1,000 Issues of Truth, Justice, and The American Way
The Man of Steel has been a part of my life for nearly the entire time I’ve been on this planet. From the Superman doll my parents bought me at the Warner Bros store (RIP), to watching Dean Cain weekly on Lois & Clark, Superman was one of the first comic book characters I remember really enjoying as a kid. While he doesn’t have quite as big a space in my heart as Spider-Man or Batman, Superman is still a character that I hold in pretty high regard, and, surprisingly to me, he becomes more appealing the older I get. While the fact that he was pretty much synonymous with the term “superhero” was enough to get me hooked as a kid, as I’ve grown up I’ve started to realize that the real strength in Superman isn’t his power set, it’s who he is as a symbol.
My earliest memory of Superman is reading my dad’s copies of John Byrne’s Man of Steel miniseries, but like a lot of kids of the 90’s, the first time I was really invested in Superman was the “Death of Superman” storyline that dominated comics for almost the entirety of the early 90’s. As a six year old I bought into that story hook, line, and sinker, totally believing that one of the four “Supermen” was going to the be the real deal (for the record, I wanted it to be Cyborg Superman). A lot of that is due to the nightly news reporting the sales of Superman #75, and hearing an actual news reporter say “Superman is dead” lead to a lot of stressful times for a five year old.
Like many people though, I fell a little out of love with Superman in my teen years. I fell into the trap that a lot of close minded people do and simply stated that Superman was “lame because he was too powerful”, and a boy scout. He wasn’t edgy enough, and was one of those characters that I just ignored because he was too mainstream. But gradually I started to realize that Superman’s appeal isn’t because of his powers, it’s what he represents.
Superman’s greatest strength isn’t his ability to fly, or heat vision, or his strength. It’s his ability to inspire us to do better. Yes, it’s fun to see Superman lay the beat down on Mongul or Parasite, but I personally love the moments where he reminds us what it means to be a hero. It can be something as simple as saving a cat from a tree, or something as powerful as the moment in Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman where Superman talks to a woman who’s threatening to jump off of a skyscraper. As I’ve accrued years in my time on this planet, I’ve come to realize that the power of empathy is something that is far better than strength, and Superman is a great example of that. For every incredible thing he can do, at his core Superman is just a person trying to do the right thing.
In a world that seems crazier every day, where just turning on the news s enough to stress some people out, having a character like Superman is honestly reassuring. He’s the beacon of hope and kindness that we need more of in our world. Can you imagine what our world would be like if Superman was never created? I’d hate to think of that reality.
Here’s to you Superman. You’ve more than earned it.