By Lvenger 74 Comments
Hey there fellow Viners, me and @squalleon are back for another blog on a subject and character close to both our hearts. After his disappointing results on August's Character of The Month polls, coming in at 9% and second last to Cyborg, it seems apparent more than ever that Superman doesn't have the best rep on the Vine. He may be the most iconic of superheroes but having an iconic status doesn't equal popularity obviously. There are many misconceptions, unfair criticisms and flat out incorrect assessments of the first, original template for superheroes that is Superman. On this blog, we intend to show why Superman has been a compelling, complex and intriguing character in a fitting world for over 75 years now.
1. Why Superman matters.
Sq: He is one of the most popular characters in any medium. The personification of humanity's highest values, a champion of truth and justice and the ultimate male power fantasy. The countless elseworlds, homages, pastiches and plain old rip-offs that spawn by the months show that people still want to read about Superman. He is the unstoppable force and the immovable object, because of his unbreakable will, unshaken ethical code and unlimited power. A character that is deep and simple at the same time. Providing the reader countless questions about how a being like that would act and think. Why does he do what he does? Can he exist? How much would he change the social and political structure? And when does his mission stops before he becames a threat? Superman has reached the stage that he isn't just another character in tights but THE Super-hero, one whose only equals are the heroes of myth and legend.
Lv: Nice job Squalleon, now I have to match that awesome treatise. (clears throat) In light of the world of 1938 where the Depression hung like a black cloud over the working class citizens of America, two Jewish boys with a dream created a character that would fight back against corrupt landlords, greedy criminals and sleazy politicians for the rights of the common man. That character was the hero recognised as the iconic and legendary paragon of moral virtue and upstanding humanitarian goodness that we call Superman. The character has been through many shifts and interpretations; from the rough vigilante of the Golden Age to the family friendly but overpowered Silver Age incarnation to the modern version with determination and guts in his Clark Kent persona whilst also possessing an unbreakable moral compass and adhering to the highest virtues. That strength of character and of morality is something that, for some makes Superman too much of a goody goody boy scout. To those that actually take the time to learn about Superman, they know that Superman's morality makes him both a simple character with plenty to love about him whilst also allowing for deep, thoughtful if not philosophical stories to be told. How would an alien god on Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men be treated? What would the people's reaction be? How would governments react to him? Does he have the right to do what he does? These and many more questions also raised by my partner make Superman the head of the modern day superhero mythology. That's something I think we both agree on.
2. He is as "Super" as he is a "Man"
Sq: Many think Superman is unrelatable but how can that be? He is constantly burdened by the destruction of Krypton the planet he will never be able to live in or see with his own eyes. He feels like an outsider, doing good not only because of his kind heart but because he wants to be accepted, to stop feeling like an alien in another world and even when he is the most respected man of that world he still feels a hole inside his heart because he deep down knows he will never truly be a kryptonian or a human, destined to be an outcast everywhere and forever. He has to give up personal relationships for his duty. He always has to choose between what is right and what is legal. More importantly he wants to have a family, a normal family but he knows he can't, he can't have a child with the woman he loves and even if he could he can't bring a child to that lifestyle because he is afraid to expose it to the dangers lurking out there(like every parent in the real world). He can't have a happy ending as long as the never ending fight is happening. Many stories touch those subjects and show why Superman is more complex than people think.
Lv: There are those that think Superman is too "Super" to be considered much of a real "Man." But I fail to see how that can be the case. He's grown up on a farm, had to work hard doing his chores on the farm and in controlling and growing his strange powers and abilities. Clark has often felt alone and outcast despite his upbringing from the Kents making him act just as human as any other human being. But that dichotomy of calling Earth home yet never truly belonging there is what makes Superman so compelling. He acts as much of a man as any human does yet his superhuman abilities and alien heritage are a constant reminder that no matter how many human values he adheres to, he will never be one of them. To round this off, I'll use the constant example that Batman is supposed to be more relatable than Superman. Batman is a psychologically tortured, practically has an obsessive disorder with expunging crime and protecting the innocent, is a billionaire playboy in his secret identity and spends every night fighting crime in Gotham sending fear into the hearts of criminals. If we take out Superman's alien heritage and powers and compare their personalities, who sounds more relatable? The guy raised on a farm with a strong work ethic and moral compass to use his gifts and abilities to better himself and to help others? Or the guy who dresses like a bat every night to scare criminals non stop?
3. What exactly does OP mean?
Sq: Ok, lets be clear, what exactly does OP mean? Does it mean he can't be beaten by low-mid tiers and street levelers? GOOD because he isn't meant to fight them. Superman's enemies are either world-threatening, having the power, smarts or technology to counter Superman's incredible powerset or challenge his morals, will and heart. And in a world were genius phychopaths, monsters, demon overlords and alien emperors exist Superman WON'T have a problem to find a threat. Plus why are people always complaining about Superman and not Martian Manhunter,Captain Atom, Shazam, Silver Surfur or The Flash, heroes that are either on par or MORE powerful than Supes. The answer is because they want an excuse to hate Supes,even when thats not a good one.
Lv: I agree my friend, this is exactly the kind of criticism that is a real urban myth as to why Superman is not as popular as he should be. The overpowered claim is rooted in the Silver Age when, admittedly, Superman was vastly overpowered and was basically God for lack of a better term. But the modern version of Superman has been nowhere near this level of power for ages yet people still complain when he moves planets or tanks a supernova. This is the power level Superman is supposed to be written at, he's been a powerhouse character for many years now. The trick is not to make him Silver Age levels of OP whilst also showing Superman as a mighty being. Consequently, the counter to this point is "But that means there aren't powerful enough threats for Superman to face." That's a misconception of the threats and dangers Superman faces on a regular basis. In his regular rogues gallery, there's the tyrannical alien overlord Mongul who is usually strong enough to give Superman major trouble in a fight. There's Parasite, a power drainer who can take Superman's powers and use them against him. There's Hank Henshaw, a deranged technopath with Kryptonian and technological abilities surpassing Superman's own. And there's Lex Luthor who is not Superman's most powerful foe but tests Superman's physical might with his near unparalleled genius and vast resources. This doesn't even cover the JLA/other foes that are definitely more powerful than Superman in a pinch. Despero, Darkseid, Amazo, Doctor Destiny, Shaggy Man, Doomsday, the list goes on and on. So if people really think Superman is overpowered in a universe teeming with vastly more powerful beings, that's their misconception to make.
4.Superman's villains are awesome.
Of course, a hero can only be good as his villains and whilst they're often underrated, Superman's rogues galleries are among the most compelling and threatening antagonists in the comic book business.
Lex Luthor: None are known more widely than Superman's arch nemesis, human antithesis and ultimate rival that is Lex Luthor. Lex is a self made man, someone who has clawed his way to the top of the food chain by any means necessary and was living the high life as Metropolis' so called favourite son, despite his amoral and unscrupulous nature. But all that changed when Superman arrived on the scene. Everything Lex can do and all the property he owns seems to pale in comparison to the ultimate man from the heavens. Someone who Lex feels is a parasite leeching from humanity and depriving them of the will to act on their own accord. If Superman represents the best of humanity, Lex represents our worst demons and vices. Lex has deluded himself into thinking his obsessive crusade against Superman is justifiable instead of using his mind for more worthwhile purposes. This is because he feels it’s more important to focus his efforts on wiping out humanity’s apparent false idolisation of Superman. But outside of the tussel between Superman's brawn and Lex's brain and vast resources, this polar opposite dynamic is at the heart of their antagonism. Lex is driven by sheer ambition and hatred of Superman and endeavours to transcend beyond humanity’s limitations. In contrast, Superman lives his life according to a moral code instilled in him by physically and intellectually inferior beings. Lex wants to be more than a man whereas Superman wants to be less of an alien outcast. Such a dichotomy makes their clashes all the more intriguing.
General Zod: Outside of Lex Luthor, Superman's next biggest foe is the ruthless General Zod. A former Kryptonian General turned rebel outlaw, General Zod was banished to the Phantom Zone for his treacherous crimes against Krypton. At least, this is the mainly accepted version of his origin thanks to Superman II which was also maintained in Pre New 52 and Post New 52 comics to some degree. Just like Luthor represents the worst of humanity to contrast Superman's best of humanity, General Zod stands as the worst that Superman's home planet of Krypton has to offer. Though there have been several versions of Zod in the comics; the Pocket Universe Zod that was killed by Superman or the strange Phantom Zone Zod that showed up in For Tomorrow, the most recognisable version can be found in the Last Son storyline by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner. Although that version first started off as the obvious villain with plans to take over the Earth with Phantom Zone criminals, Zod has been developed as a more sympathetic figure, particularly in Superman: World of New Krypton where Zod's motives and drives are explored further. Though Zod is a meglomaniac despot in power, he does hold the interests of his fellow Kryptonians first. It's why he rebelled on Krypton and, in last year's Man of Steel, it's why he wanted to terra-form the Earth so that his people could survive. This version of Zod is obviously the best way to depict the character, one who is a clear antagonist with powers equal to Superman's under the light of a yellow sun but also with understandable, if not appreciable motives at the heart of his actions.
Brainiac: Another excellent Superman villain for me anyway is Brainiac. A Coluan with a 12th level intellect, Brainiac scours the universe in search of planets and shrinks one of its cities to add to his collection of captured worlds. What really makes Brainiac work is his cold, apathetic and detached mindset from everything but his task of collecting more bottled worlds to add to his knowledge, technology and power. Brainiac is basically the worst of alienkind, our greatest fears and worries about the dangers of other extraterrestrial lifeforms rounded up into an alien cybernetic package. He's a villain I've always wanted to see appear in a Superman film, and no Superman III does not count just because the original villain was meant to be Brainiac :P He can pose a physical, psychological and ideological challenge to Superman all at once and when treated right, it's clear to see why Brainiac is one of Superman's greatest villains.
Mr. Mxyzptlk: Probably the most powerful of Superman's rogues is Mr. Mxyzptlk. His origin is usually very simple, he is just an immortal imp from the 5th dimension("just" hah?), seeking amusement, he often challenges the Man of Steel, who he finds interesting. He is more of a prankster rather than an enemy and he has found himself helping Superman or even giving him life lessons without any gain. But his new 52 origin is quite different. Mxy was an adventurer of the 5th dimension, who learned that the king was sad and no one could make him smile. Mxy managed to make him happy by pulling a universe out of his hat, tricking heroes from around that world, the king's and Mxy's favorite trick was Superman, the only one who outsmarted Mxy every time.
Parasite: Another dangerous foe is The Parasite. A slave to his natural needs, no matter how many people absorbed the life force from, Parasite couldn't satisfy his hunger. Then Superman came along an almost endless source of energy, when the two came into contact Parasite grew stronger and bigger than before. Parasite hunts Superman to satisfy his eternal hunger. His origins are almost never the same but usually end up with him being dosed with chemicals, which made him the always hungry monster.
Bizarro: The loveable monster of Superman's rogues, he is part humor, part confusion. Depending on his origin Bizzaro is a twisted copy of Superman or an alien from Bizarro world a planet similar to earth but backwards. He does everything Superman does just backwards, usually he speaks in broken sentences and he says the opposite of what he means. He is often created by Lex Luthor and his current New 52 origin is another one of those. Bizarro appeared in Forever Evil where he had some of the most hilarious and emotional scenes of the New 52 along with Lex. His powers are always a twisted version of Superman's like Flame breath and Freeze rays.
5.Superman's supporting cast is awesome too.
Lois Lane: Fellow reporter at The Daily Planet, Lois Lane has been many things to Clark Kent over her 75 year history. Reporting partner, friend, lover and eventually wife to the visitor from another planet. Lois is a constant throughout Superman's many interpretations, Elsewords and alternate versions of the character as a representation of what Superman loves about humanity. Now I know some Superman fans and people on here aren't a huge fan of her but there is a reason Lois is a mainstay in the Superman franchise. She might not make Superman more human, a popular belief amongst Clois shippers that annoys those not so fond of the pair but Lois' personality represents a lot of what Superman loves about humanity. Determined, passionate, gutsy, capable yet caring and compassionate as well, Lois is a resourceful role model for women and an ideal contrast to Clark's personality.
Pa and Ma Kent: If ever there were parents who deserved the Parent of The Year award, Jonathan and Martha Kent fit the bill perfectly. It was them who discovered baby Kal-El's rocket in a Kansas cornfield and, rather than hand the strange space baby over to the government, the Kents took the child in and raised him as if he were their own. From then on, Clark Kent was raised by ordinary humans who instilled a strong work ethos and an upstanding moral compass into their upbringing of young Clark. They helped him control his abilities, gave him guidance on who Clark was and where he was from, advised him about what he should do with his abilities to make the world a better place and most importantly, gave much parental love and emotion to Clark Kent. It was the Kents who shaped Clark into becoming not just a man, but a Super-Man. And regardless of whether they live or die (RIP Jonathan and Martha Kent) their role in making Superman cannot be underestimated.
Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van: The desperate scientists of a doomed planet. They are two of the most inspiring and tragic figures in Superman's lore. With their planet destined to die, Jor-El and Lara had to take the ultimate risk of sending their child to earth, dying without knowing their son's fate. That part can be quite metaphorical, as it is a passing, sending your child to face the world alone. Jor-El was one of the most respected scientists of planet Krypton, often called the greatest, Jor-El was the youngest kryptonian to be part of the scientists council in some versions. He is one of only two people to actually repel the multitude(the other being Kal-El), he is the one who discovered and utilized the parallel plane of existence called Tha Phantom Zone He first found out that Krypton was dying but no one from the Kryptonian council believed him. Lara Lor-Van is Kal-El's mother, she is a brilliant scientist, who meet Jor-El at a young age. She, together with Jor-El created Kal-El's spaceship. In the New 52 version she is also an accomplished member of Krypton's millitary force as skilled with the blade as she is with the pen.
The Daily Planet: Metropolis' prime newspaper. The Daily Planet is one of the biggest mainstay's in Superman's lore in one way or another. Most of Superman's supporting cast is connected to the planet or was a part of it at one point. The main characters that work there except of course Lois Lane, are Perry White, the hard-boiled, ex-reporter editor-in-chief, Supeman's Pal Jimmy Olsen one of the few characters from Superman's supporting cast to get their own ongoings and get the Kirby treatment. Depending on the version Jimmy is either an awkward teenager or a dynamic photo-reporter ready foor action. He had many stories dedicated to him even the modern years. He is known for his transformations and disquises. Other members of the Planet are Cat Grant, the lifestyle reporter of the Planet, who currently owns a blog together with Clark, Steve Lombard the brash and overly self-confident Sports Reporter of the Planet and Ron Troupe a level-headed reporter who is also ready to take risks when the he hunts a story.
Superboy: A genetic clone from Superman's DNA and a human doner (originally Lex Luthor but changed in the New 52 to Lois Lane) Superboy emerged after Superman's death at the hands of Doomsday due to Cadmus' desire to create another Superman under their control. But the clone escaped, developed tactile telekinesis powers, met up with Superman in the ruins of Coast City and helped him defeat the evil Cyborg Superman. For the most part, Superboy wasn't really connected with Superman as his own series set him on his own path. But in the mid 2000s, when Superboy joined the Teen Titans, he learned that Lex Luthor was the other doner of his DNA. After a bout of mind controlling, Superboy took up a relationship with Wonder Girl, stayed with The Kents, sacrificed his life to stop the evil Superboy Prime and was brought back to life in The 31st Century. It's the mid 2000s where Superboy has really gained his popularity IMO because his character was made to be much more likeable without Connor becoming a Superman clone in personality. He's his own hero and has crafted his own legacy that makes him a very appealing and unique character.
Supergirl: Many have doned the mantle of Supergirl but the original and most famous of all is Kara-Zor-El. Kara was send from Krypton like Superman but she was at her teens when she did. Because of a meteor shower, she was stuck in suspended animation. Unlike Kal, Kara lived on Krypton making her tragedy, maybe, even worse than Kal-El's. Often hot-headed, Kara has a hard time adjusting on earth because of her kryptonian nature and upbringing. From the clutches of Darkseid to her Amazonian training, Kara got into many troubles before she finally became a full member of the super-hero community.
Krypto: The dog of Steel! Krypto is a kryptonian guardian dog. His courage and loyalty led him to protect the El family from the The Phantom Zone criminals but he was trapped as a result in it. He watched over Kal-El for years from the phantom zone like a ghost. He was there keeping the Man of Steel companionship even if Clark couldn't see him. A fan-favorite member of the Superman cast, Krypto is part of some of the most emotional and moving stories of Superman.
Even if this humble blog hasn't convinced the haters and critics who are reading this that Superman isn't a bland and boring character, at least you can see why there are those of us who like the character for what he is. And to fellow Superman fans reading this, hope you enjoy reading this piece by us. Apologies to those who were hoping their comments might appear in this section but our thread didn't get enough traffic and comments so we scraped that section and talked about the supporting cast instead. Still, feel free to share your comments and views below.