I’ve never been a huge fan of Superman. Growing up, I connected more with heroes like Spider-Man and Batman – heroes who fought inner demons as well as bad guys. Peter Parker was an everyman. Actually, an everyboy at that point. He was the picked on nerd in high school, something I could relate to. It didn’t matter how many people he saved or how many times he beat up Doc Ock. He wasn’t going to get the girl or win the popularity of the masses, especially with the press constantly going against him. Batman had his own problems, haunted by circumstances he couldn’t control that always pushed him harder. Those were well-rounded characters.
Superman, on the other hand, was the big blue boy scout. He didn’t have to worry about running out of web fluid or carry traumatic nightmares about his parent’s death. He flew in, saved the day, and then moved on to the next person in need. In between he was close to Lois Lane, sometimes wanting to be with her, sometimes wanting to protect her from the dangers of his dual life. Let’s be honest though – all the Man of Steel would have had to do was break it to Lois that he was both Clark and Superman, and she would have been his instantly. The only roadblock in that area was his own decision. Sure, a little radioactive rock causes some issues for Superman, but he has always managed to overcome that minor obstacle.
Because of my disinterest in Supes, his film comeback hasn’t exactly been all encompassing for me. The trailers have been visually interesting, but how captivating could another movie about the Last Son of Krypton be, especially since the previous movies have already proven Superman doesn’t have a compelling enough rogues gallery to keep from having to resort to timely issues? Actually seeing the movie ended up being a different experience. Superman’s return, it would turn out, can be quite captivating.
The second Superman makes his return known crowds cheer and smiles return to the faces of the public. “Where have you been?” asks cutting edge reporter Lois Lane. That immediately became the question I wanted an answer to. Where has Superman been? The War in Iraq, miners buried alive, the attacks of 9/11, through all of those and more, where has Superman been? I wanted the Man of Steel to give an answer and explain why he allowed all of these things to happen. But where has he been? Nowhere. He’s not real. But wouldn’t it be nice if he was?
Seriously, if super-heroes really existed, which would you rather have? A teenager who fights villains in between classes? A man who dresses up as a giant bat but doesn’t actually have any powers? Or would you rather have the hero who has no fine print. He’s there to save the day; that’s what he does. He’s all-powerful, indestructible, with powers just shy of God. Even with my Spidey love I can see that’s what we want in a hero – the guy who has time to fly in and save the guy who fell out of a building on his way to stop the giant earthquake in the first place. Cause and effect, he catches it all. He doesn’t expect payment. He never has to sleep. All he wants is to help make the world a better place, not because he thinks we deserve it, but because we do. (They’re a great people… they wish to be.)
So with all of Superman’s great qualities, is it any surprise different communities are claiming him for their own? Christian ministers are calling him a Jesus figure. Homosexual targeted magazines are declaring him as gay. I’m just waiting for Superman to be named the next Islamic prophet (PBUH) or woman’s libbers to declare him their new mascot. And you know what, they can all have him. It shouldn’t bother any of us, although for some reason it does.
Philosophy suggests that we need an ubermensch, a superman of sorts, to look up to, to help guide us and protect us. Ideally that someone should be someone like Superman, someone who won’t let us down and can help us be a great people. It should be a testimony to how solid Siegel and Shuster’s creation is that so many varied organizations would lay claim to him. He truly is the ubermensch we all look for. Could it be that Superman is such a perfect hero figure that everyone identifies with him so well, leading them to be unable to imagine him being so perfect for another group?
So is Superman a Christ figure? Well, he certainly could be seen as such in Bryan Singer’s film, as much as Neo may have been in The Matrix films. Could he be a gay figure? Well, he does roam about in a pretty outlandish costume, which doesn’t make him gay per se, but he certainly would fit in at a flamboyant gathering. Does that make him any less of a hero for you? It shouldn’t. Look at Superman through your own eyes. Determine what it is about the character that makes him a hero for you and respect that, not what others admire about the flawless hero.
There’s no arguing, no matter what your beliefs, hopes, or dreams, the world really could use a hero like Superman. Maybe if we can all agree that Superman is the perfect hero, and keep our specific reasons as to why he is, we can find some common ground to associate over. Just because Superman is fictitious doesn’t mean he can’t help us become a great people, and that common ground could very well become the first step. Thanks to Superman Returns I’ve been converted. I see the light. I recognize the greatness of Superman.