posted a BLOG item 10 days ago
“They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way."
Some people, I suspect those that have never touched a Superman comic, often claim that Superman is unrelatable because of all his power. If you believe that, it's because you're looking at it all wrong. He's called the Grand Daddy of all superheroes for a reason, and if he's so unrelatable, then he wouldn't have lasted as long as he has in the pop culture consciousness. I mean, God is an all omnipotent being, and people haven't stopped talking about him since the beginning of time. Superman is not you, he's the one that guides you, like Yoda. You're suppose to relate to him the way a child would to a father, or a country to great leader, by looking up to him. He's not the person you are, he's the person you hope to become one day. Now, none of us could ever hope to be as good as Superman is depicted, after-all he's just a fictional amalgam of ideals in a colorful wrapper, but as the old saying goes; "If you're half the man your father was, you'll be a great man indeed." Superman gives us something to aspire toward, he's an idealised representation of humanity at it's very best. That's why he's called "The Man of Tomorrow."
As far as relating to the Superman character on a more personal level, it starts with hope. Though, in order for there to be the need for hope, there has to be tragedy to overcome. September 11, 2001, the entire world watched helplessly as thousands of people died on live television as the result of evil intentions. We cheered on our heroes, the brave Firemen, Police Officers and EMT workers that tried desperately to save as many lives as they could, many of which losing their own in the process. Remember that feeling of helplessness, as we all watched in horror as the events of that day unfolded like a bad dream come true? That is the feeling Superman lives with everyday, knowing that he can't be everywhere at once, and despite all his power, people will die as a direct result of his inaction. While he's dealing with one tragedy, another could be unfolding halfway around the world. Like a surgeon in a triage situation, Superman has to prioritize his time where it's needed most. Meaning, he has to choose who lives and who dies. It's an impossible situation for anyone to be in, and that is the tragedy of being Superman. To hear all those voices crying out for help, knowing you can't save them all.
When Superman was created by Siegel and Shuster, he was a champion of the common man. Often rousting crooked land lords and corrupt city officials. However, there are many problems in the real world that can't be fixed with brute force. Like economical, class and race issues. That is where his job as a reporter comes in. A (good) reporters job, is to shed light on an issue, so that hopefully that issue can be resolved by those with the power to do so. Superman isn't just flying around punching things in the face, he's trying to bring about social change by using words, and not just his fists. That is the example he sets for us all to follow, that we have a voice, and we should use it. We may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but we can raise one hell of a stink with the power of our words, one that can even overpower all the bullshit wafting around in Washington.
Lex Luthor: I saw everything. I saw how to save the world. I could have made everyone see. If it wasn't for you, I could have saved the world.
Superman: If it had mattered to you, Luthor, you could have saved the world years ago.
Lex Luthor: You're right.
If your only notion of Lex Luthor comes from Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey hamming it up in bad wigs, with their convoluted real estate swindles and goofy sidekicks, then frankly you don't know shit about the ruthless Machiavellian mad man. A man so arrogant and petty, he would have you bankrupt, deported, and with no other option but to work a low rent Mexican brothel giving BJ's to pay off a coyote to smuggle you back across the border, just for farting in the elevator right before he stepped in, and rode it all the way to the top floor of Lexcorp tower.
Ask any fan who would win in a fight between Superman and Batman, and most will tell you Batman. The most common reason given why, is that Batman is a master tactical strategist, the ultimate chess player, and would lure Superman into a trap he'll never see coming. Batman has done this many times throughout their history, but despite his best laid war game scenarios, his plans are doomed by one crucial flaw. He's not willing to go the distance, because it violates his no killing policy and goes against everything he stands for. He may be able to humble Superman, but can never truly defeat him without compromising himself in the process. Lex Luthor however, is just as cunning and sly as Batman, with no such moral quandary holding him back. In fact, the only thing that can beat Lex Luthor, is Lex Luthor. His ego is what will always be his inevitable downfall. He is the living embodiment of all that is worst in, and holding back humanity. The man so vain, he would expect even God himself to bow to him. That is why Lex Luthor sits firmly atop the heap, as Superman's true arch-nemesis and most dangerous rival.
Spider-Man's whole philosophy can be summed up by one phrase, "With great power, comes great responsibility." Batman's by "All that is needed for evil to exist, is for good men to do nothing," and Superman's by "Absolute power, corrupts absolutely." Superman, for all his power, is about restraint. Just because he can do something, doesn't mean he has the right too. He's like the leader that didn't push the button during the Cold War standoff, saving us all from nuclear winter by NOT doing something. For instance, North Korea has been very naughty as of late, threatening surrounding countries with nuclear missiles. Now, America could just go in there with a Shock and Awe campaign that would make Kim Jong Un fill his Commie track suit with all manner of chunky fear, but that would just provoke a war that could create a lot of casualties, and nobody wants that. It's why we (should) only use that kind of tactic as a last resort. We negotiate first, trying to resolve the conflict before it ever reaches that level. Before engaging in a fight, Superman will always try to talk it out before it escalates. The reason why, is that Superman is a warrior in the truest sense of the word. One that knows the horrors fighting brings, and would rather his sword rust in it's sheath, than to ever have to pull it in battle. He will however fight, and fight hard to protect his people if it comes to that.
Now, just as Spider-Man's story is about a boy learning to become a man. Batman's is about the rebel that stands against oppression. Superman's story, is about a father trying to guide his dysfunctional children (mankind) to a better future. People say, "With all his power, why doesn't Superman just force the world into behaving?" Because, that would be an abuse of power. Remember, Superman is a GOOD father. He leads by example, is patient, and there to help guide humanity through encouragement and understanding to it's ultimate destiny. He does not try to force it by using fear and intimidation, like some drunken lout with a belt and a temper. That is the fundamental conflict between him and Zod. They have different philosophies on how to treat humanity. Zod is the drunken step father, that would have them put in their place for speaking out of turn.
Many Superman stories, including the new "Injustice: Gods Among Us" game have featured alternate realities in which Superman has actually imposed his will on humanity, and become a tyrannical dictator in the process. That is the great fear of Superman, and the question he struggles with constantly. How much is to much, and do I even know where the line is between helping, and hurting? Does my very existence create unrealistic expectations of me, and if I fail to live up to them, will they turn on me? Is it better to be loved, or feared? How do I do what is best for them, even if they hate me for it? If they rely on me to much, they'll never learn to take care of themselves, but I can't just do nothing when I see them playing with fire, knowing that they'll get burned. Questions that every father struggles with. In just trying to do whats best, you can often end up doing a whole lot of bad. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, is it not?
They real world is not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. Fathers don't always know whats best, and leaders don't always have our best interest at heart. It's why we are drawn to stories about great men, that accomplish great deeds by standing by their convictions when we need them to the most. We are starved for role models, because the real world produces so very few. Just look at the fall of Lance Armstrong for proof of that. He may not be the hippest superhero of them all, as Dads usually are a little corny and behind the times. However, that is what resonates so deeply in us about the Superman myth, makes him such a strong archetype, and why he will always be relevant. Superman is that leader, that father figure we have always yearned for. He's a product of two strong fathers himself. One a leader, and the other a farmer, that taught him how to till the soil so his crops could grow healthy and strong. Speaking as someone whose had nothing but Zod's in his life, all I ever wanted was one Superman. He didn't exist for me in the real world, but Superman will always have a permanent home in my imagination.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
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