Hope And Heroism: Superman And The Appeal of Comics

NephriteHello again to you all. I wasn’t planning this initially but I hope you won’t object to another detour from the world of audio to the miraculous worlds of comics. It doesn’t matter if you prefer yours to be rather marvellous places with stones of infinite power or to be the crisis-prone home of leagues and societies of justice, comics are a wonderful medium at times when they are written well.

One of the first examples of this phenomenon of modern gods, goddesses and can-do humans in spandex and leather is of course Superman. Clark Kent. Kal-El. The Man Of Tomorrow. The Last Son Of Krypton. To put it mildly he has a lot of aliases! But he’s earned them all! Having been born by Jewish immigrants Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938 this character has quite the history. But why would I talk about him today?

Some of you may remember my three part dissection of Carol Danvers – Captain Marvel – I released back in May?

Or when I took two separate opportunities to discuss Spider-Man?

Audiobook Review: Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours by Jim Butcher

– sorry about that Sgathiach – it isn’t exactly a secret I enjoy comics! But something rather momentous happened in the world of DC Comics recently.

For the first time in universe Superman revealed to the world at large that he is also Clark Kent. He has openly and publicly embraced both identities to those outside of the Justice League and his fellow heroes. I thought I’d use this – and Superman as a whole – to discuss the appeal of the medium. But why Superman? Why not a fellow DC stalwart like Batman or Green Lantern? Or a Marvel mainstay like Spider-Man, Captain America or the X-Men? There is a reason. Superman – despite being one of the first characters general people think of when they discuss superheroes (Christopher Reeve running out of the phone box with the S is that iconic for a reason) – is thought of by some as rather dull. Generic or vanilla so to speak. And I couldn’t disagree more!

Superman has much to commend him when he’s done well. This farm boy from both Krypton and Kansas has learned all he has from humans (Thanks Martha and Johnathan Kent!) and considers himself part of both worlds. He protects Metropolis and the world in order to help those who can’t help themselves. Be it against Brainiac, General Zod and other villains or against the smallest of problems. Superman would help talk to you during your lowest point, help you with a traditional hard grafting labour task like on the farm or help set up the Christmas Tree. Nothing is beneath him. One of the main criticisms of the character is that he’s unapproachable. Up on his own imaginary pedestal. But all one has to do is ask. If he’s around he’d help the best he could. As both Clark and Supes. The version seen in the 1970s and 1980s films with Christopher Reeve – at least the first two – really captures the true nature and simple honesty of Superman.

He is inspirational. He provides the everyday person with something to look up to. With hope. Something to emulate. To become their best self. As well as being the embodiment of Americana (Think about it: Simple honest hard work and graft combined with idyllic childhood? And coming from space? He is a true American as well as being an immigrant in the truest sense. Not to mention being created by Jewish immigrants who escaped the Nazis as I said…) he stands tall over villain after villain, protecting the people while also having as close to normal a life as possible as Clark.

He has friends who will stand with him. Lois Lane fellow Daily Planet reporter is quite famous but people tend to forget one thing: She is extremely independent in her own right. She will follow her nose for a story, her conscience when needed as well as her heart. She can certainly sass just as good as she gets – including standing up to Lex Luthor and other bad guys and will not always need a certain Kryptonian to come along. She’s had more than a few solo series of her own. But she isn’t the only friend. We can’t forget Jimmy Olson. The loveable goof with the heart of gold. He will always back up Lois or Clark when they need it and can often stumble upon the vital clue just by being his slightly silly self. Not to mention Perry White. Boss of the Daily Planet Perry often finds himself in hot water over articles by his reporters but will stick by them through thick and thin. It doesn’t matter if he’s antagonised some small-time mafia don or President Lex Luthor he will stand by Clark, Lois, Jimmy and all the rest. They are his family after all. And that also makes them Clark’s and Supermans too. Not to mention his fellow friends in capes and cowls. Be they someone world famous or small-scale and local, Superman will help when he can. And they return the favour.

The Man Of Tomorrow is an ideal. The ultimate manifestation of what humanity can achieve. And an inspiration for what could…what CAN be if we try. His original – albeit excessively short term – death in 1992 grabbed international news headlines for a reason. He’s important. He always has been. And he always will be. And if he’s this important? Maybe it’s worth hunting down a famous storyline or two. Or seeing what you think of the world of sequential art. I’m sure be it DC, Marvel or something more indie, the world of comics has something to draw you in. Trust me, it drew me in hard and I was just curious to see what Tony Stark was like in the world of comics. They really can make you smile. Make you think. Help you make a choice on a topic that you’d otherwise never think about. And so many other things.

Now if you’ll excuse me? I think it’s time I go find out about Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow. Or perhaps about those Marvels Sgathiach mentioned. It doesn’t matter if you prefer the simplicity of the Golden Age, the outright craziness of the Silver Age, or the heroism of the Modern Age, comics are for you. Don’t give up if you dislike the first story you read. There is more than enough material out there for a willing reader.



Superman flying


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