I didn’t like Superman as a kid. He just seemed too…perfect. The big Boy Scout didn’t seem to have anything wrong with him, which made it even more annoying since everything else seemed easy in regards to his job and love life (unlike other popular superheroes). I thought he lacked the depth of someone like Iron Man or Batman, both of whom were way more interesting than some dork that never had to deal with the true ugliness of humanity. I hate to say it, but I wasn’t a Superman fan until I finally read the masterpieces Superman: Birthright and Superman: Secret Origins. I went on to read Red Son, All Star Superman, Superior and so on until I realized how close minded I was being. Like many people, I didn’t appreciate why people thought that he was so cool. But now that I do, I just want everyone to see the same beauty of the character that I do and understand why he matters more than 75 years after his creation.
The reason Superman matters is not complicated: he is a perfect and never ending example of how humanity is ultimately good. Just look at his origin and life on Earth to see how this idea is exemplified. Kal-El came from a highly advanced society on the planet Krypton that was sitting on the brink of destruction and was only spared his race’s fate by his parents that gave the little they had to send to another world. On this new dirtball, Earth, the Last Son Of Krypton could have faced countless horrors were he discovered by the wrong people. Kal-El was, instead, given a life filled with love by two individuals, Martha and Jonathan Kent, that were never able to experience the joys of parenthood. He grew up as Clark Kent, where he experienced the somewhat stereotypical small town life in Smallville before moving on to college and later developing into an established journalist for the Daily Planet. Along the way, he became the world’s greatest defender of Truth, Justice and the American Way: Superman.
Though it appears that The Man Of Steel’s life was perfect, he is not without hardships. I mean, his story begins with the extinction of his entire race, but the pain doesn’t end there. Clark had a hard time fitting in as a kid and, in some interpretations of his origins, with his peers as an adult. After he became the defender of planet Earth, things didn’t get easier as he began to experience the endless cruelties of humanity that he never had to witness as a kid. I mean, Clark got bullied and ignored, but he never had to see children being slaughtered just because they wanted to get an education. The absolute hardest lesson Superman had to learn was that, despite his god-like powers, he cannot save everyone. There’s this powerful short story, Sam’s Story, that I really don’t want to spoil for those who haven’t had a chance to read it themselves. All I will say is that in this quick tale I don’t see an all powerful alien that would save the world more times than I can count, but a hurt kid struggling to deal with a pain that no one should ever have to face.
Not everything was easy on this planet and Superman could have very easily turned sour just like many of us do. To some degree, he did grow to become upset with the world because, despite his alien biology, he is human after all. There are plenty of examples of Superman being petty, short sighted, unjustly angry, there might even be a case of Superman being downright cruel. Just look at his secret fantasy when he had the Black Mercy attached to his chest (click here) and you’ll see something shocking. He isn’t sitting back and sipping tea with his parents and Lois Lane. Just like the Supergirl episode it was based on, Clark wants nothing more than a regular life on Krypton without those he met on Earth. This can be interpreted in many different ways, but I see it as Clark Kent secretly being unhappy with the circumstances of his life. Even though our deepest desires usually come from selfish places that don’t perfectly represent who we are as people, they are poignant reminders that we have inherent dark aspects of ourselves that we will never truly control. Just goes to show you that even Superman is as human and fallible the next Superguy (Follow instructions).
Despite all of this unseen rage and sadness within him along with the horrendous cruelties of mankind that he’s seen, Clark Kent remains a positive beacon for hope because he knows what the human race is capable of. For as many terrible things he witnessed, Superman has come out on top as a better person. Not only finding a nice balance in life with his career and superhero career, he also managed to find a new family. Despite how much people push the confrontation between them, Batman and Wonder Woman are like siblings to Kal-El. His coworkers, Jimmy, Perry and the rest of his supporting cast care whenever Clark goes through truly difficult times. And his two biggest influences, his parents, guided him when he needed it most early on in his life. To pay these people, Superman spreads this positivity and love to the rest of the world with the hope that they will choose a better path like he did.
Superman provides a clear example of how we can act when we face the most horrible traits of humanity. Stand tall, stay good and be the change you want in the world. If you face opposition, show those you disagree with the kindness you wish to see emulated in others. And though we may falter, he’ll always be there to knock us back on the right path. That is why Superman has, is and shall always matter.
What are some of your favorite Superman moments? Why does he matter to you? Why doesn’t he? Comment below and see what others have to say.
I’ve been Superguy and you’ve been awesome!