred Superman. Superman was cooler. Superman was better. Superman was the best! Everyone loved Superman over Batman and I felt like the loner.

  3. I like both Batman and Superman. Superman is more easily recognized as a Messiah symbol. They touch on this a little in Superman Returns. I drew this picture ( with that same idea in mind.

    Superman may be a big boy scout but it's nice to have a that example. Sure, I relate better to Spiderman with having to deal with personal demons and what not but having a Hero to follow is refreshing.

    For this reason, I really like Superman. I think he's a great hero. It's nice to have someone that's good just for the sake of being good.

  4. I wonder if both of us being big fans of Superman had something to do with how quickly and easily we became friends. :-)