Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pretty good post on "Why Superman?"

Superman writer Chris Roberson points to an article on "Why Superman?"

I feel I've reached my bi-annual quota of writing such pieces myself, so I'll link to somebody else's column, instead.

From the column:

Superman isn’t a Jesus analogue because, unlike Jesus, his moral vision is not imposed. The word of Jesus is the word of God2 and therefore what he says goes, dictation straight from the Almighty. Superman is the exact opposite: a man whose moral vision comes not from a source exterior to humanity but from humanity itself, via Ma and Pa Kent, who are themselves immensely decent people. He ultimately isn’t a received savior, regardless of the origin of his powers; he’s Superman, the apotheosis of what human virtue can be. He’s an aspirational figure first and foremost.3 There’s a reason people get S-symbol tattoos; they have meaning in a way that other superhero images just don’t.


J.S. said...

Yeah, but is Superman only able to come so close to this ideal of human perfection because he's an alien?

The League said...

No. That's kind of the point of the General Zod stories, etc... they throw in there for good measure.

J.S. said...

I get that Krytponians can also be super evil (as Superman is clearly super good), but I guess my question is whether there' really any difference between humans aspiring to be as super good as an alien Superman as compared to, say, humans aspiring to be like a divine being? Is it really clear that humans possess the innate ability to reach the heights that either of these otherworldly beings can achieve. Is the real lesson of Superman that we can only achieve ideal human morality if we happen to be an alien?

The League said...

no. according to the DCU, yes, however, the DCU is fictional. no, (see previous answer), but it is suggested that Superman's extraordinary abilities give him insight into the universe that inform his morality (see All Star Superman Chap. 12).

Simon MacDonald said...

I recently heard Chris Roberson on a podcast expounding on Superman. He really seems like he's got a great handle on the character.

Personally I see the nature vs nurture debate being played out in Superman. He's pretty much got all the power he needs to take over the world and rule all of us but he doesn't. The reason he doesn't is because of his moral upbringing by Ma and Pa Kent.

The League said...

I think that's one major difference between Silver Age/ Bronze Age Superman and today's Superman. The role of the Kents was to play cheerleader in the Silver Age (less so, curiously, the Golden Age).

I do think Roberson's extensive reading of Superman is a step-up from JMS's proclaimed fandom (but did he really READ any Superman?). And despite the Byrne-fans who beat the drum loudly at Supermanhomepage and elsewhere, Roberson seems to understand what makes the character tick.