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Feb 03 2012

Superman or just Superlame?

Superman or just Superlame? Hit the jump to find out!

For those who were not present on earth between the years 2001 – 2011, ‘Smallville’ was a TV series that ran for 10 seasons based on the teenage Clark Kent, following his struggles as an adolescent trying to find his purpose and place in the world as any teenager does. The only difference, and a huge one at that, is Clark Kent utilizes this time to learn how to be human as well as how to harness his super alien powers to become the overly well known hero and symbol… ‘Superman’.

For the record, Superman is not one of my favourite heroes. Though I believe ‘Smallville’ (used as a tool for explanation) has perfectly demonstrated over its 10 years of being on air, the reality of Superman’s development. Over the years since his creation back in 1933 by Jerry Siegel and Canadian-born Joe Shuster, who were both inspired by the philosophies of Nietzsche, (which was originally designed to be a mastermind villain in ‘The Reign of Superman‘, but later changed to a hero due to Adolf Hitler’s interest in the philosophy of the comic strips), has become an increasingly unfair and overpowered boyscout. By 1938, the rights to Superman had been sold to DC Comics, by 1940, Superman was a hero to three different comics and a symbol of freedom and justice to the world, and only grew in popularity from there. I would not disagree but acknowledge the positive influence of Superman in these uneasy days of its conception around the second world war, for Superman was in part a symbol for the people to be strong and have hope that good will prosper in the end. My concern lies in today’s times and the development of superman as a product and symbol for today’s audience. Have they made the ‘man of steel’ to powerful? Have they exploited and empowered this character to the point of unfathomable levels disconnecting the viewer? Has Superman reached a capacity of godlikeness that the new readers my find it greatly difficult to relate? I feel so.

The original hero, all though not human yet ironically named SuperMAN, was by far nothing in comparison to the hero today. He was undoubtedly more man then super. Since his introduction in the 1930s, the extent of his powers have increased and peaked by the 1970s to the point where various writers found it extremely difficult to create suitable villains that would be able to challenge this hero. As a result Superman was slightly reduced in godlikeness and rebooted by writer John Byrne; after Byrne released his grasp on the Hero, Superman’s powers gradually began to increase again.

Here is the extent of his powers to date:

  • Superhuman Strength – Strength much greater than that of a normal Human and even most Meta-humans. (signature ability)
  • Superhuman Speed – allowing him to move, react, run, and fly extraordinarily fast.  (signature ability)
  • Invulnerability – Immunity to almost all forms of harm and ailments, including extreme force and extremely high temperatures. This ability includes the immunity to most known physical and mental diseases, viruses and toxins.
  • Flight – The ability to naturally defy and operate independently of gravity and propel himself through the air at will.
  • Superhuman Vision – His senses grant him the ability to see farther and with greater accuracy and detail than humanly possible.
    • X-Ray Vision – The ability to see through solid objects, usually with the exception of lead.
    • Heat Vision – Ability to emit solar energy from his eyes.
  • Superhuman Breath – Ability to inhale and exhale huge volumes of air with great force. Also allows Superman to hold his breath for extended periods in airless environments. Also has Freeze Breath, where he can cool objects to sub-zero temperatures.
  • Superhuman Hearing – Can hear more sounds with more detail at greater distances than humanly possible, including sounds on frequencies undetectable by humans.
  • Superhuman Olfaction – A heightened and highly accurate sense of smell
  • Eidetic Memory – occasionally shown to have flawless, total recall of everything he has ever seen, read or heard.

I know Superman fans would like me to also mention that he also has weaknesses. Yes, I will acknowledge that he has weaknesses, but you must agree that these weaknesses are nothing in comparison to the ridiculous amount of strengths this hero possesses. In my opinion his weaknesses include:

  • Kryptonite – Radioactive fragments of the planet Krypton created by fusion during the explosion that destroyed it. Superman’s cells store electromagnetic radiation and convert it into energy, manifesting as his super-powers. When Superman is exposed to kryptonite, its radiation rapidly interferes with this process, causing physical pain and the loss of his powers.
  • “Boyscoutness” – his painful need to be a ‘complete’ hero and the need to do things for the good of humanity and justice. His inability to kill something unless completely necessary and all other options have been stressed and exercised. His undying hunger to fit into society and humanity as a human; therefore, his goal is to be accepted. And his annoying heroic and diplomatic posture and composure.

Essentially my arguments stand in two very distinct points: His powers make him boring and sometimes frustrating to read and is his inability to relate with his readers.

After looking at the nice list of powers he has listed above its easy for you as the reader to think “you know its really not that bad”, and at first glace your right; it really isn’t that bad. However, its the apparent use of his powers, and the negligent non-use of some powers that irritate me. Let me explain with two small examples, Superman’s superspeed not only allows him to move, react, run, and fly extraordinarily fast; but they also allow him to read at Superhuman speeds thus making him extremely smart, and he can spin around (the earth) so fast he can travel back in time. (That’s fine print if I have ever seen fine print) Next, and more frustrating is his general lack of disregard for the use of some powers during key moments. It’s almost like he forgets he has superspeed, or heat vision sometimes. It just doesn’t make sense, but as an author it wouldn’t be “entertaining” to have all the problems in the world so easily fix. Moving on to my next point, Superman has become such a god like figure that I, as a fan of comic heroes, find it very hard for fans to admit they can connect with Superman on a understandable ‘human’ level. Yes, Superman my possess an entertainment factor but the underlining purpose of comic books essentially is so the reader and fan can connect and relate. Superman makes it very hard to connect when he is theoretically hardly human. He does not need to be from ‘earth’ in order to be ‘human’ but should have something definitively characteristic that we are able to relate with; this is what he lacks unlike heroes such as Batman or Green Arrow. These heroes may be written as Human, but possess no “powers”, but attainable “abilities” like logic, problem solving, quick thinkers, yet still fighting the for the good along with overcoming human everyday issues such addictions or demoralizing struggles and situations.

These my friends, in comparison, are the true purpose of heroes…

post down below and let me know what you think.

That’s my comic rant, and that’s Yo Comic Garbage Heroes!!

About the author

Marc

Generally a simple and non-violent creature. Interests include comics, music, art and most things nerdy.

4 comments

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  1. I agree with you on most points but I think DC is doing a great job on the new run of action comics with Grant Morrison writing is very very good but that’s probably due top the fact that hes still a younger superman who doesn’t have all his powers and shockingly is not so much of a boy-scout just yet.

    So I guess I pretty much just agree with you here.

  2. leadcenobite

    Slightly reduced? That’s how I know you don’t even follow Superman and are making a lot of assumptions. He went from being able to tow multiple planets on a giant chain to struggling to lift a cruise ship. You call that slight?

    How much do you expect Superman’s powers to be reduced so that he’s not considered too powerful? Just enough so that your favorite character can beat him is my guess. That’s pretty much it isn’t it? If the Hulk or Thor can’t beat him, he’s cheap and overpowered.

  3. Mike

    Wait so being able to fly and carry a cruise ship isn’t broken to you? The point being made here is that he is over powered. Not whether he can tow and planet or lift a cruise ship. Either of those are overpowered feats of strength. The point is, hes too strong and hard to relate to, isn’t that what story telling is about? Relatability? Story telling that means something to the read?

  4. Marc

    The point of being overpowered I stand by and yes, I mentioned in comparison to other heroes. But no, its not so my favorite heroes can beat him in a street fight. And yes, I understand he was nuked a bit because of the slight realization writers had that he was a little ridiculous, but I feel he may be still overly powered in the grand scheme of things. what bothers me the most with superman is his over all demeanor which in light, is highly unrealistic. YES, they are comics and to speak of realism is unrealistic itself BUT, what I believe the true intention of comics are, and what intrigues a reader, is the ability to relate and pull something out of what they see, whether directly or indirectly….essentially how they feel afterward. “the moral of the story” if you will… It is extremely difficult to have a connection and relate to a character that carries himself like a robot. To strictly serve justice and the good of mankind! lets be honest here, humanity isn’t build that way. We struggle, we hurt, we cry , we laugh, we think evil thoughts, we think pure thoughts and to carry such a ‘boyscout’ persona isn’t something easy to relate to and understand on a humanistic level. he may have some problems to solve but nothing worth really to step back and think about. all in all, Superman has no real depth to his character besides his origin story and the villains he fights. overall , I feel there can be more depth to his personality / deamor and less to his powers

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