Slacktivist and Superman (#SFWApro)

IIRC, Fred Clark of the Slacktivist blog is more a Marvel fan than a DC guy, so perhaps it’s not surprising he doesn’t seem to think Superman works (of course a lot of people who aren’t Marvel fans think that too).

In a weekend post, Fred complains that a)it’s hard to tell Superman stories because he’s unstoppable, and b)because he’s unstoppable, the only thing keeping him from turning dark is his own decency, which isn’t sufficient: “What are the limits on Superman’s use and/or abuse of his power? Basically, there are only two:

1. His benevolence. The Kents raised him well and he’s a good guy.

2. A couple of eccentric billionaires have green rocks hidden in caves under their mansions, just in case.

Neither of those seems quite satisfactory. The former asks us to place blind trust in Superman himself.”

(Fred is also waaaay more excited about Batman vs. Superman than I am because Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel was totally clueless about what makes Superman Superman and I doubt he’ll improve. I vented about the film here and here.)

From a real-world perspective true, anyone with Superman’s power is not to be trusted. But in the comics? Yes, the blind trust, as we’ve seen since Superman debuted in 1938, is well-placed. His benevolence can be trusted. Absurd though it is, that’s part of Superman’s appeal. He represents an ideal—power used for justice, might for right, the man who puts the needs of the many ahead of the one. Like they say, someone has to stand against injustice, against evil, against the forces that want to destroy us—and Superman’s the answer to that wish.

Case in point, this YouTube animation by Mauricio Abril. It does a fabulous job expressing the super-heroic ideal—that when you’re overwhelmed, when everything is hopeless, when death is certain, someone is going to be there. Of course, as the Slacktivist post points out, Superman isn’t there for everyone, but I’d sooner count the lives he saves, not the ones he doesn’t (and I give Abril extra points for the detail that Superman works to save everyone in that video, even the guys trying to kill someone else). As Roger Stern once put it, Superman is friend to those who have no friend, enemy to those who make him an enemy (the phrase wasn’t original to Stern, but it still fits).

I’m also inclined to paraphrase Foz Meadows: if we can accept a character who melts steel with his eyes, shrugs off missile fire and can single-handedly shatter a giant criminal mecha, why not accept that he’s a guy who will do the right thing?

Slacktivist has a better point in discussing the difficulty of finding a challenge for Superman. As I’ve mentioned before, every Superman writer grapples with this (more examples here). But they’ve managed to do it and keep doing it, which is why Superman sticks around.

superman258And it’s not as if Superman doesn’t run into foes who can give him a challenge in a straight fight. The Galactic Golem (cover by Curt Swan, all rights to current holder). Brainiac. Bizarro. Doomsday. The Cyborg Superman. The Parasite. A shit-ton of Luthortech. As I said in my previous post, it’s easy for this to go over the top, but it can also be done well.

1 Comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

One response to “Slacktivist and Superman (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: Thoughts on Avengers II, with spoilers (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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