[Sci-Fi Month] Defending the Man of Steel


As I’d stated in my Top 10 Extraterrestrials post, I am a huge fan of Superman. But, I’ve seen quite recently that the camp of people who like Superman is actually not as big as it used to be. A lot of people have gravitated to completely being fans of only Batman, and I don’t see anything wrong with that because I also love Batman, more than I love Superman, actually. But, a lot of people seem to have the idea that if you love one thing, you must hate this other thing, opposing or not, or else you’re a fake fan, and that makes me kind of sad. And so, instead of making yet another post on how Superman sucks (which a lot of pop journalists and entertainment bloggers like to do), I want to defend the guy and spread some positivity about him. Please note that I’m not making this post to attack anyone for their opinions on fictional characters and comic book companies, I’m just trying to explain my thoughts on certain criticisms of Superman.

Is Superman incredibly powerful? Of course he is, that’s what makes him Superman. It’s a superlative (see what i did there?). I can understand where people are coming from with this criticism, but the thing with superheroes is that each and every one of them is going to be the best at what they do. Batman is the world’s greatest detective, speaks a bunch of languages, has studied at Cambridge of all places, and has mastered 127 different forms of martial arts. Wonder Woman is possibly the best warrior in the DC Universe, and Green Arrow is the best archer. Obviously they’re not as powerful as Superman is, but they all have different goals and fight different enemies. Wonder Woman fights villains that can stem from mythology, while Batman and Green Arrow fight both regular criminals and more elaborate ones. Superman is the hero that would be called on to save the entire world, not just one single city. From what I’ve seen, Superman’s biggest stories involve him saving the world, rather than just Metropolis, and they’re always stories of epic proportions (All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison is one I would recommend, hint-hint).

This is obviously a subjective thing, but I completely disagree that he is boring. Sure, he has the typical “superhero powers” but that’s mainly because he was the first ever superhero and all heroes after him have either taken their abilities directly from him, or completely gone in another direction. For me, Superman is an exciting character because of how much has been done with him. He’s been to space, under the sea, on other planets, he’s been re-imagined in different stories, he’s even died and come back to life because a TV show hadn’t filmed an episode of Lois and Clark getting married yet (that’s not a joke, it actually happened). I will admit that I haven’t read very many canon Superman comics (I’ve read more Elseworlds titles, which are always interesting), but that doesn’t detract from the fact that I really do love Superman as a character. To me, his powers don’t mean much to me, it’s his personality that I love so much. Clark Kent is a kind, gentle, caring, and genuinely loving person who would do anything to help the people around him, but he’s incredibly aware that he can’t save every single person on Earth because he’s only one person and he can’t be everywhere at once, and that weighs on his conscience so heavily that it’s heartbreaking to see at times. The fact that this man with such incredible power is so kind and gentle but only wants to help and chooses to use his abilities to help other people is what makes Superman not boring for me.

I know it would be rude to say so but…

To me, saying that one superhero is more ridiculous than another is ridiculous in itself. All superheroes have some level of ridiculousness to them. Even Batman, everyone’s darling, does. The whole idea of people with weird and extraordinary abilities running around in costumes saving people from criminals, giant animals, robots, or aliens, is pretty ridiculous. But to me, that’s what makes superheroes so great. They don’t have to be realistic, but even with that level of fantasy and ridiculousness they can still be taken incredibly seriously and be given serious stories. There was a point in time where I would have agreed that Superman was a ridiculous hero, because during the Silver Age of Comics he was. My dad is probably a bigger Superman fan than me considering that he was reading comics back when they cost around about 20p as opposed to ยฃ2.99. He gave away most of his comics and bought a few of the Showcase collections and let me read them. Let me tell you something… Comics from the 1950s and 1960s are weird as hell. There were stories where Superman and even Batman (yeah, batman) would fight aliens, Superman had a secondary love interest who was a mermaid, and he was arguably at his most powerful. He could juggle planets, travel back in time, and the writes would give him random new abilities every single week depending on whether the story needed it or not. That was ridiculous, but it doesn’t happen anymore because the writers came to their senses. Also, regarding the criticisms about Clark’s appearance: ask someone you know who wears glasses to take theirs off. They look different don’t they? But even if that’s not enough, there are plenty of different ways that Clark is able to disguise himself when he is Superman. He changes his body language, his mannerisms, and even his voice, which is something that even Bruce Wayne does, although he has the advantage of wearing a mask that obscures most of his face. And besides, Henry Cavill says that just the glasses are enough.

In recent time, this has become an incredibly common complaint not just about Superman but about DC in general. A lot of critics say that DC has become “too dark” in comparison to Marvel who is simply given the generic (i think)ย label of “fun”. I am definitely in the camp of people who love the DCEU, and I personally don’t think that the tone of either the movies or the comics are too dark. Dark is DC’s thing. I’m not a Marvel fan because their characters and movies don’t really do anything for me (except for Thor. i like those movies) because I don’t find any deeper meanings in them, all I get from Marvel movies are bright colours, one-liners, and jokes shoved into my face every five minutes to make sure that I’m still interested. With DC I get stories and characters with a lot of depth to them, they make me think about many things. The issues that were tackled in the second DCEU movie weren’t tackled by the MCU until their thirteenth movie. For me, DC runs straight into tackling issues like collateral damage, and the ethical dilemmas that superheroes could potentially create in the real world without feeling the need to have laughs to fall back onto. But I’m not here to trash talk Marvel, I’m here to support Superman. A lot of people have the idea that Batman and Superman are polar opposites of each other and those opposites should never mix. Which is kind of true because Batman’s aesthetics have always been about darkness. And when I say always, I mean always. Frank Miller did not make Batman dark. Bill Finger did, then he got silly, then the 1970s returned to being darker, then Frank Miller turned the darkness up to eleven. This didn’t happen with Superman, but he does have some of the darkest stories that DC have published. Superman stories deal with oncoming apocalypses, mass destruction, the duties of being a hero, and again, collateral damage. The darker Batman stories deal with the deaths of his teammates, or just Gotham being somewhat destroyed at most. I can see where people are coming from with saying that Superman has become “too dark” because a lot of people expect Superman to be sunshine, rainbows, and one-liners. To me, it makes sense that Superman would be given a darker, more stoic interpretation because this is a man who comes from another world, dealt with being an outcast as a cast, wants to help other people, and receives backlash for it. Not to be personal, but as someone who deals with mental health problems, I can feel like I can relate to that because when you’re going through an awful time, the last thing you want to do is put on a fake smile and pretend that everything’s fine.

This one I truly don’t understand at all. Last month I was watching a JonTron video (one that’s actually unlisted, shh) where he made a minute comment that Batman is much more “relatable” than Superman is. Yeah, no. I don’t agree with that one bit. I love Batman, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve never related to the guy once in my entire life. My parents are still alive, I’m not a billionaire, I don’t have a bunch of degrees, I don’t know any martial arts, I haven’t had a string of short-lived romances, I don’t sit and brood all the time, I don’t live a double life, I don’t have a small army of children and teenagers, I don’t have tons of gadgets, you get the point. The only thing that’s the same between me and Batman is that we’re both human beings. To me, Batman is only relatable if you are Batman, which nobody is because Batman isn’t real. Superman, on the other hand, is somebody who feels like he doesn’t truly belong, no matter how hard he tries to blend in. He was pretty much bullied as a child and spent years of his life trying to figure out who he was and where he came from. Even after figuring it out, he kind of came to peace with the fact that he doesn’t belong and is different. I can relate to that so much more than I can relate to Batman, because Clark’s childhood experience is so real. It’s the immigrant’s story: he’s someone from an unfamiliar place and he gets ostracised for it. People are scared of him because he’s different. Xenophobia pretty much follows Superman. He is an alien, but that doesn’t mean that his story isn’t real. I’m not an immigrant myself because I’ve lived in the same house since I was born, but I can still relate to so many aspects of Superman’s story and his personality.

Okay, this last point isn’t about Superman himself but it’s the criticism that really boils my blood. Lois Lane is not a damsel in distress. She wasn’t one when she was created in the 1930s and she isn’t one now. Yes, there was a period in time, particularly the Silver Age (1950s-1960s) where she was the quintessential damsel in distress, but she hasn’t been like that since the 1970s when the editors at DC decided “no more bullshit”. I can see why people think this because unfortunately the main image of Lois that has been planted into the public’s mind is that of the damsel in distress who constantly pines for her saviour. This was true in the 1950s and 60s where the whole point of Lois was to have her try to find out who Superman so that she could marry him by being a total nuisance who gets herself for literally no reason. From the 70s onwards Lois has returned to being a determined reporter who is much more developed, rounded, and is able to take care of herself. At least until the Richard Donner movies, that is. Those movies definitely returned Lois to being a damsel in distress, which really kind of saddens me because Lois is so much more than that. Even in the series Lois & Clark, and of couse the DCEU movies, Lois is portrayed as being a determined reporter who is tough-as-nails and will do anything it takes to get a story. Even her first scene in Lois & Clark shows her in disguise as a man (complete with fake moustache) to get a story, and Man of Steel portrays her in the same way, constantly on Clark’s tail to find out who he is. If you think that I’m overprotective of Superman, you’ve now seen that I’m aggressively overprotective of Lois Lane because I firmly believe that she is more than just a damsel in distress and she certainly is not “useless”.ย 


Now, to end this post, I shall leave you all with Clark Kent’s beautiful smile:


Who’s a character that you would fiercely (or not) defend?


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