Superman is no one of those characters who completely twists your mind in deciding whether this guy is interesting, boring or perhaps both at the same time. He’s got super strength, heat vision, x-ray vision, ice breath, super speed, ability to fly, bullet proof skin and the endurance level to survive a nuclear blast.
This guy can even travel to different universes and galaxies with unrealistic ease. Superman has been indescribably given too much with too little limitation. One man is just not supposed to have so much power stocked up altogether, it just doesn’t make any sense and that’s where the issue with Superman lies. Superman doesn’t make any sense, but for some twisted psychological reason, he is one of the biggest pop culture icons in the world today.
Originally Superman’s creators writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster didn’t even come close to envisioning the icon that we see today. He was supposed to be this weird little guy who gains psychic powers and desires nothing except personal gain. This concept was executed terribly and the idea completely flopped in epic proportions which led to internal conflicts between Jerry and Joe due to the character not finding success on any level whatsoever.
But Superman’s creators were smart, they somehow reconciled and started developing the character by giving him the shape and form that we see today. After the massive failure that their initial incarnation was, Superman transformed into the man with insurmountable power carrying the stark red cape and the iconic ‘S’ symbol.
Superman became this man with the power that all the other men would desire for personal gains, yet Superman just wants to do the right thing with the gift he’s been given.
Perhaps Jerry and Joe subconsciously desired immense power as storytellers to evade the heart breaking failure they faced before and so they projected all of their frustration in the form of a man who can do anything he wants yet he chooses to be the good guy just like Jerry and Joe could’ve chosen to be anyone in the world, yet they chose to be storytellers and created something that changed the landscape of comic book characters and storytelling for the eternity to come.
Superman is boring only if you look at him from a character point of view at a superficial level, but when you put a character like Clark Kent in stories where the people ask “Must there be a Superman” or ”The death and return of the Superman”, then you begin to see the real picture. You begin to see yourself in the world you’re living in with surging crime rates, corrupt politicians, disaster of epic proportions and conspiracy theories to turn the people against each other. Then you begin to see how wrong you are in considering Superman an uninteresting character because he’s not and we look at him all wrong.
When movies like the ‘Man of Steel’ are produced, the first half almost comes close to delivering a Superman story that we can love and remember. But these very same movies fail miserably in their second half when Superman becomes just an instrument to display massive action and visual effects spectacle on epic scales. When you pit Superman against an equal force like General Zod or the Doomsday in a straightforward hand to hand combat, just after five minutes, it becomes completely unwatchable because you know that it’s Superman and he’s someone no one can defeat in a one on one head to head collision.
But when you pit Superman against someone like the Batman, the situation instantly catches a spark that burns into a full-fledged fire because you know that a fight between these two icons could never be simply about who’s physically stronger or dominant. Their fight will always be a clash of moral boundaries, philosophical beliefs and their perspective on the war against crime. These are the situations where Superman thrives, the situation where Superman is challenged on an intense psychological level where not only us but Superman himself gets to find out who he really is and if provoked, what he would do with all the power in the world that he has in the palm of his hands.
I think now I understand why Superman became the template for other superheroes to draw from. Among all the wrong that’s going on in our world, no matter how much you deny it, we wish we had a figure like Superman in real time. We wish if not us, then someone would have all the power in the world and could still be the good guy. Truth of the matter is, no one else could be that guy except the man that we all love to call the man of steel…, Superman.
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