Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Superman is...

I received a trio of Superman links on my Google Alerts and I decided to reference all three...

In the first, rdxdave explains why he thinks Superman is, among other things, kinda stupid:
"Superman is like Brett Favre: strong, good looking, literate; but I somehow doubt that he's doing the Sudoku puzzle in the paper."

The second, by Chris Kiser, explains why he thinks Superman is a Liberal:
"Even at his worst, Superman mostly embodies the good side of liberalism, and the universe he occupies is basically a vision of what the world would be if liberals were right. My argument does, however, lend further validity to the notion that Batman is the superior character, and that he, like most conservatives facing liberals, could probably defeat Superman in a fight."

The last post, on Sir Martin's Outclass, is more like an overview of Superman's history over the last 15 years, and how it impacted the author:
"Over the past year, two writers made their mark in the Superman books. On Superman, Kurt Busiek depicted a Superman that is confident in himself and his powers. He believed that Superman is a man of great consequence and that his role is to help humanity endure against all odds. On Action Comics, Geoff Johns brought Superman back to the very core of the character and polished all the continuity gems such as the Legion, the Daily Planet, and Brainiac while enhancing the Superman mythology.

Both writers also reflect the current zeitgeist of a post-9/11 world. Azzarello wrote very much in the 9/11 era where we would question our heroes and our values. The post-9/11 world is a reaffirmation of who we are, what makes us strong, and how we are vital to the human race. I saw that reflected in my own work as a history teacher, and this also reflects in how I view Superman as a character."

All three posts remind me that iconic heroes like Superman and Spider-Man are mirrors with which we are assisted in seeing our own worlds...we think these characters are the same for everybody, but actually it's a mite bit more subjective than that...


  1. To me, Superman's story is one of the immigrant: a boy from the Old Country (or plane) who makes his way to America to seek his fortune. He grows up and learns "heartland" values (why Kansas is ascribed a set of beliefs as opposed to, say, California, I don't know) before entering the prosperous City, where hard work and his own good conscience propels him to success. And there he's opposed by xenophobes -- remember, Luthor hates Superman's alienness more than anything -- but doesn't let that affect his faith in his new home, or the people he finds there.

  2. While I don't entirely agree with the liberal-Superman vs conservative-Batman argument one of my favorite conversations between the two is in "No Man's Land". Bats forbids Supes and the rest of the JL from intervening. The aftermath of the quake has to be dealt with by Gotham and Gothamites.

    Superman wants to be the top down solution to societies ills. Batman wants people to help themselves.

  3. Anonymous7:11 PM

    Wow. It is an honor to be cited. I've been reading this blog for quite some time (your Didio comments always amuse me) so it's quite a thrill to be linked here. Thanks!

  4. Also, Mr. Kiser chooses to ignore the fact that, "superior" though Batman may be, the biggest reason he might have a chance to defeat Superman is, Superman chooses not to incinerate him with his heat vision.

  5. Well, considering Bruce Wayne spends millions fighting crime with social programs rather than simply attacking criminals shows that he understands one of the root causes of crime is poverty.

    And that doesn't really paint him with the conservative brush.

    Remember the Wayne Foundation and those camping trips he took the troubled inner-city youth on? If he still does this kind of thing in the post-Frank Millerization era where his fascist, inflexible nature has been played up.

    Also, it seems Superman more accurately represents American values when ideas dogmatic ideas as "liberal" and "conservative" didn't really matter. When the right thing at the right time was the idea, rather than the politically pure thing. This idea that Americans can pull them up by their bootstraps (conservative) but also do their utmost to be socially minded and help others (liberal).

    Also, Aboynamedart has a great point. Superman has within him the power to absolutely remake the world into his own image, to turn Batman into a scorchmark. But he refrains. And that ability to refrain from playing God is what makes him Superman. He's a rare instance where absolute power hasn't corrupted absolutely.

    I think it says more about commentators that they believe Batman's ruthlessness would automatically trump Superman's goodness. Or that Batman is so totally ruthless. Both characters seem to operate within self-limiting codes. I mean, Batman's job would be made much easier if he just murdered the Joker and Two-Face, yet he never does.

    Somehow I feel that Batman is secretly against the death-penalty as well.

    None of that is to say other readings aren't totally valid. Just that none should necessarily be accepted as absolutely true. That's the strength of the concepts- that they're flexible enough for somewhat opposing readings to be made and they don't completely fall apart as characters.

    And a lot of it depends on which Superman or Batman you choose to believe in. Their characterizatiosn have varied so often over time. Mine are the ones from the 70s when I was first reading them. Dark and light but still they both equally represent a more hopeful world, where a hero anywhere on the political spectrum could make a difference.

    On a side note... "He, like most conservatives facing liberals, could probably defeat Superman in a fight?"

    Don't count on it.

  6. I once wrote an article for the Superman Homepage where I explored the ideas of a gentleman who thought that Superman was very literally the anti-Christ. He even had supporting numerology, word origins, and some amazingly detailed conspiracy theories.

    So yeah... people REALLY put whatever the hell they want to on the Man of Steel. The 649 million continuity revisions in the last two months alone are enough to note that.

    But don't say that to anyone... particularly the people who write me saying that they know the one true Superman and everyone else needs to die in a fire...

  7. Superman is a god and Batman is like an arcangel.
    Batman have no powers, but he fight the crime and pain in the darkness.

  8. Batman is a fascist and Superman is a libertarian.

  9. C'mon, everyone knows Batman is an independent, not a conservative or liberal.

  10. Of course Superman isn't actually a liberal, and Batman isn't actually conservative. They're whatever their writers make them. But, if a writer were to assign political affiliations to these characters, I think the positions outlined in my article would be the natural choice.

    Take my comments about the outcome of a Batman-Superman fight as tongue-in-cheek. It's an age-old argument, and I think those of us on the Batman side all know deep down that we're wrong.

  11. Batman would love to shut down the NRA, for good.