It has been argued around the internet, and around the bunker, that Superman, the big blue boy scout, is past his prime. Batman has eclipsed the original superhero, so they say. They say that he is boring, bland and too nice. From my point of view, this is wrong. Superman is as relevant, as important, and as exciting as he has ever been. Here is why.
Superman can still set an example. When even more and more of the DC Universe have a more pragmatic morality (and those stories have their place) the idea of a hero you can look up to, one that sets an example of good, a hero that can inspire holds strong appeal.
Sure, with Superman’s powers, and his intelligence, there is an element of power fantasy in enjoying his stories. Its nice to see the villains get theirs. Comforting even.
How Superman sets the example is having all of that power yet being quite selfless in its use. His morality, his ethics, even his tactics are self limiting, yet he never takes the easy way out. Power tends to corrupt, as the quote goes, but not in this case. Given the situation in the world today, we need more examples of that, I fear.
Superman can be boring. If he isn’t written correctly. I have no experience as a comic book writer, but I’m sure the marketing demands alone have diluted his strength as a character. Not to mention having to appear, for quite a long time, weekly.
Superman is a big deal. He has been treated like television, when he is cinema. He is the one that started it all, he has endured, and when he appears it should be special. Its no surprise that some of his best appearances recently have been in limited series like Kingdom Come or All Star Superman.
Superman can be exciting, and he will be again. His humanity, his compassion, his strength of character and of body, are all ingredients for superb storytelling. He is larger than life, and can still be an inspiration to us all. Current storylines are starting to build back some of those essential elements of the Man of Steel, just in time for his 75th anniversary. Let us hope it continues.
6 thoughts on “A Certain Point of View: Superman is Still Relevant”
Amen, brother! I am so glad to see someone say this. It always bothers me to hear comic fans say “Superman is boring. You can’t do anything with him.” WHAT??
He’s the reason this art form exists today. And it’s not his powers that make him special, it’s his mission, his emotions, his love for life and humanity that make him the greatest comic character ever. To paraphrase Frank Miller, he’s the goddamn Superman! And he is awesome!
Interesting, phillyradiogeek, that you would mention Frank Miller, since he (in my mind, anyway) did as much to damage the popularity of Superman as anyone ever has. For every positive thing he did for the Batman mythos, Miller seemed to try just as hard to diminish Superman. I’m not saying he single-handedly ruined Superman for this generation, but he certainly didn’t help.
Oh, that Superman argument has been around almost as long as Superman himself! The fact that Superman has managed to survive this long DESPITE that argument is testament to his popularity and staying-power as a fictional character.
I was never much of a Superman fan for all the typical reasons cited…too nice, dull, blah, blah. And while I still don’t buy his books the way I buy Bat-Books, something comic artist Freddie Williams said something about the character that made me reconsider my opinion on him;
Essentially, he said Superman was his favorite character because he represented small town America, or rather, the best of small town America. It was because he landed on the Kent’s farm that he learned the learned the values of hard-work, freedom, humility and equality.
Now while it can be argued that there are plenty of middle American towns that aren’t all that keen on equality (especially back in the 40s!), the idea that a little US farm town could create a humble, simple man out of a God…I find that extremely touching.
Superman is like a dream of what American values can produce, and sometimes that’s hard to swallow. Batman’s bitter pill of violence and trauma is a lot easier to take for most more cynical (ie savvy) Americans. But who knows, if Obama wins, maybe hope will come back in style and Superman will make a comeback.
I touched on this very subject very recently!
I almost think the misconceptions about Superman as a character are as mythologically interesting as the character itself.
I agree, Superman kicks major ass. Even though I tease my sister about him, the DC universe and comis in general need a character like hime to lead the way. Supes in the most awesome superhero the world has ever known. I’m looking forward to his 75th
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