Sorry, but this topic is going to come up on this site until DC and Warner Brothers stop screwing up this character. Superman is my favorite superhero and one of the standards for how a superhero should be done, so when they get him wrong I worry about the future of the entire superhero genre. I don’t need this dark and gritty Superman. It’s not what draws me to this character and has drawn me to him since I was a little kid. And yet we get emo Superman, evil Superman, replacement Superman, but not the real thing…and in many cases they were calling the character Superman.
In my continuing quest to make sure the proper Superman isn’t forgotten in a sea of namesakes and analogs I came across a video by The Alternate Look on YouTube going over the problems of creating a Superman story in the 21st century. It’s longer and I have thoughts attached to it, so this is a feature article tonight instead of just a quickpost.
One thing we disagree on is the idea that Superman doesn’t kill. Has he killed? Yes, but there were consequences. Killing Mxyzptlk in Alan Moore’s idea of ending the original DC Universe Superman still affects Superman so badly that he gives up his powers, believing that nobody with that level of power should be judge, jury, and executioner. In DC’s 2nd universe (post-Crisis) Superman is forced to kill Zod and his two pals to save his universe…and is so disturbed by it he basically goes on an intergalactic walkabout to refind himself. He killed Doomsday but both of them came back to life eventually and there was no other choice. It’s the only time Superman didn’t punish himself because death is already a punishment and he had time to get over it on the other side. That’s why Kal-El killing Zod in Man Of Steel carries no weight. He screams for a minute and then it’s a hilarious epilogue about crashing spy satellite tracking him and introducing his secret identity long after he should have. So no…Superman should not kill without consequence.
I do agree that there is no way Superman would turn into a dictator. He’s done in twice in two separate universe in the DCAU, and in the Injustice sub-franchise, and in neither case did it feel like Superman. This is telling readers that morality is BS and Superman doesn’t really hold the ideals he claims to fight for and that the Joker is right that “one bad day” can turn anyone mad, including and especially someone with Superman’s power. “Power corrupts”….sorry, please get the quote right…”power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” but Superman, despite the power he has, does not have absolute power. Even without Kryptonite there’s still magic, there’s still a ton of other heroes at least near Superman’s strength, and there are other ways to stop Superman or else Superman couldn’t have stopped evil Kryptonians who should in theory be more of a threat because of how they use that power. Superman has strong moral values, but doesn’t judge others, and he certainly isn’t jury and executioner unless Clark one day ends up on jury duty.
It should also be noted that in both the comics and Sam Rami’s first Spider-Man movie Peter does in fact want to kill the Green Goblin, but it’s the Goblin who accidentally kills himself with his own glider’s weapons when he tries to kill Spider-Man. What the host’s “other side argument” is saying is that Spider-Man doesn’t kill because he can’t. Maybe he can’t do it as efficiently as Superman but he is certainly strong enough. We see what happens when someone with Peter’s powers lack his morality in the manga I recently reviewed. Mitsuo wanted revenge on the company that ruined his family and was already a bad egg according to his sister. So when Yu unwittingly granted Mitsuo powers he threw a stick into a policeman’s head, killing him. We’ve seen villains in the main Marvel universe with powers similar or on the same physical level as Peter kill. As far as taking over the world, Parker Industries was basically Stark Industries if it was built by Doctor Octopus, who inhabited Peter’s body at the time. Stark taking over the world isn’t unlikely (look at the 2099 universe where it was merged with Fujikawa) and Otto lacks either Tony or Peter’s morality. If Peter had that level of tech at his disposal and was more like Otto he’d at least take over New York. Peter is all about power and responsibility (depending on the writer…check out Linkara’s rant in his review of One More Day) so that’s why he doesn’t.
Also remember that DC is supposed to be the aspirational universe, the less grounded and more fantastic of the Big Two. Even the gritty 1990s period of comics didn’t lose sight of this, though not for lack of trying. It still had nothing on DiDio’s Darker DC, which didn’t so much forget that as outright opposed it. Superman is a great example of this. Only certain writers were able to get New 52 Superman to respond as Clark actually would. Rebirth trying to force that optimism back into the DC Universe but then they handed it right back to DiDio and his acolytes, who aged up Jon Kent, costing us the ability to see Superman teach Jon (and the readers through Jon) what a superman should be, to highlight his morality and virtue and explain why Clark thinks the way he does. Instead Jon gets aged up due to dimensional shenanigans and it’s no surprise that he doesn’t appear to share his father’s approach to being Superman. Killing Clark’s secret identity…twice…also robbed us of those human moments between Clark and his supporting cast. DiDio was outright in opposition to what Superman stands for as is Zack Snyder, and therein lies the entire problem.
Modern writers do not share or are straight up opposed to the iconic portrayal of Superman. Pardon me for going into the internet drama, but it’s on display in stories and on social media. The villains are people in politics they personally hate or a stand-in so obvious they might as well be the same person. Writers have made their critics into bad guys in comics like Moon Knight and TV/web shows like She-Hulk and even Teen Titans Go! (you know, the show created for an age group that really doesn’t care about the critics of the show because they can’t read social media). And if they really want to drive the point home what they think the villain will spout a corrupted version of what the people they hate have said to further confuse the discussion. Meanwhile Superman comes from a time where the hero would save even his enemies. Superman will save Lex Luthor from being killed because he respects all live, even the baddies or anyone else who doesn’t share his world view. He lives his life as he sees fit regardless of what others think. That’s why he rescues the cat from a tree. That’s why he won’t let fanatics kill criminals and works so hard to prove someone’s innocent when they’re falsely accused no matter what sins they’ve committed in the past. Superman cares about everybody. That goes against the view of the “agree or die” crowd of the usual suspects. That’s also why Superman and other heroes are now in dark colors (that and Hollywood seems to be outright scared of bright colors which is why they and every media that tries to emulate them are so buried in desaturated colors, browns, and greys).
If it’s true that Superman reflects our modern society rather than teaches us how to be better people, then considering the modern version of Superman…humanity is deep trouble.