Don’t make me feel sorry for Superman

Don’t make me feel sorry for Superman

Man of Steel officially opens today in the USA, so of course, I know it’s too late to have any influence on the content. I haven’t seen it yet, and I haven’t read reviews (I won’t do that until after I’ve seen it). It may break a record for June openings…but the trailers I’ve seen for it don’t give me very high hopes for me liking it. As my Significant Other said, though, “But we have to see it, right?”

For me, \S/uperman isn’t complicated…and shouldn’t be. My image of Supes has to do with incredible power, and a selflessness in using it. That’s the basic thing. I mean, can you imagine this conversation?

“If you could be any superhero, who would you be?”


“Oh, you want to fly?”

“No, I want to be an orphan with no chance of ever finding love.”


Of course, Superman didn’t fly in the beginning…he could “leap tall buildings in a single bound”, but it was a John Carter of Mars like impact of a different gravity. It wasn’t until the Fleischer brothers asked DC if they could make \S/uperman fly in the cartoons, because it was easier to animate, that he got this ability to just hang there, look around, and change directions.

\S/uperman, even with a science-fictiony origin story, is pure fantasy. Don’t try to make him real, don’t give him angst…he’s doesn’t only have superspeed, he’s super sure he’s right.

I wasn’t even comfortable with the opening to the old 1950s TV show…I thought I had it memorized, and remembered the last line as “…leads a never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.” I was actually surprised later to hear it again, and find out it was “…fights a never ending battle”. “Fighting” seemed fundamentally different to me than “leading”. “Fighting” suggest weakness to me: you are struggling against something which might defeat you. “Leading” is more what \S/uperman does, in my mind…you can lead people to work for truth and justice. They are the ones that are battling, and they are battling their own natures.

\S/uperman rescues people…\S/uperman isn’t particularly about beating bad guys. That’s very different from Batman, which is all about the bad guys. How many \S/uperman villains can the average person name, outside of Lex Luthor? (Geeks, I know we can do more). How many Bat-Villains?

I thought this was a great line from Michael Caine…good enough that I included it in my book of quotations:

“Superman is the way America sees itself, but Batman is the way the world sees America.”
–Michael Caine
quoted by Christopher Nolan
Entertainment Weekly, August 1, 2008
collected in Bufo’s The Mind Boggles: A Unique Book of Quotations


I’m about to mention something which has been widely mentioned publicized about the movie, but in case you are able to go into it with no foreknowledge, and prefer the wonder of discovery, you might want to skip this next part.

That’s why I was disappointed to see that General Zod is in the movie. While they were making a big deal about this not being based on the Christopher Reeves Superman movies (in the same way that Batman Begins was supposed to be a new direction), they chose the prominent villain from the second movie…even though that character didn’t show up in the comic books for decades after \S/uperman debuted in 1938…and is much more associated with Terence Stamp’s film performance than anything that happened in the comic books before that.

Why go with another Kryptonian? That takes a bit away from \S/uperman’s coolness, in my opinion.


Okay, okay, I know: drama needs conflict. It wouldn’t be enough for us to simply “believe a man can fly”…hey, it happens in the movies all the time now. However, the conflict doesn’t have to be internal. \S/uperman can exist without doubt, and the challenge can be to encourage that greatness in others…and in the world.

Will we see the movie this weekend? Yes, I think so. I hope I like it…just let me keep my idealized fantasy…and wonder what I would do with that power (both the physical and the emotional strength).

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle

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