Superman has done what most other comic book characters have not/cannot: he has become part of the American myth. He belongs in the pantheon with Paul Bunyon and Pecos Bill (and even more currently relevant than these). He’s god-like, but vulnerable, searching, and unsure of his place in the world.
We understand Batman, but with Superman, we dream. We might not be able to define what the “American Way” is anymore, but Superman is forever tied to it.
Oop – deleted Mark McD’s post instead of replied to it. It was:
“Hi, Lisa. Just one nit to pick: You need an “L” in “Bowling Green.” But a great overview.”
And I intended to say it was fixed.
Well, one of the difficulties with declaring Superman as a part of the “American Myth” is that, for the foreseeable future, he’s still the exclusive domain of Warner Brothers/DC. Just like how Mickey Mouse will never enter the public domain, so to will Supes forever be tied to his parent company, and they decide what he does.
They have a nice little Superman retrospective at the Comic Art Museum right now if you happen to be in the San Francisco area. Thankfully they have precious few samples from Superman’s “long hair” phase during the 1990s.
I really really love this article. I have always been a fan of Supes and will always be! You’re right the core of his origin and character stays the same no matter what. That’s what people especially critics seemed to have ignored in the new man of steel movie. At least it shows people still care about this character because they were too harsh on the movie. Great article Lisa
My favorite bit on Superman is from Quentin Tarantino, delivered by David Carradine as Bill in Kill Bill 2:
Apologies to those offended by the copypaste…
Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there’s the superhero and there’s the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears - the glasses, the business suit - that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He’s weak… he’s unsure of himself… he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.
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