Monday, June 20, 2011

Why the World Needs A Superman

How I Became a Die Hard Man of Steel Fan:

Over the years I've heard many Marvel fans complain that DC characters just aren't human enough, that do-gooders like Superman are just... boring. Boring? How can that be? This is a guy who moves planets after all, an act which makes children's eyes wide with excitement opening a universe of possibilities to their imaginations.

That same planet moving is less inspiring to a jaded adult who might merely roll their eyes at the thought of a person shoving a world through the universe. Children cling to heroes like Superman because they still believe in magic, and don't yet know the science of physics and the boundaries that adults take for granted.

So I understand the "Superman is boring" mindset, as I flip flopped from DC to Marvel in my early reading years. DC grasped my attention early on with its headlining larger than life four color characters - heroes who rarely struggled with control of their powers or asked themselves if they did the right thing.

Marvel Comics, to my young eyes were about as much fun as reading a newspaper because they were so wrapped up in the real world, presenting social issues and moral dilemmas that were too complex for a seven year old.

As I grew older, my tastes changed and as I started to question the science behind the heroes and my suspension of disbelief started wavering. "Flying in Space? How does Superman breathe? He has all these powers and he only helps others, not himself? Yeah right...." and so on. Add to it that there was no Gotham City in my universe that I could visit, no Metropolis to take a field trip to and this lack of reality helped further the divide, cementing the line between fact and fiction and pushing me toward "realer" Marvel.

Around the time that I started becoming more conscious of myself and others (Junior High) I switched over to be an almost exclusively Marvel reader. Stan Lee was a genius, making characters ordinary readers could relate to - kids with real world problems (Spider-Man, the X-men), adults with disabilities (Daredevil, Iron Man), and in truth, to my teen eyes the world of DC, where heroes wore their colorful underwear on the outside of their pants, and had few (if any problems) seemed silly to me. So I gravitated to someone I could relate to.

I even got to that point where I had to wonder why the Batman never just killed the Joker and ended the menace there once and for all, the way the Punisher used a rifle to solve all his problems. If nothing else following a darker, grittier hero in those High School years at least made you feel like less of a geek for reading comics.

As I've grown older my world view expanded and my tastes have changed again. I've come to view my comic reading as an escape from reality and unfortunately Marvel has always been excellent at merging the real world with its "616" canon universe. In short, I want a world full of bright colorful heroes that aren't fighting a Civil War, a world where teen heroes aren't persecuted by the public or adults are climbing into bottles. After all, I live in a world where people are persecuted, fighting, and alcoholic every day.

The real world is already full of misery, suffering and imperfection, why would I expose myself to it any further than I have to for entertainment purposes? That would be like watching the news rather than going to the movies. Politicians resign in scandal, sports stars have affairs that destroy their careers, and other role models are equally flawed. Which is why I like the do-gooder Superman.

I never have to worry about Clark Kent taking a bribe to bury an expose on big oil, or getting killed because he was investigating a mob enforcer or covering a war torn region. As a Kryptonian journalist, the truth will prevail, mostly because Kal-El is bulletproof.

It's that same immunity to ballistics that has many adults rolling their eyes at the Man of Steel, and it always makes me wonder if they see the hypocrisy of their distaste when combined with other forms of entertainment. People enjoy a good Superman story for the same reason that people go see Die Hard movies.

We all know Detective John McClane isn't going to die, we all know he's going to triumph over the villains even if it means leaping off exploding skyscrapers and bouncing off the top of F-16s Wile E Coyote style while chasing the villain. The audience shows up for the explosions and for the action, not because we really believe it could happen. Newsflash: it doesn't get much more explosive action than with Superman.

I mean the guy doesn't even flinch when he gets shot in the eye with a bullet.

If that's boring to you than I feel sorry for your loss of childhood awe and wonder.

How awesome would it have been if Hans Gruber had tried taking over the Daily Planet? Sure the fight would have been over in seconds, but it would have been satisfying to see Superman just wade through the gunfire and crush their pistols while the terrorist-bank robbers stood awestruck and helpless. There's no greater satisfaction than watching as an oppressor suddenly realizes they have no power over the oppressed, a moment often denied in the real world thanks to brutal violence and intimidation, two things that won't work against Superman because he's the biggest, toughest opponent out there.

In closing, I want to live in a world with a Superman, a world where heroes don't solve problems with bullets, a better world where evil never stands a chance of winning. Is it corny? Yes. Unrealistic? Sure. If I want to wrap myself up in realism, I'll open the local news. In the meantime, leave me to my Action Comics where, when that blue and red blur shows up on panel you know the villain has no chance, and you can delight in the righteous victory so often denied in the real world.

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