Now right off the bat I want to make it clear that I have a great deal of respect for what has gone to make the Superman brand so popular. It’s not as bad as my grudging respect for Madonna’s success in her field of work, I’m genuinely appreciative of the impact and legacy of Superman both as comic book superhero and movie franchise. I enjoy reading a Superman story from time to time so I’m not anti-Superman.
The problem with Superman, though, is kinda the running theme of most super-hero comics and as the original Supes typifies it more than any before or after. I’m not duped by comic book super heroes. They are attempts at raising the aspirations of humanity to imagine some of the amazing things they could achieve one day in the hope of attaining that perfect state of being where the physical and internal will marry as one and there will be harmony in the universe thanks to the fully realised man. So as to keep it sweet, the character is either given a power or comes from elsewhere or is born with something that marks him beyond human beings. The exceptions actually prove the rule especially the ever mysterious Batman.
What Supes did was to place man as being more than capable of great physical feats and do it all whilst embodying, embracing and deeply embedding that ethos of truth, justice and the American Way. Supes stood for the fully realised man. That’s pretty convenient especially if the faith alternatives like Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, etc. are a bit too archaic, boring and irrelevant. Thus here is the symbol of hope for humanity. We need no longer have to depend on age old documents put down by the wisdom of the ages when we can refer to the wisdom of the new age where evil can be overcome by the efforts and sheer power of man.
Supes captured this so well that it marked the territory for what a super-hero was all about until Spiderman came on the scene. The thought of real life vulnerability – not just a mere Achilles heel – didn’t fit Metropolis until then and when it did hit I’m not sure if Superman ever really recovered. He’s meant to be all good and that’s why Batman’s contrast worked a great deal despite even his code of ethics that kept him on this side of the moral line. Yeah other characters came and went but the main standard has always been Supes and it reiterates the problem I have with it – he’s not someone you can aspire to become and even on becoming what he stands for it doesn’t feel all that fulfilling. Reminds me of the story of the man who made it to the top of the ladder only to find out it wasn’t the wall he wanted to climb. It’s a weakness super hero comic books always fall short on. Obviously I would say that because my distinct bias.
In any case, although I prefer Spiderman and Batman, I still acknowledge the significant role of Supes in setting up this series of good stories in the first place. Enjoy.