Thursday, October 17, 2013

Happy Birthday, Superman

I, a 31-year-old man, still wore my Superman logo t-shirt when I went to see "Man Of Steel" on its opening day this past summer.  I couldn't help it, despite the fact that between the shirt and my bald giant freak head, I look sort like Sloth from the Goonies.  Still, a kid on the streetcar happily pointed at my shirt and said, "Superman!" and I high-fived him, so it was totally worth it.

It says something about modern society that Superman is seen as a pass√© or dated heroic archetype.  Even worse, the best filmmakers can do with Superman is make him into a thinly-veiled Christ figure --- yeah, since THAT'll make him relatable.  Superman isn't meant to be a messiah or a boy scout or a "symbol of a failed America" as Frank Miller would have you believe, but in the end, he's just a great guy who always does the right thing.  People flail to add layers to Superman's character but he Always.  Does.  The.  Right.  Thing.  He can struggle with what the right thing is, but he'll always make the right choice in the end because he's a fictional character and they can do that. 

There is no malice or arrogance in Superman.  You can argue that Bruce Wayne's work as the Batman makes him a psychotic or if he's endangering Gotham by opening it up to a greater level of psychopath; 80% of all Spider-Man stories hinge on how being Spidey has been a raw deal for Peter Parker; Wolverine is in many ways a lunatic.  Superman, however, is just a good guy who does good deeds because they need to be done.  This sort of matter-of-fact goodness is what makes Superman such an enduring hero.  If I met someone who said they were living their lives by following Superman's example, that'd be a little weird but generally, I'd be in favour of this person's way of life.  If I met someone who patterned themselves after the Punisher, I'd be looking for an exit. 

Hey, forget about Superman, I also idolized Clark Kent.  In some small way, I firmly believe that I'm a journalist today because Clark, Lois, Jimmy, Perry and the rest of the Daily Planet gang made being a reporter seem like the coolest job in the world.  Didn't the Daily Planet ever need a sportswriter?  I could totally move to Metropolis, provided I could find decent rental insurance given that half the city is destroyed every other month.

While we're on the subject, Lois Lane!  Lois was the best.  Sure, there were 10-15 years there when Lois was presented merely as a schemer looking to win/steal Superman's heart, but for the most part, Lois Lane stands out as an iconic comic character in her own right.  Hell, I'd argue she's probably the greatest female comic book character of all time, given how Wonder Woman's premise changes every decade (honourable mention to Storm or Invisible Woman).  In any incarnation, however, Lois has always been a hell of a reporter.  How many generations of journalists have been inspired to get into the business due to Lois Lane?

If my Supes fandom wasn't enough, my buddy Kyle wrote an entire Ph.D. paper about Superman at Western a few years ago.  While I'm not officially cited as a source since (in layman's terms) didn't contribute a damn thing, I feel I was the Mr. Mxyzptlk to Kyle's Superman on this essay.

In honour of Superman's 75th anniversary, Zack Snyder and Bruce Timm produced this animated short that details his history.  Me, I'm just going to blast the John Williams Superman score on my car radio while driving up and down Joe Shuster Way in Toronto.  To each their own.

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