Our recent discussion of disrespected characters in comics once again brought up one of my repeated complaints about modern comic books: It seems like nobody has any idea what to do with Superman anymore.  After years of depowering, repowering, costume shifts, dark and gritty adventures, weddings, revoked weddings and armor (for some reason), the Man Of Steel has had nearly everything but the kitchen sink thrown at him story-wise.  While I appreciate what some people saw in ‘Man Of Steel’, its Superman doesn’t feel like the “real” Superman to me, but instead a Superman filtered through the lens of someone who really loves Batman movies.  Again, that’s perfectly fine, but modern stories have spent so much time addressing the question of whether Superman is too powerful and competent that the majority of the stories seems to be about Superman’s failures (moral, physical and otherwise) which leads us to today’s strange query from a distant planet..

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) believes that Superman as a true-blue hero who tries to do the right thing for his adopted planet is as valid as a dark avenger fighting to exorcise the spirits of his lost parents, asking: Do you agree that a traditional, heroic Superman is somehow boring?

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About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

11 Comments

  1. Absolutely not. I like my Superman extra super. I want to be able to look at at least one super hero and say “That is the personification of good.” I want an icon for other heroes to look up to, I want a Superman who flies through the sun. People crap on Superman Returns (some with very valid points) but a Superman who is able to lift an island made of Kryptonite is the Superman I need to see, a Superman that overcomes even his own limitations in order to save others.

  2. Not at all. I actually prefer the almost naively innocent Boy Scout that goes out of his way to do what he believes is right even though he could simply crush bad guys with no effort whatsoever. I do enjoy other takes on the character, but the “goody two shoes” versions are the ones I most enjoy.

  3. Personally, I thought one of the best parts that Man of Steel did was portray Superman as invulnerable. And most of his challenges weren’t threatening him but other people. And since Zod was the same way he had to make a very hard decision. Now there are those that would have said he should have found a way but he was new. I do not think the traditional Superman is boring. I want him to have the Lawful Good Paladin mentality and give the world a role model.

  4. I was never a big fan of it, my favorite interpretation of Superman was always the Red Son version of him. Especially towards the end where he realizes the faults in his master plan. That being said I don’t hate the traditional Superman he’s just not someone I enjoy by himself.

  5. Ace of Dymonds on

    “You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” – Man of Steel (reworking a line from All-Star Superman #12)

    That quote encapsulates what I find to be the most interesting Superman stories – the ones in which he is indeed a ‘true-blue’, ‘boyscout’ of a hero, but where the story becomes about if and how he can deal with problems that can’t be punched into submission. When he’s trying to lead by example, and to be a beacon of hope as much as he is a protector.

    If the if the central struggle is over ‘can mankind be better than it is’ with Superman fighting to show them that they can… that’s the best type of Superman story IMHO.

  6. Not at all, on the contrary. He represents a minority now. Every other popular super hero tends to be cynical, “edgy” and so damn serious loner to the point of absurdity. DC has plenty of almost or just as powerful characters and they seem to fine somehow. If they give Superman to any competent writers out there its not too hard to do at all, so I´d say its mostly an editorial problem. Some of the most acclaimed stories in comics feature near omnipotent characters (Sandman, Watchmen) and people are stuck with those crap assumptions about Superman, really?

  7. No, absolutely not! The most interesting thing about Superman for me is the fact that a being of nearly infinite power is a good person.

  8. I prefer the more heroic boy scout, and only through poor writing is it “boring.” I was introduced to Supes mainly through the Timmverse, who while may have gotten slightly gray in JLU was a pretty traditional heroic guy. Plus with him and Batman being of similar tones, it leads to a bland homogony (in my opinion) that caused me to stop reading Superman titles quickly with the New 52. We need the bright shining Doc Savage to show us that the world is not so bad, and he can show us the way.

    Plus on a somewhat related note, I know what it’s like to work in an office with people I like and don’t like. I don’t know what it’s like to be a rich billionaire with no day job. So that aspect has always confused me on the more relatable of the two.

    PS

    I do not mean to (possibly) bash Batman in my thoughts. It is just for my own quick justifications.

    • Yes, that relatable argument makes as little sense as the “boring” argument, which is purely problem in writing and affects every single character. Im pretty damn sure that I can relate to farm boy or news reporter more than eccentric, deeply traumatized billionaire playboy who´s also ridiculously good martial artist and detective and that applies to vast majority of people besides me, I´d think.

  9. Oh my god. Matthew just said it in latest Dueling Review: Upper editorial of current Dc are guys who were at Marvel in 1993. No wonder every angsty and edgy childish superhero gets all the attention and they have no idea what to do with Superman. They are trying to do same crap that created Image.

  10. The problem with superman is the same problem that anyone, hero or villain, will have when they get too high up on the power curve. The character will have a kind of disconnect from the reader that low- and mid- power supers don’t usually get. Often times you’ll have instances where the reader will more often criticize the writer for having the character completely forget they had a power, thus causing the otherwise troublesome situation to be nonsensical (see: Superman being bound by ropes in the Justice Friends cartoon). It’s not something limited to people who start strong, either. A common problem in eastern media is the power creep iteration of this. Characters start reasonable, but over time gain more and more power until the point where they’re literally taking down gods with their bare fists (see: Most shounen anime). Such character are arguably more popular when they’re weaker compared to when they become godlike in power, specifically because they start having that disconnect. They just become /too/ powerful.

    That’s the inherent problem with Superman. He’s /too/ powerful. As such, most writers tend to fall into the trap of just fighting power with power. There is a way to make good superman stories, but to me it’d be more interesting if they focus less on combat and more on some of the more different aspects of Superman. Or perhaps introduce villains that raw force won’t work on – make him use his brain instead, for example.

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