Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Playing Favorites excerpts, pt 22

Every Tuesday I post excerpts from best selling at not selling super blog, Playing Favorites.

Superman is one of the best heroes because he cares about people individually. What he does isn't to help save lives or protect society, but to save people. Individual people. He wants to live a normal human life, but he also can't ignore the ways that he could help us. Then by putting on a costume, he commits himself to being part of a larger society of superheroes that he again can't ignore his duty to. He must become the paragon and symbol of superheroes to the populace of Earth because heroes need their trust to operate.

Source: Kelly Callen

It depends on the interpretation, but Superman isn't who Clark Kent really is. Clark Kent isn't really who Superman is. I think that somewhere in between is Kal-El, the Kryptonian that loves Earth and its people and feels compelled to protect it. Superman is Kal being everything he needs and wants to be, a fully-expressed super-ego of absolute integrity that exudes confidence and inner peace. That's what he shows to the world to let them know that Superman will always take care of them. In reality, he will always take care of them--there aren't many things Superman loves more than humanity—but he's a real person with self-doubt, worry, and even moral quandries. His moral myopia isn't quite as myopic as Spider-Man's, and heaven knows it's not quite as diluted, but...

...man, now that I think about it, I can't think of too many moral dilemmas that Superman's had. I mean, every so often he does snap and you think he's really going to kill Darkseid, but he doesn’t. While he occasionally has certain doubts about himself or what he does, usually, those are personal and he doesn’t have any compunctions about what needs to be done as Superman. In the comics I’ve seen him in, he’s usually presented with fairly straightforward scenarios.

If you know who did this incredible picture, let me know and I'll be happy to link them.

Intuitively, that moral myopia I attribute to him is something that he just has by dint of being in the scenarios I’ve seen him in: something bad happens and he doesn’t hesitate to swat it or repel it. He respects all life and believes in freedom, so his intervention in the affairs of man is minimal. He is almost exclusively reactive, and I think that works for him because we never expect more of him. The people who propose that The Dark Knight proactively murder half his rogues gallery rarely ever volunteer the belief that Superman do the same for Darkseid, Braniac, or the Parasite (though I’m sure Braniac is a special case, seeing as how he isn’t ‘murdered’ so much as ‘destroyed,’ which in turn isn’t much more effective—given his propensity for copying himself—than a good sleeper hold. And how does a massive, complex Kryptonian artificial intelligence store full backups of itself on 20th century human computers? Kryptonian file compression technology? Heretofore unmentioned Kryptonian programming conventions that focus on elegance over keeping up with the Moore’s Law?)

Superman’s vague moral code, lack of proactiveness, and general good faith in the face of being invulnerable are pretty much balanced out by the fact that he’s apparently smart enough to keep expectations pretty low. The man is a hero.

In all seriousness though, he’s proven on several occasions (in the modern age at least, if not earlier ones), that even without his powers, he’s willing to fight the good fight and take risks to do the right thing.  What’s more is that he’s worthy of the people’s trust. While he does sometimes have to fight his urge to return to his Kryptonian roots (New Krypton storyline), he does realize that The Kryptonians are pretty much elitist jerks, and humans, despite also being jerks, aren’t nearly as elitist and don’ t have heat vision, so tend to be a bit more receptive when you tell them to quit being jerks.  So, he has good intentions, he’s dedicated to doing the right thing, and he’s willing to risk everything to help others. 

The depth of his convictions is evident in what he does as Clark. Superman could have been the best construction worker or banker or private eye or politician ever (though inevitably, something heavy would’ve been dropped on him, revealing his secret identity).  In his personal life, he works for truth and justice as a reporter. Whenever stories let Clark Kent be a reporter, they’re given room to explore what makes him a good person instead of just good hero, and while I am generally talking about qualities that make Superman one of the best heroes out there, being a good person is a part of that. Especially when you’re trying to talk about the man between Clark and Superman, a venn diagram of seeing where their decency overlaps is a good thing. Caring for others, searching for truth, and helping people is something that Clark does. In fact, Clark--again, this is when stories focus on it--manages to pick up the proactivity slack that Superman leaves behind. What Superman can’t fix with fists and heat vision, Clark can attack with publicity and proof. There have been a number of Superman stories which have ended in a win with fists, but cemented with a victory in words.

Selflessness, care about people, and honesty define the most heroic aspects of Superman.
Still though, not the best at gift-giving.

Next                                          All                                          Previous

No comments: