Superman. The man of steel or the big blue boy scout? As legendary as this character is he also happens to be one of the most divisive in today’s modern age. The common complaint I often hear is that people can’t relate enough to him. Fair enough I guess. Warner Bros sort of listened it seems. If Man Of Steel was any indication, then you can see that they pushed Superman in a much darker direction. It payed dividends at the box office but once again, fans and critics alike remained divisive. Despite that, Warner Bros. is now moving on with the franchise and adding Batman to it. Needless to say, the promise of having Superman AND Batman in the same movie could be orgasmic to some.
Casting Ben Affleck as Batman may have taken the wind out of the films sails a bit but it remains to be seen if he will indeed be a terrible Batman. As usual most of the talk leading up to this film centers around Batman but where does that leave Superman? Wasn’t this supposed to be A sequel to Man OF Steel? A movie that Superman was clearly the star in.Warner Bros. recently changed their tune saying that Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice is not a sequel to Man Of Steel. A strange move but whatever.With all this in mind I think it’s very interesting and important to look at the evolution of a character that’s been around for more than 75 years.
When I was growing up I loved, and still love Superheroes to this day. My mother told me that at the age of three I was obsessed with The Lone Ranger and Batman. That obsession only lead to more superheroes. Superman was pretty much next in line. In fact I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love Superman. It’s a bit of a haze. One thing remained clear very early on in my child mind. Batman number 1 and Superman number 2. The funny thing is that I had my first experiences with those characters while growing up in South America. I moved to Canada at about the age of five with both of my Batman and Superman toys in hand. In Canada my father kept feeding my habit and I devoured Comics as much as I devoured cereal it seemed. It’s amazing what kind of impact those heroes had on me. Particularly Superman and Batman. Being new to the country my grasp at English was poor at best. This made reaching out to kids especially difficult. Often times I would come home soured and upset with people. I just simply dived back into the world of Comics and lived there. Batman seemed so fitting. Here’s a guy who is a good man at his core but he worked in the shadows and seemed to shun away anyone else who wanted to aid him. He worked best alone and he had a lot of darkness and anger. I related to the isolation and the frustration obviously. When I read Superman it was the opposite feeling.Here was this Alien from another place trying to fit in and actually embracing people. Even those who feared and didn’t understand him!
His situation was a lot closer to my own so I connected with that. It was a security blanket that gave me hope that I would be accepted and that doing the right thing was more useful in the long run, than anger. Don’t get me wrong my morals and ethics come from my wonderful family, particularly my parents but Superman played a key role in cementing those morals. All the comics I read played a part but Superman really hammered them home. I wanted to be Superman. Everyone does at some point. I knew that a human could be Batman but I wanted to BE Superman. Once I brought my cherished Superman toy to school and was playing with it happily until another kid began making fun and saying ” Superman sucks!” My young mind was baffled and I lashed out in defense of a fictional character as if it was a flesh and blood person. They simply laughed me off but I came home so anguished swearing to my Mother I would never again bring this Superman toy to school. This is how strongly I felt about the character.
The years roll onand those strong feelings didn’t really change much. People came and went. Friends changed over the years but anytime I felt let down or forgotten, there he was. Superman! always waiting to take me away on another adventure. Never to forget me. As I got older I noticed that more and more people keep complaining about his lack of weaknesses and his stubborn goody two shoe nature. The media just kept churning out Superman related things regardless of this with little change in the way the character was. Sure, a tweak here and a tweak there but still Supes.
Things changed a bit when The Death Of Superman comic came out. It made an impact and people noticed. Suddenly this icon that everyone was sort of tired of but everyone would always think would be around, was gone. This was the first major death in comics at the time. You could argue Flash was but I digress. Of course, eventually he came back and I think fans missed him. It was such a big deal that it was even on the news.All of a sudden that reaction I had all those years ago when I was a five year old kid didn’t seem so dumb. People actually cared about him.
Years passed and the same old problems came up and then Superman Returns came out. A commercial and fan disappointment. The common complaint? ” Too lame. Not enough action. Too straight and narrow.” I felt those were valid points to some degree but I didn’t hate the film. I didn’t love it either. I too longed for a Superman Vs Doomsday like moment but for that I would have to wait until 2013. When Man Of Steel Came out I was so eager to see it and I wanted it to succeed very badly. I wanted everyone to finally love this character again as I did. I wanted to say ” See! Superman’s not that bad.” To a large degree it did succeed. It made it’s money meaning that people did go see it. Only this time the complaints from fans and critics was the opposite to Superman Returns. ” Too loud, too much action, too dark.” Once again, I can’t argue with the validity of those points.
SPOILER ALERT: I mean Superman actually KILLED someone in this movie. That’s pretty dark and different for a character who’s whole point has been ” There’s always another way”. I understand why Superman did it but I have to say it shocked me. My brother and I looked at each other in the theater with our mouths wide open in disbelief. It didn’t ruin the movie but I wished he had not done it.
Warner Bros gave the people what they asked for but they were still not not happy.I think the general public enjoyed it but many fans and critics did not. They wanted to modernize the character and were not afraid to push the limits being the reasoning behind the shift in tone and character. you might attribute that to the constant barrage of people saying that they can’t relate to Superman. I ask why is it so important to relate to him? He’s taken the best aspects of humanity and tried to live by them. He always did the right thing in spite of changing times and opinions. He’s supposed to be an example to society. I want to be like Superman, I don’t want him to be like me. What inspiration does him being like us give anyone? The best Superman movie in my humble opinion is Superman Vs The Elite. Probably one you never heard of unless you’re a fan. It’s an animated adaptation of the best selling comic by Joe Kelly called ” Whats so wrong about truth, justice and the American way?” The movie adaptation is the definition of Superman in the modern age. It puts who he is front and center for better or for worse. In fact, I always say, it’s the perfect movie for a Superman hater to watch because it address a lot of those common complaints and asks the biggest question. Why doesn’t Superman ever kill?
If you ask me that is his greatest strength and his greatest weakness. I think we all know that the expectation of someone never having to kill is a tad unrealistic. That’s why it’s easy to criticize Superman. Because sometimes he might be wrong and that frustrates us. I think his point is to teach us a way to avoid going down the darker path because frankly, it’s easier. Just look at TV and Film today. Your most popular characters are anti-heroes bordering on straight up villain. I could name just a few Walter White, Tony Soprano, The Punisher or even Rick from The Walking Dead. All great dense, deep characters but do people find that they like them because they relate to a Sociopathic murderer? That would mean that we are all more like sociopaths than we think. That’s kind of scary if it’s true. I understand the need to be drawn to those characters , but to say that they are more relatable? I guess that’s why Superman kills in the new films. To make him more ” relatable”.
I think doing the right thing all the time is somewhat of an antiquated and unpoplar notion. I love my anti heroes as much as the next person. What I do strive for is a world where we can appreciate and understand both kinds of characters and people. There’s a reason why Superman and Batman make the best group whenever they pair up. Light vs Dark. We all have darkness but we need light. Let’s see what becomes of Superman in his new film and we’ll talk then.