Is Superman REALLY That Boring?
What’s your beef with the Man of Steel? Is it his muscular build, or his sleek spandex suit? Can you not cope with his undeniable honesty, or the fact that he chooses to defend humanity at the whim of a single mother in New York? Calm Down. Breathe. Allow me to analyze.
Superman was regarded as the greatest creation in human history over sixty years ago for his inspirational persona. Quite literally, he was the first interpretation of the modern superhero, and hence, an icon in the pop culture movement. But he was not the first.
Superman’s abilities drew inspiration from the John Carter novels, which were released sometime before Jerry Siegel co-wrote the character with Joe Shuster in high school. Back then; there was no Apocalypse or Static Shock. In the early thirties, superheroes were only beginning to garner some popularity with the general public. Because of this, Superman is seen as a spiritual inspiration of John Carter.
His original abilities involved only the ability to lift small cars above his head and jump over buildings in one giant leap. Of course, this doesn’t really offer much imagination in light of heroes like Batman and Spider-Man.
In fact, Superman was perfect. But perfection is not what modern society tends to enjoy when going to the movie theater. It would take decades before the tragic hero was introduced to comic book readers; Batman, Spider-man, and The Punisher are all examples of this. But why do we consider them such icons?
Why do we find Peter Parker’s web and spider abilities more appealing than Superman’s blinding flying speeds and invulnerability to nearly every substance known to man? How is it that Batman can be rebooted numerous times over the course of twenty years, with compelling trilogies by Tim Burton and Chris Nolan, but the likes of Superman can’t hold a leaf to box office receipts?
I’m inclined to think that it is a suspicion of disbelief. People are no more interested in viewing the exploits of a god amongst men any more than they are to burning ants with a magnifying glass. You might say that we’ve matured from that time in our lives. To add to this, we need to know that there is some iota of ourselves projected in these characters.
Everyone knows what it feels like to lose a loved one. More evidently, everyone knows that dark shadow of grief. We know what it’s like to not know who we are, or what we stand for. Some of us look for escape, while others look to these heroes for escape from their average everyday lives.
I believe modern society has become a population of escapists, praying for the next issue of Ultimate Spiderman. We are all worker bees, slaves to a beehive that has produced less than sweet nectar for decades. We’ve stopped craving the perfect hero, and instead desired a person that we could see ourselves as.
Of course, we might also be craving stronger plot twists than the typical “I’m vulnerable to a green rock” scenario.
Regardless of who we are, we must respect Superman for what he is; one of the pioneering pop culture superheroes that inspired millions of individuals to be individuals.