Welcome to the first of, what I can only hope is, a regular set of columns written for this site, by either myself or other contributors called ‘Why you should care about…’. Each column will cover an interest or property that the writer feels has been overlooked or maligned over the years.
The first post will cover the Man of Steel himself, Superman, and aims to dispel some of the misconceptions or opinions that popular culture have thrown up about him.
I’ve probably lost most of you already. Lets face it, the internet thinks Superman is boring. You hear it ever day, repeated ad infinitum. Half the comments ever made about Superman are complaints about how hes too powerful, or too perfect, how hes ‘unrealistic’ or just how new stories can’t be written about him anymore as hes been around for too long.
Well I happen to love him. In this column, I hope I can convince you too.
To refresh your memory about just why you should care about him, watch the trailer for Man of Steel, then follow me after the jump
5. Superman isn’t too powerful.
Its the first thing people always think of when they first dismiss Superman “How can the stakes be high when you know he will always win? Hes just too powerful!”
The thing is, in a world where Superman is one of the strongest beings on the planet*, people forget there is an entire universe out there. Beings like Lobo, Mongol, the Lantern Corps or even Darkseid in some cases (who thanks to Grant Morrison, became a literal cosmic horror pre 52 reboot) task Superman to his limits and quite often beat him.
Those villains just tend to cover his physical abilities though. The better stories reveal Superman’s emotional weaknesses, or that by engaging him in unusual ways will catch him off guard and lead to his defeat. Which leads to my next point.
4. He has great villains
Though they tend to get sidelined by Batman’s villains (though who doesn’t get sidelined by Batman?) Superman has a great cast of villains which challenge him. Though many are nothing but powerhouses, modern writers have been smart enough to try and make them reflect aspects of Superman, whilst retaining the golden age crazyness that made the characters so memorable in the first place. But still, none of them match up to…
3. Lex Luthor
Sort of a cheat, but heres the thing. Lex Luthor is such an interesting villain you could write books on his relationship with the Man of Steel. For now, I’m going to point you towards this post by Arousing Grammar that just sort of nails it.
If Superman is an idealised form of how we could be, Lex represents a bit more of how people actually would be with that level of smarts. Simultaneously capable of greatness and yet held back by his own ego and petty nature, Lex could be greater than Superman, but his monstrous ego won’t let him, so he ends up being defined by Superman. In what I consider to be the ‘end’ of all Superman stories All Star Superman, Lex finally sees the big picture and truly becomes all he can be.
I best stop now as I could talk all day about him. Just promise me you will read the 2005 series called Lex Luthor: Man of Steel. Its great.
2. Superman is the story of mankind.
You know the origin story, so theres no point me rehashing it (still its above if you want a refresh) but what keeps superman relevant is that he is all of us. Everyday we fight to be treated as equals, to be accepted by others no matter our backgrounds. To fit in. Superman’s origin shows thats possible by being the ultimate immigrant story, that transcends traditional spheres of culture that bog down other characters, because he isn’t from our planet so none of that matters.
He grew up without powers and as the class nerd, so he understands what its like to be put upon and have to work his way up. He lost his powers for a year recently and the comics showed that Superman isn’t a good reporter because he has superpowers. Hes a good reporter because hes just really good at his job and puts the work in.
Isn’t that more inspiring than Batman being cool because he inherited the most successful company in the world and has loss issues?
1. Hes a god damn inspiration
The comic book world is complicated at the moment. You have enough people from the 90’s in charge that at times, superhero comics threaten to lapse back to that era, full of massive shoulder pads, awful anatomy and characters being angsty all the time.
That last point is both great and a problem. Its great because it allows you to connect with the hero you love. Its why Marvel have been so successful, because the focus of their films have been on the characters themselves over explosions. But its also a hindrance because it a lot of writers take that framework and try to apply it to every character, so everything is grim and gritty and heroes are more antiheroes. Which misses the point entirely.
Superheroes at some point have to have a part where they get up and keep going. Where they show why it is we call them heroes. Superman is the distillation of that hope. Of that optimism for a brighter future. Sure, he has his moments of doubt, but he keeps on being the best person he can be. Not because hes avenging some dark misdeed from his past. But because he thinks we can be better people.
To me, thats inspiring.