Saturday, September 10, 2005

Why Superman?

What’s happened to the movie industry? There’s nothing out I really care to see, other than those few movies I’ve already seen. I discussed this topic with Justin earlier today. He was going to try to leave work early so that he could catch a movie before all the good college football games started (he’s an Aggie and really wanted UT to lose… sorry… they WON! HAHA!!!)

He asked for suggestions on what to see. In my opinion, there’s really nothing out that I’m enthusiastic enough to see… except for Batman Begins, which I saw again last night. Not to my surprise, Justin has seen the new Batman movie. We discussed it for awhile and I highly recommended it to him… then we get on the topic of Superman. He’s never read any of the Superman comics (not really a surprise, most people haven’t)… but this is where he shocks the hell out of me… he’s never seen any of the Superman movies!

Despite my personal preference to Marvel Comics, Superman has always been my favorite superhero. He’s the definitive superhero. He sets the standard! Anyway, not that I was particularly busy or had anything to do earlier today, I had to tell Justin all about Superman and why he’s so great! To be perfectly honest, because I can relate quite a bit to Superman's persona (not super powers... I wish,) I think we conferred on the topic of Superman for about 75 minutes. Yeah, I feel like a complete comic geek now!

Just like any character that has been around for decades, Superman’s character has undergone some changes. Originally, Superman's personality could be rough and destructive. In one really early story in which the government would not help maintain low income areas unless a disaster occurred… so, Superman went on a rampage and created one… however, as superhero stories became more oriented toward young readers, his character moved toward more of a boy scout persona. Even so, Superman's capacity for a violent anger is a key element to many of the most dramatic moments in his appearances, since it is this sort of telling snapshot into his psyche that allows us to see that Superman's goodness is not inherent to his being, but learned, like it is with us.

This is why, despite the emphasis on Superman having powers far beyond those of mortal men, his name also refers to his goodness. While Jor-El (Superman’s biological father) sent Kal-El (Superman’s true name) to Earth because he felt the human race had the capacity to be great and good if they wished to be, it is clear that Kal-El chose to become Superman and a force for good. The education he received on the family farm is the most potent symbol for 'old fashioned values' one can conjure, and this helps ground the character. Even growing up on Earth with great nurturing parents, not knowing of his true origin for quite some time, he still seems out of place and out of touch with the world.

Superman has been willing to lay down his life or sacrifice his powers for good. He rescues cats from trees and participates in community fund-raisers. He often acts behind the scenes and lets others receive the credit. His modesty and humility catches his enemies off-guard, as they do not understand why he spends his life helping others and doing good. This above all is what makes him a hero… not his super powers, but his choice to help others before himself.

In recent times, at least as long as I’ve been reading the comics, the writers have attempted to deepen Superman's persona and provide a rationale for his goodness. They reveal his self-doubts, and his fear that he might abuse his powers and become a monster, subject to no one. This is even demonstrated in the Superman movies, specifically Superman III (in my opinion, not one of the worst Superman movies, but I know Ron disagrees with me on this.) Superman physically confronts the monster inside of him.

Anyway, he makes it a point of submitting to authority, helping him to feel a restraint on his actions. I can’t remember what comic this occurred in, but I remember Superman giving Batman a ring of green kryptonite, so that if he ever lost his reason, posing a danger to himself or to humans, Batman could use the ring to defeat him.

Superman is a hero as deeply conflicted with his gifts as Batman is with his past. This is key to the modern interpretation of Superman not as a better man, but what is best in man… this is why I love Superman so much! Though just a fictional character, in many ways I do admire Superman. It’s really hard sometimes to set your feelings aside, regardless of how painful they may be, and do the right thing.

Another way Superman demonstrates restraint is that he becomes a reporter, for it is then possible that his physical abilities give him no unfair advantage in a field where the critical skills are intellectual… although I specifically remember his editor, Perry White, praising him in the first Superman movie as "the fastest typist I have ever seen". Btw: some geeky trivia to show you my true nature as a comic geek… Clark Kent actually writes fiction in his spare time, and has had two books published, "The Janus Contract" and "Under a Yellow Sun".

Far from a perfect individual, Superman is a man with an incredible depth of feeling, since he lives within his own mind as much as he does in the reality of society, often struggling with the differences between the right answer and the practical one. In many ways, Superman is truly one of the most "human" heroes conceived, since he responds to emotional grief in stark contrast to the way he shrugs off bullets, bombs, and death-rays. Superman's daily martyrdom is reflected tellingly in print during his reappearance in the 1996 miniseries comics Kingdom Come, which I repurchased several months ago in novel form from Barnes & Noble, where he is pictured as a bearded carpenter with a long beam of wood across his back, much like a Christ image of a man who gave himself for a world that did not love him.

What’s not to love about Superman? I can’t wait for the new movie!!! That's probably why I think the Brandon Routh is so hot... I just love the character of Superman so much... well that, and the fact that he is super hot! LOL!

5 comments:

Elemmaciltur said...

Oh, gaaaaawd! That picture....*drools*

Siren said...

I just don't really think he's very good looking! He also looks a bit scrawny

Frank said...

What's wrong with you woman!? :-P

Anonymous said...

I agree with Siren, I don't find him good looking at all! Superman is a great hero, I think I like him because he does have a lot of insecurities, and can be a real goof. We have a Superman/Superwoman in us all, is the message I get.

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