The Definition of a Superhero

Recently, I’ve been hearing people put down Superman. Shocked? I didn’t think so. You, yourself, are probably one of those people that think you can just openly trash The Man of Steel without any repercussions. Well, think again. Now, since said Man of Steel can not stand up for himself, what with him being fictional and all (not that he would stoop so low to even answer such cretin comments against his character even if he were real; he’s got better things to do, you know), I take it upon myself to stand up for him.

nullI should first point out that I am, in case you don’t already know me, a Superman fan. This runs me into a few problems from time to time. Besides having the miraculous ability to chase girls away worse than if I had the plague, it also gets me into some heated debates with so-called “fan boys” of the comic genre, who claim that Superman is everything from boring to stupid. I know, quite high brow views, indeed. Well, I must be an idiot for even getting myself into these so-called conversations, but I’m trying to remedy that. That is why I, your fearless journalist and self-proclaimed dork-o-rama, shall now explain to you, dear interested reader, why Superman kicks much ass, literally and figuratively, always has, always will. And who knows, we might just be able to get through to some of those spider and bat freaks along the way, not to mention those that read “graphic novels”, who are definitely another whole breed altogether. So come, venture into comicdom with me. Leave all your notions of reality behind and find out why there is really only one true “super” hero. But I warn you, this article gets a lot less funny and lot more pathetic from this point on.

Let’s start with something that both the dweebs and non-dweebs alike are probably all familiar with; something I call the Kill Bill philosophy. This line of thinking, proposed by the character “Bill” in the second volume of the Kill Bill movies, states that Superman is the most unique of all the superheroes because of his story’s amazing mythology. You see, Superman is the “real” person, while Clark Kent is the alter ego. So, unlike all the other superheroes, Superman does not put on a costume or undergo a change to become great because he was born great. What is interesting in this line of thinking is that Clark Kent becomes a critique on humanity. To blend in, Superman adopts the guise of Clark Kent and attempts to mimic the average person by being weak, timid, and clumsy. So, right off the bat (pun intended), we have a story that gives us social criticism. Not only is this not boring to those of us endowed with more than a handful of brain cells, Superman is the only comic where we can get such social criticism. And besides, this philosophy was put forward by Hollywood, and everybody knows that Hollywood stars don’t just go around believing crazy, twisted philosophies about aliens for no good reason. They research those crazy, twisted philosophies about aliens first.


nullSecond, let’s talk about what Superman is really famous for: his powers. People like to say that having so many super powers makes Superman boring. They say, “How can the story be any interesting when he’s got a power for every problem?” or something inane like that. But what these half-witted clods fail to realize is that these powers are exactly the reason he’s called Superman. He puts the “super” in Superman like I put the nerd in supernerd. Strength, agility, speed, stamina, intelligence; all these are boring? Really? Let me tell you what’s boring. When called upon, could Spider-man stop a missile? No. If need be, could Batman hurl a mountain into space? No. The fact is that when the shit really hits the fan here in Superhero-land, there’s only one person to call. If Supes can’t do it, then we’re all in big, big trouble. Period.

What’s more, because of Superman’s powers, he not only can handle the biggest of the baddest, but his story actually requires it. His story pushes the imagination as far as it can go. And that’s the linchpin of this argument because, for what seems like such a creative medium, comics place a lot of restrictions on their authors. I mean, let’s face it; in comics you know that the good guy is going to win. No matter how bad things get, Spidey is coming out on top. And you know that you’re going to have a hero fight a villain. So if you are going to have a battle of good versus evil with a predictable outcome, why not make it a bad ass fight? And why don’t they have that in other comics, boys and girls? No, not because it’s less interesting; because they can’t. There’s only so much you can have before you realize that your friendly neighborhood Spider-man is about to get his block knocked off (and, let’s face it, no character is going to die because then all the writers and artists would be out of a job. Unless that character is Superman, who did die and who did come back from the dead. But that’s boring. Riiight, sorry, I forgot). So, those other comics have a mediocre character fight a mediocre villain for a standard and routine ending of good over evil because their stories allow for all the imagination of dog poo. Gee, sounds like fun. I can’t wait to read that for the umpteenth-freaking time. No, give me Superman because it is the only comic that allows for unlimited possibilities in the only area of comics where imagination is still possible.

nullNow, let’s move on to that staple of a superhero story: the villains. And not just any villains, but arch-enemies. And not just arch-enemies, but the rivalry between the superhero and the arch-enemy. I want to get serious here for a moment because this, for me at least, really proves why Superman is hands-down the best. So gather round, because I’m about to explain to you why the rivalry between Superman and his nemesis, Lex Luthor, is the greatest rivalry that there ever was or ever will be in comicdom. You see, if a rivalry is going to be an arch-rivalry, there has to be more that just a match-up of powers. Batman and the Joker have the fact that they helped to create each other and that they are both sociopaths. Spider-man and the Green Goblin (or any of his enemies, for that matter) have a close personal history outside their respective alter-egos. But all these rivalries eventually play out in a display of strength, as in the characters fight and the good guy wins. Not so with Superman and Luthor. The rivalry between them has nothing to do with strength. It is something so much deeper than that. The Superman/Luthor rivalry pits absolute strength against absolute social power. Think about that for a moment. The superhero of superheroes, with powers upon powers and the only enemy he can’t defeat has not one single superpower. It’s genius, pure and simple. It transcends the boundaries of classic comic book arch-rivalries. And not only that, it’s fucking cool, too. In my mind, when Superman and Lex Luthor meet, you don’t get any of that cheesy comic book hero/villain banter (i.e., I’ll get you yet, Spider-man!). No, what you get instead is two suave daddy-o’s, talking calm, like two master chess players, each one just waiting to move in for the kill, like they have all the time in the world. Dig it.

The final point to bring up is a quick one (and I swear I’ll let you off the hook after this). It concerns Superman’s only weakness: kryptonite. Kryptonite, for those of you with a life, is radioactive pieces from Superman’s home planet that render him powerless and can eventually kill him. It is also, of course, one of the things that people without a firm grasp on reality like to pick on him for. They claim that it a cheap excuse for a weakness; that it is just plain silly that anyone holding some stupid rock can defeat Superman. But what they fail to realize is that it is also the reason Superman is the only superhero to span spectrum of physical powers. Every superhero lies somewhere on this spectrum based on how super they are. Fan boys love nothing better than to pit two heroes against each other in their mind and bicker over who would win in a fight (answer: Superman). It helps them decide approximately where each superhero lies on the spectrum. And that’s another reason why they don’t like Supes, since they absolutely can not perform this dorky test with him. Because of kryptonite, Superman stands not only on one end of the spectrum as the strongest superhero in the land, but he can also be on the polar opposite end as the weakest being around. In a sense, he doesn’t just lie on the spectrum, he is the spectrum. There. I hope that cleared things up a bit. But right now, I’d like to address the ladies of the audience for a moment. My apologies, dears, for not saying anything about Superman’s love life, but I’m most certain that I lost you way up there by the first or second sentence. No? You’re still with me? Well, I am grateful to you. I’m afraid I’ve run out of time, though. I suppose the reasons for why Lois Lane is the best dame around will have to wait. Do forgive me.

Until next time, however, remember- Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird; it’s a plane; it’s…the only damn superhero that matters! [tags]superman, superhero, superpower[/tags]

The Origin Of Everything - Part II

An English Treat?