You know the story. Man sees doomed planet for what it is. He tries to help his people, but they spurn his attempts. In his desperation, he can only save his son, leaving his own fate with that of his people. The boy rockets to Earth, where he is adopted by two kind humans who raise him to be the best humanity has to offer. Thus Superman is born. He may not have the dark origin of Batman. He may not be as edgy as Wolverine. He may not be as relatable as Spiderman. But one thing is for sure, I wouldn't want anyone else other than Superman in my corner to catch me when I fall.
It’s easy to feel anxious in today’s world. Terror attacks, rapes, murders, and genocide are seemingly commonplace on this planet. Just pick up the newspaper (oops, you might not know what that is anymore), or watch the news (shit, TV’s dying too), and there is a constant testament to the worst humanity has to offer. Sure, every once in a while we get reminded of the random acts of kindness, but far too often the same news stories of tragedy reaches our senses. And as we begin to feel overwhelmed with all the negativity, its times like these where Superman is most important.
You see, Bruce Wayne is Batman because of tragedy. Peter Parker is Spiderman because of his actions that led to his uncle’s death. Logan is the angry Wolverine because he’s the only badass Canadian ever (I kid!!!). But Clark Kent is Superman because of his adoptive parents. They raised him with the core values of what it is to be a good human being. And while struggling with his identity and his role in the world (which everyone does), while coming to terms with his immense loss of his biological home, but the gains of his adoptive world, Clark Kent embraced his human and kryptonian sides to become the most enduring hero of modern times.
Superman may fly in the sky, but he’s not above us or our laws. He willingly follows them to a T in order to better serve us. It is in this regard that he is most unique. Superman was the first significant creation in a new era of human mythology. Our ancestors had the Greek and Roman gods running amok, bending the human spirit to their will. They were vengeful, deceitful, full of trickery, and rarely did anything to benefit mankind if it did not help them personally. But here came a character with absolute power, like Zeus, but was not corrupted. On the contrary, he held himself to a higher responsibility in order to ensure humanities safety. Where Zeus would transform into a swan to bed a girl or three, Superman walks the line boldly so that we may follow his example. He was the first of the gods to serve humanity for no personal gain.
No task is too small for Superman; he’s saved cats stuck in trees! He’s tried to end world hunger, genocide, nuclear arms, and yes, put a stop Lex Luther’s mad plans too. But there is more to it. There is a scene in the comic All Star Superman where a young girl is about the hurl herself off a building. This girl with her shortly cut dark hair and black eyeliner is at that moment in her life where everything is just in a dark place. All she needs is someone to reach out and let her know that she will be fine. But her doctor is unavailable, and she can’t endure anymore. Just as she’s about to take that final step to end it all, she’s gently wrapped up in the Man of Steels arms and he tells her simply that “You’re much stronger than you think you are”. This moment comes between Superman saving the world from one disaster or another. He’s leaping tall buildings, bouncing bullets off his chest, and still has enough time for those who feel that time has run out. That is the enduring human potential.
Sure his standings in popularity may have fallen. People constantly complain that he’s not relatable and that he’s overpowered. But of all the comic book characters out there, he is the one humanity must strive to become. A hero so strong and bold, but so gentle that he will willingly give himself up to the military, let himself be handcuffed and escorted through a military base to be interrogated, surrounded by mere mortals that he could destroy with ease, and all for our own self satisfaction. That is the human potential; a law abiding force of nature that doesn’t hold itself above everyone, but is more than capable of solving real world problems. We may never reach such lofty heights, but we owe it to ourselves to at least try, or else we have fated this world of ours to become the next Krypton.
Happy belated 75th birthday Kal El. One day we will join you in the sun.
|All thanks to Joe Shuster and Jerry Seigel|