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Why don't you like Superman?

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  • SolarSolar Registered User regular
    There is also the fact that Superman doesn't want to become a prophet. He sees the danger of people following and worshiping him like a god.

    But he is, inarguably, a messianic figure.

  • AmiguAmigu Registered User regular
    Also Lex only has that moment of enlightenment when he has Superman's heightened senses...

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  • nightmarennynightmarenny Registered User regular
    Amigu wrote: »
    Also Lex only has that moment of enlightenment when he has Superman's heightened senses...
    And in the comic it doesn't last iirc.

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  • -Tal-Tal Registered User regular
    hi world leaders I've gathered you here for this presentation of what atoms really look like okay you should be able to wrap up world peace now

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  • Dex DynamoDex Dynamo Registered User regular
    Solar wrote: »
    Eh, Superman just normally doesn't get a fantastic enough setting to have fun in. A lot of times the people working with him don't think on a big enough scale or involve things that are rich with possibilities, and that's really necessary in order to make Superman shine.

    Superman works when Metropolis is as big and exciting as he himself is. When it turns into just a big city full of people, the whole thing fails, and we get bad Superman stories. We're talking about a guy at the forefront of the human experience, who goes and does stuff in space for kicks.

    Most of the time he gets written like he's just some kind of...flying bulldozer with good hair. Superman is very much the sort of character who is only as good as the person who writes him.

    I agree that Superman deserves and works best when the world around him is more of a super-world, Metropolis is the city of the future with advanced technology and scientists and so on going on. Also when aliens are around and known about and the world deals with them and Superman is part of that. Amusingly enough, he works the best when Metropolis is as metropolitan and complex and futuristic as it reasonably can be.

    It sounds weird, but I think people get hung up on the fact that Superman is the first Superhero, and they miss out on the fact that at his best (whether it be in the 60s stories, the 70s New Gods stuff, All-Star, or even much of the time in The Animated Series) he's more of a Buck Rogers-esque sci-fi hero than a proper superhero. It makes sense, really--if Superman is supposed to be us at our best, then of course he would be an explorer, a diplomat, a scientist.

    Even his villains are more akin to the villains in an issue of Weird Science than most other characters. 60s Luthor, the Mad Scientist. 80s Luthor, the Corrupt Businessman using science to oppress and destroy. Brainiac, the cold, emotionless computer, ruining lives with its experiments. Bizarro World, an entire planet of twisted Doppelgangers. Metallo, the man who sold his soul to the machine. Maxima, the despotic alien queen. Lobo, the alien bounty hunter. Doomsday, the ultimate expression of science used for evil.

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  • Harry DresdenHarry Dresden Registered User regular
    Solar wrote: »
    There is also the fact that Superman doesn't want to become a prophet. He sees the danger of people following and worshiping him like a god.

    But he is, inarguably, a messianic figure.

    Especially in the movies.

  • JombalayaJombalaya Registered User regular
    I don't like Superman because I can't roll my eyes hard enough when he visits sick kids in the hospital and hugs suicidal, emo kids.

  • Oniros25Oniros25 Registered User regular
    Jombalaya wrote: »
    I don't like Superman because I can't roll my eyes hard enough when he visits sick kids in the hospital and hugs suicidal, emo kids.

    God, how I hope this is trolling in the poorest of taste.

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  • JombalayaJombalaya Registered User regular
    I'm not trolling.

  • LarsLars Registered User regular
    Superman is awesome.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_u5WnWcmgY
    That's the Italian intro for Superman TAS. I always liked it because it has an intense focus on "Superman being awesome." It also shows a bunch of different villains instead of just focusing on Lex Luthor (who only gets about 1 second of screen time), as the complaint that Superman doesn't have any villains outside of Luthor is one I see fairly often.

  • SolarSolar Registered User regular
    still in the poorest of taste though

    Oniros25
  • DelduwathDelduwath Registered User regular
    edited January 2013
    Dex Dynamo wrote: »
    It sounds weird, but I think people get hung up on the fact that Superman is the first Superhero, and they miss out on the fact that at his best (whether it be in the 60s stories, the 70s New Gods stuff, All-Star, or even much of the time in The Animated Series) he's more of a Buck Rogers-esque sci-fi hero than a proper superhero. It makes sense, really--if Superman is supposed to be us at our best, then of course he would be an explorer, a diplomat, a scientist.

    Even his villains are more akin to the villains in an issue of Weird Science than most other characters. 60s Luthor, the Mad Scientist. 80s Luthor, the Corrupt Businessman using science to oppress and destroy. Brainiac, the cold, emotionless computer, ruining lives with its experiments. Bizarro World, an entire planet of twisted Doppelgangers. Metallo, the man who sold his soul to the machine. Maxima, the despotic alien queen. Lobo, the alien bounty hunter. Doomsday, the ultimate expression of science used for evil.

    This post is kind of a revelation to me. Awesome.

    Delduwath on
    Dex Dynamo
  • Oniros25Oniros25 Registered User regular
    Dex Dynamo wrote: »
    Solar wrote: »
    Eh, Superman just normally doesn't get a fantastic enough setting to have fun in. A lot of times the people working with him don't think on a big enough scale or involve things that are rich with possibilities, and that's really necessary in order to make Superman shine.

    Superman works when Metropolis is as big and exciting as he himself is. When it turns into just a big city full of people, the whole thing fails, and we get bad Superman stories. We're talking about a guy at the forefront of the human experience, who goes and does stuff in space for kicks.

    Most of the time he gets written like he's just some kind of...flying bulldozer with good hair. Superman is very much the sort of character who is only as good as the person who writes him.

    I agree that Superman deserves and works best when the world around him is more of a super-world, Metropolis is the city of the future with advanced technology and scientists and so on going on. Also when aliens are around and known about and the world deals with them and Superman is part of that. Amusingly enough, he works the best when Metropolis is as metropolitan and complex and futuristic as it reasonably can be.

    It sounds weird, but I think people get hung up on the fact that Superman is the first Superhero, and they miss out on the fact that at his best (whether it be in the 60s stories, the 70s New Gods stuff, All-Star, or even much of the time in The Animated Series) he's more of a Buck Rogers-esque sci-fi hero than a proper superhero. It makes sense, really--if Superman is supposed to be us at our best, then of course he would be an explorer, a diplomat, a scientist.

    Even his villains are more akin to the villains in an issue of Weird Science than most other characters. 60s Luthor, the Mad Scientist. 80s Luthor, the Corrupt Businessman using science to oppress and destroy. Brainiac, the cold, emotionless computer, ruining lives with its experiments. Bizarro World, an entire planet of twisted Doppelgangers. Metallo, the man who sold his soul to the machine. Maxima, the despotic alien queen. Lobo, the alien bounty hunter. Doomsday, the ultimate expression of science used for evil.

    This is totally true. Most superheroes pull from pulp fiction lore: batman from film noire style detective stories, Spider-Man and a lot of marvel from 60's B monster movies, Superman is pulling from golden age sci-fi.

    I've argued before that Superman is the American Doctor Who: a benevolent alien from a destroyed world who has adopted earth and decided to be its protector who is a gatway for the audience into a world more amazing than anything they'd previously imagined.

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  • JombalayaJombalaya Registered User regular
    Solar wrote: »
    still in the poorest of taste though

    Why?

  • SolarSolar Registered User regular
    Jombalaya wrote: »
    Solar wrote: »
    still in the poorest of taste though

    Why?

    because you think it's laughable that a superhero would visit sick kids and hug suicidal teenagers

    it may surprise you to learn this but famous people in the real world go to visit sick kids all the time

    they'd probably go out of their way to hug suicidal teenagers if they happened to be able to fly up to where they are and thought it might stop them killing themselves

    Superman is a famous person who acts as he does specifically out of a moral desire to help others

    what makes you think he wouldn't do those things?

    If I was Superman I'd totally do those things

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  • Oniros25Oniros25 Registered User regular
    Even not being Superman, I actually have done these things and they were some of the most important things I've ever done. Though it has no bearing on the debate, it is personally insulting to me to see such acts of mercy scoffed at when people I love would be dead today without equivalent acts. That may not have been how the inciting statement was intended, but it was decidedly how it was recieved.

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  • JombalayaJombalaya Registered User regular
    I don't think it's laughable. I think it's corny.

    This is way off topic, but I thought it was cool when Christian Bale visited that hospital after that shooting. It may surprise you that famous people in the real world can also be douchebags. I doubt most of them would go around hugging suicidal teenagers if they didn't think they would get some publicity out of it.

    Based on what I know about Superman I would totally expect him to do shit like that. That doesn't mean I want to read about it. Superman isn't for me and I'm fine with that.

  • Sage_CatharsisSage_Catharsis Registered User regular
    edited January 2013
    Also the idea that superman can perceive an enlightened substrata of the universe all the time (Lex Luthor have a moment of enlightenment in all star superman) make even less sense why he doesn't... Explain to people who are at the higher levels of government ...

    How do you explain to someone what things look like that they have no way of experiencing? Why would trying to describe those things affect government officials in any way?

    How do I explain to people that I can talk to buildings? How do I explain that their are people behind our eyes? How do I explain that aliens are already here and always have been so they aren't really strange or alien, just cousins with a sense of privacy? How do I explain how I change in the presence of an activist/architect/linguist who is also "model beautiful" despite having a .005 Down syndrome deformity?

    These are questions that define my being. And only by being and living and making choices that respect the vibrancy of my perception can I hope to commune with anyone.

    I hope that the Wonderwoman Superman relationship goes into how well she understands him in ways that he has tragically failed at connecting with Lois Lane.

    Superman's Fortress of Solitude in the cold north is probably representative of the kind of isolation a person in America with high survival capabilities must maintain in order to have any true identity. (Remember that Superman is so tough because earth is a cake walk compared to where his species evolved, the restriction of red sun & nearby kryptonite has been lifted and he is loosed on earth.)

    I don't think the Superman metaphor would be interesting if there were two of them, and they had to share that fortress.

    You know how in All Star Superman The writer had Clark Kent always saving people in ways that looked like an accident? In order to really do that one must second guess oneself a lot less. In order to second guess oneself a lot less one must have a faster way of gauging the validity of a potential action. Part of that is trust. A kind of trust that is built up over time with reality, and that can be taught, and is taught all the time, though most are not paying attention.

    What I really enjoyed seeing was Lex's Prison, a sharp contrast and mirror of Superman's Fortress.

    I've run out of words.

    Sage_Catharsis on
  • Dex DynamoDex Dynamo Registered User regular
    Oniros25 wrote: »
    Dex Dynamo wrote: »
    Solar wrote: »
    Eh, Superman just normally doesn't get a fantastic enough setting to have fun in. A lot of times the people working with him don't think on a big enough scale or involve things that are rich with possibilities, and that's really necessary in order to make Superman shine.

    Superman works when Metropolis is as big and exciting as he himself is. When it turns into just a big city full of people, the whole thing fails, and we get bad Superman stories. We're talking about a guy at the forefront of the human experience, who goes and does stuff in space for kicks.

    Most of the time he gets written like he's just some kind of...flying bulldozer with good hair. Superman is very much the sort of character who is only as good as the person who writes him.

    I agree that Superman deserves and works best when the world around him is more of a super-world, Metropolis is the city of the future with advanced technology and scientists and so on going on. Also when aliens are around and known about and the world deals with them and Superman is part of that. Amusingly enough, he works the best when Metropolis is as metropolitan and complex and futuristic as it reasonably can be.

    It sounds weird, but I think people get hung up on the fact that Superman is the first Superhero, and they miss out on the fact that at his best (whether it be in the 60s stories, the 70s New Gods stuff, All-Star, or even much of the time in The Animated Series) he's more of a Buck Rogers-esque sci-fi hero than a proper superhero. It makes sense, really--if Superman is supposed to be us at our best, then of course he would be an explorer, a diplomat, a scientist.

    Even his villains are more akin to the villains in an issue of Weird Science than most other characters. 60s Luthor, the Mad Scientist. 80s Luthor, the Corrupt Businessman using science to oppress and destroy. Brainiac, the cold, emotionless computer, ruining lives with its experiments. Bizarro World, an entire planet of twisted Doppelgangers. Metallo, the man who sold his soul to the machine. Maxima, the despotic alien queen. Lobo, the alien bounty hunter. Doomsday, the ultimate expression of science used for evil.

    This is totally true. Most superheroes pull from pulp fiction lore: batman from film noire style detective stories, Spider-Man and a lot of marvel from 60's B monster movies, Superman is pulling from golden age sci-fi.

    I've argued before that Superman is the American Doctor Who: a benevolent alien from a destroyed world who has adopted earth and decided to be its protector who is a gatway for the audience into a world more amazing than anything they'd previously imagined.

    I've never considered it that way, but you're absolutely right; and I feel like that's why Superman should always be finding himself in remarkable situations, whether it be shrunk down exploring Microverses or staring down alien despots.

    Oniros25
  • KingofMadCowsKingofMadCows Registered User regular
    Solar wrote: »
    There is also the fact that Superman doesn't want to become a prophet. He sees the danger of people following and worshiping him like a god.

    But he is, inarguably, a messianic figure.

    That is a problem that he has to deal with. Although it is interesting how the Superman worshipers kind of disappears after he returns to life.

    It's also another reason why Luthor hates Superman. Luthor being John Galt and all, he's not very fond of the whole altruism and self sacrifice thing.

  • -Tal-Tal Registered User regular
    I want more little things like visiting sick kids or setting off fireworks or hugging suicidal teenagers

    that's the stuff that makes Superman great

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  • Centipede DamascusCentipede Damascus Registered User regular
    Put simply, one of the main reasons why I like Superman is that he's so uncomplicated. Not to denigrate Batman or Spider-Man, but he didn't need a tragedy to convince him to be a hero. He didn't have to be forced to accept his duty to be a hero. There's no Refusal of the Call in his Hero's Journey. He saw that he could be a hero, and so he was.

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  • Oniros25Oniros25 Registered User regular
    edited January 2013
    Put simply, one of the main reasons why I like Superman is that he's so uncomplicated. Not to denigrate Batman or Spider-Man, but he didn't need a tragedy to convince him to be a hero. He didn't have to be forced to accept his duty to be a hero. There's no Refusal of the Call in his Hero's Journey. He saw that he could be a hero, and so he was.

    This is actually my argument for DC over Marvel: Heroes in DC at large rarely refuse the call. To me the idea and the one that makes sense is that the only people who should be trusted with that kind of power are the ones who would step up when the time comes. In Marvel, you only get that sort of dedication and clarity of purpose from Captain America (for obvious reasons.)

    That's no judgement on Marvel characters, I just like the earnestness that is in DC's DNA to the point that even DiDio and Lee can't hard boil it out more than the so-called "realism" of the hand wringing hero.

    Edit: I could entirely believe that this earnestness both in DC comics and irl for the people writing it stems from Superman's presence in the setting.

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  • KingofMadCowsKingofMadCows Registered User regular
    It is interesting how that's almost the opposite in the movies. The DC movies are about the heroes being really reluctant and not wanting to have the kind of responsibility. Even the new Superman movie has that theme of "people won't accept you" and "maybe you shouldn't help others" theme going. In the Marvel movies, except for the Hulk, most of the heroes actually seem to enjoy being heroes.

  • valhalla130valhalla130 13 Dark Shield Perceives the GodsRegistered User regular
    Superman is great because you can have a five-page internet discussion about the philosophical implications of his existence.

    I actually think, however, it's doing Luthor a disservice to reduce his motivations to jealousy. I have always understood Luthor as That Guy Who Doesn't Like Superman taken to ludicrous extremes. He's the guy who thinks Superman is too boring, too perfect, that he must be hiding something because no human being could ever be that genuinely good. He's the guy who doesn't have enough faith in humanity to believe that there could be that amount of good in someone. He thinks that this moral perfection, by existing, actually diminishes mankind by being forever out of our reach. So, paradoxically, this lack of faith leads him to champion humanity against what he perceives as an alien presence in their midst.

    I think there's an element of "fuck you, I want to be special" but I also think he has genuine philosophical differences with Superman. He's jealous of a power he can never have and he thinks that merely the fact there exists a power unattainable by man diminishes not just him, but humanity as a whole. He's only wrong because Superman is a human: a wonderful, saintlike human, but flawed nonetheless. But Luthor will never realize that, and that's his tragedy. He's a lot like Milton's Satan in a way: railing against a greater power simply because he can't stomach that there is a greater power.

    (If anyone jumps in here with "but Superman's not a human, he's an alien!", then I will bite off their tongue. He's a human in every way that counts.)

    My only problem with this take on the character, which seemed to exist in the animated shows also, where Lex is championing humanity against the alien in our midst with vast powers that we could rely on too much, is that this only works in a vacuum, where Lex and Superman are the only superpowered beings. In the vast DCU, there are plenty of other humans who have gained power, and aren't from other worlds. Yet, Lex never seems to factor that into the equation.

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  • Oniros25Oniros25 Registered User regular

    It is interesting how that's almost the opposite in the movies. The DC movies are about the heroes being really reluctant and not wanting to have the kind of responsibility. Even the new Superman movie has that theme of "people won't accept you" and "maybe you shouldn't help others" theme going. In the Marvel movies, except for the Hulk, most of the heroes actually seem to enjoy being heroes.

    That is why the 21st century DC movies (except for Batman) have failed. Superhero angst where it doesn't belong is atrocious. Actually, it's almost always attrocious. Smacks of privilaged whineing. Despite the veneer of refusing the call that may have been slathered over Superman's origin, I still hold out hope for Man of Steel not sucking.

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  • Harry DresdenHarry Dresden Registered User regular
    Oniros25 wrote: »
    It is interesting how that's almost the opposite in the movies. The DC movies are about the heroes being really reluctant and not wanting to have the kind of responsibility. Even the new Superman movie has that theme of "people won't accept you" and "maybe you shouldn't help others" theme going. In the Marvel movies, except for the Hulk, most of the heroes actually seem to enjoy being heroes.

    That is why the 21st century DC movies (except for Batman) have failed. Superhero angst where it doesn't belong is atrocious. Actually, it's almost always attrocious. Smacks of privilaged whineing. Despite the veneer of refusing the call that may have been slathered over Superman's origin, I still hold out hope for Man of Steel not sucking.

    It's one factor. DC's super-hero movies have had so much bad management you need to write a list to get all the problems down. That said, I'm looking forward to Man of Steel, Justice League continues to be a trainwreck WB is better off keeping in development hell until they're mastered solo super-hero movies first.

    Oniros25
  • Chomp-ChompChomp-Chomp Shonen Princess Registered User regular
    Like I need an excuse to post this.

    bestsupermanline-1.jpg


    This is an amazing scene because it conveys one of the best aspects of Superman.

    He's human.

    He's not catching this girl after she jumps. He's not hovering in front of her Messianically. He's there with a hand and kind words. Powerful words that you can trust.

    He's not using powers to save her. Superman is just showing us what we can all do, if we're good and recognize the nobility of the human spirit.

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  • DouglasDangerDouglasDanger PennsylvaniaRegistered User regular
  • FakefauxFakefaux Cóiste Bodhar Driving John McCain to meet some Iraqis who'd very much like to make his acquaintanceRegistered User regular
    Solar wrote: »
    There is also the fact that Superman doesn't want to become a prophet. He sees the danger of people following and worshiping him like a god.

    But he is, inarguably, a messianic figure.

    Ehhh, I dunno about that. Superman's not Jesus. He doesn't have the holy writ handed down from on high. All of Superman's values and beliefs are from humanity, from the Kents. He's a mirror in which all of the best parts of humanity are reflected back at us, to inspire us to live up to them.

  • KingofMadCowsKingofMadCows Registered User regular
    Luthor.jpg

    Such condescending drivel. So what if he decided to live with us and adopt our ways? We never had a choice, this is who we are, this is what we are. Open your eyes people. He's holding us back, making us the way he wants us to be. But who is he to say what the best qualities of humanity are? What does he know about struggling with the weaknesses and limitations of being human? And how would he know about overcoming those weaknesses?

  • nightmarennynightmarenny Registered User regular
    edited January 2013
    Luthor, shut-up, you're BALD.

    nightmarenny on
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  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    Kyougu wrote: »
    This is a fantastic summary of who Superman is

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiTWeu0nOKs

    I think this is really gets at the thing of it: the problem isn't that Superman's morals aren't laudable, or that the moral dilemmas he constantly finds himself in aren't necessarily compelling, or even that there are so few villains who can really threaten him (although I think this is part of the issue.) The problem is that there's really no way to really humanize him.

    Batman (who I'll just use as a general proxy for superheroes, I suppose) has just as much or more plot armor as Superman when the story requires it, but we also see him fail, get hurt, and sometimes struggle with decisions or make bad ones. We can identify with some of the stuff he's going through, and might fantasize that we have the power to solve some of the problems that he confronts. The ability to identify with the character is what makes the fantasy interesting.

    How do you do that with Superman though? How do you make "living in a world full of cardboard" seem immediate and distressing for the reader? The Hulk is an example of a story that does, but Hulk doesn't possess superman's agility and other powers, or his seemingly bottomless compassionate rationality. Ironically Luthor is frequently a more sympathetic character than Supes is, because even if Luthor's cast as the villain we can at least kind of put ourselves in his shoes (some versions more than others'.) If the reader has a tough time identifying with the protagonist the character winds up ringing hollow.

    (I also think it's tough to put a character with superman's powers in a legitimate moral dilemma; even in the animated series he almost always just cuts the gordian knot when things get really thick.)

    The most interesting Superman stories (imo) are the ones that kind of subvert what he is, either by making him more alien and thus less welcome on earth, or by giving him more flawed/human personality traits (as in the Reign of Superman arc, or that animated episode where he turns into an asshole for some reason I've forgotten.) Making him less powerful is another way to go, but unless it's a temporary plot device it's hard to do that without making him into something other than 'Superman.'

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  • DelduwathDelduwath Registered User regular
    edited January 2013
    I've always felt that the way to make Superman interesting is not by focusing on what makes him different from humanity (laser-eyes, abs of almost literal steel, etc), but what makes him the same (his emotions, his moral compass, his capacity for hope). Enemies or plot devices who threaten Superman physically - and plenty of those exist (and if they didn't, we would easily invent them) - are not very interesting to me; now that I think about it, putting Batman in chains and hanging him above a bottomless pit is also not very interesting to me.

    Enemies and situations that challenge Superman as a human being - as a moral person who wants to do what is right, as a living thing with hopes and dreams - is what gets me going, though. It's brought up countless times, but "For the Man Who Has Everything" is one of the most heart-rending stories I've ever read, and it has nothing to do with Superman as a powerhouse and everything to do with Superman as a guy who's lost a home (and then has to live through losing it again). Or that lovely issue of Hitman, where Superman talks about only being able to save some astronauts on a... damaged space station, was it? There was one trapped astronaut whose eyes lit up when he saw Superman, but Superman couldn't save him AND the others, and Superman had to watch the hope die in the trapped astronaut's eyes as he realized that no, even though Superman is here, he ISN'T getting saved. Superman doesn't need to be in physical danger to be challenged.

    The flip side of this is what Morrison did in All-Star, where having a nigh-indestructible protagonist lets you put them in mythical situations, like feeding a baby star-eater, or having him fight a sentient artificial sun, or whatever else. That's also compelling to me, but now for a completely opposite reason: rather than being someone I can relate to, this approach turns Superman into the kind of mythical hero who can go into situations that I - as a mere mortal - can barely conceive of. Rather than becoming a human story, it becomes more of a travelogue of weird places and times, or conflict between entities so beyond human that they exist at the very edge of my understanding.

    I never even thought about it, but Superman can span this gap between very personal stories, and all-out bombastic legends. That's pretty versatile.

    Edit: I should mention that those stories where Superman has the chance to let loose and unleash all his power are lovely, and I like reading them, and they absolutely have a place in the Superman mythos, it's just that to me they're a delicious chocolate lava cake: I like them every once in a while (especially with some vanilla ice cream), but I'm not interested in eating them non-stop.

    Delduwath on
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  • MalkorMalkor Registered User regular
    edited January 2013
    I think reading anti-Superman books (The Boys/ but Irredeemable really) made me like Superman a more. I think the other Superman types are more human to me because of their faults, and unfortunately being human with that power leads to Armageddon. Which I understand? Someone said that Superman is uncomplicated. I probably always also thought he was just Better, and I don't think I can begrudge the character because of that anymore after wallowing in the depths of what could happen if he was just some asshole like me.

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  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    Enemies and situations that challenge Superman as a human being - as a moral person who wants to do what is right, as a living thing with hopes and dreams - is what gets me going, though. It's brought up countless times, but "For the Man Who Has Everything" is one of the most heart-rending stories I've ever read, and it has nothing to do with Superman as a powerhouse and everything to do with Superman as a guy who's lost a home (and then has to live through losing it again). Or that lovely issue of Hitman, where Superman talks about only being able to save some astronauts on a... damaged space station, was it? There was one trapped astronaut whose eyes lit up when he saw Superman, but Superman couldn't save him AND the others, and Superman had to watch the hope die in the trapped astronaut's eyes as he realized that no, even though Superman is here, he ISN'T getting saved. Superman doesn't need to be in physical danger to be challenged.

    I guess the thing is this: we never really see superman make the 'wrong' choice. I haven't read that particular story or really even that much superman stuff, but even when he's placed in crappy situations (like in that Hitman example) he does the right thing.

    Which isn't a problem in a given story necessarily, it just makes him predictable and that's ultimately what people get tired of. I randomly followed the youtube chain and wound up watching the opening of 'A Better World' before work. The Superman that actually gets convinced by Luthor's argument is a lot more interesting than the one that doesn't. And I mean, that episode unfolds a certain way because they only have like 20 minutes and Lord Supes is the villain, but still.

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    it was the smallest on the list but
    Pluto was a planet and I'll never forget
  • Dex DynamoDex Dynamo Registered User regular
    Enemies and situations that challenge Superman as a human being - as a moral person who wants to do what is right, as a living thing with hopes and dreams - is what gets me going, though. It's brought up countless times, but "For the Man Who Has Everything" is one of the most heart-rending stories I've ever read, and it has nothing to do with Superman as a powerhouse and everything to do with Superman as a guy who's lost a home (and then has to live through losing it again). Or that lovely issue of Hitman, where Superman talks about only being able to save some astronauts on a... damaged space station, was it? There was one trapped astronaut whose eyes lit up when he saw Superman, but Superman couldn't save him AND the others, and Superman had to watch the hope die in the trapped astronaut's eyes as he realized that no, even though Superman is here, he ISN'T getting saved. Superman doesn't need to be in physical danger to be challenged.

    I guess the thing is this: we never really see superman make the 'wrong' choice. I haven't read that particular story or really even that much superman stuff, but even when he's placed in crappy situations (like in that Hitman example) he does the right thing.

    Which isn't a problem in a given story necessarily, it just makes him predictable and that's ultimately what people get tired of. I randomly followed the youtube chain and wound up watching the opening of 'A Better World' before work. The Superman that actually gets convinced by Luthor's argument is a lot more interesting than the one that doesn't. And I mean, that episode unfolds a certain way because they only have like 20 minutes and Lord Supes is the villain, but still.

    I would argue the person who makes the wrong choice--the one who lets power go to their head, or decides they know what's best for the world around them whether or not the world wants to take that advice, or bends those around them to their will--is a far less interesting story, because it's a far more common story. Namely, every example of someone getting power in human history.

    The strength of the Superman myth is that, at its core, it's a refutation of "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." It's ultimately a fable of what we as a race--flawed as we are--can achieve if we trust in the nebulous qualities that make up the idea of "humanity" rather than the oftentimes far-too concretely defined qualities that make up the idea of "power."

    AntimatterMalkorHarry Dresdenvalhalla130
  • Harry DresdenHarry Dresden Registered User regular
    edited January 2013
    Oniros25 wrote: »
    Put simply, one of the main reasons why I like Superman is that he's so uncomplicated. Not to denigrate Batman or Spider-Man, but he didn't need a tragedy to convince him to be a hero. He didn't have to be forced to accept his duty to be a hero. There's no Refusal of the Call in his Hero's Journey. He saw that he could be a hero, and so he was.

    This is actually my argument for DC over Marvel: Heroes in DC at large rarely refuse the call. To me the idea and the one that makes sense is that the only people who should be trusted with that kind of power are the ones who would step up when the time comes. In Marvel, you only get that sort of dedication and clarity of purpose from Captain America (for obvious reasons.)

    That's no judgement on Marvel characters, I just like the earnestness that is in DC's DNA to the point that even DiDio and Lee can't hard boil it out more than the so-called "realism" of the hand wringing hero.

    Edit: I could entirely believe that this earnestness both in DC comics and irl for the people writing it stems from Superman's presence in the setting.

    The DC and Marvel universes have more in common then you think. Over the decades DC has adding various Marvel
    elements so there isn't a large difference between them like they used to be in the Silver Age. The most iconic heroes DC has have been updated numerous times, especially Wonder Woman. She's the only one of the trinity that will kill threats without remorse when she's given reason too. DC has also added numerous characters from the Marvel mold like Jaime Reyes, Helena Bertinelli and Kate Spencer.
    Kyougu wrote: »
    This is a fantastic summary of who Superman is

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiTWeu0nOKs

    I think this is really gets at the thing of it: the problem isn't that Superman's morals aren't laudable, or that the moral dilemmas he constantly finds himself in aren't necessarily compelling, or even that there are so few villains who can really threaten him (although I think this is part of the issue.) The problem is that there's really no way to really humanize him.

    Batman (who I'll just use as a general proxy for superheroes, I suppose) has just as much or more plot armor as Superman when the story requires it, but we also see him fail, get hurt, and sometimes struggle with decisions or make bad ones. We can identify with some of the stuff he's going through, and might fantasize that we have the power to solve some of the problems that he confronts. The ability to identify with the character is what makes the fantasy interesting.

    How do you do that with Superman though? How do you make "living in a world full of cardboard" seem immediate and distressing for the reader? The Hulk is an example of a story that does, but Hulk doesn't possess superman's agility and other powers, or his seemingly bottomless compassionate rationality. Ironically Luthor is frequently a more sympathetic character than Supes is, because even if Luthor's cast as the villain we can at least kind of put ourselves in his shoes (some versions more than others'.) If the reader has a tough time identifying with the protagonist the character winds up ringing hollow.

    Luthor is as far from normal people as Superman. He's not only a psychopathic narcissist he's got more money then god and is a brilliant scientist on top of that. He's got resources and know how to build things that can cause Superman pain or death. Superman is far more human then he'd ever be, excluding Smallville's version.
    (I also think it's tough to put a character with superman's powers in a legitimate moral dilemma; even in the animated series he almost always just cuts the gordian knot when things get really thick.)

    It isn't impossible to put him in legitimate moral dilemmas, but people would rather watch him get into fights. The cartoon was limited by the censors in what it can do. They have more freedom in big budget movies and comics.
    The most interesting Superman stories (imo) are the ones that kind of subvert what he is, either by making him more alien and thus less welcome on earth, or by giving him more flawed/human personality traits (as in the Reign of Superman arc, or that animated episode where he turns into an asshole for some reason I've forgotten.)

    Its a good idea for him to have flaws. Making Superman too perfect alienates the audience. People can emphasize with him when he's not perfect.
    Making him less powerful is another way to go, but unless it's a temporary plot device it's hard to do that without making him into something other than 'Superman.'

    Superman's power level being toned down doesn't mean he isn't Superman. His power level isn't what makes him a great hero, it's his personality. That's what defines him. Being physically weaker also makes it easier for enemies to hurt him and people not to think he's invincible. Which he shouldn't be.

    Harry Dresden on
  • Harry DresdenHarry Dresden Registered User regular
    edited January 2013
    Enemies and situations that challenge Superman as a human being - as a moral person who wants to do what is right, as a living thing with hopes and dreams - is what gets me going, though. It's brought up countless times, but "For the Man Who Has Everything" is one of the most heart-rending stories I've ever read, and it has nothing to do with Superman as a powerhouse and everything to do with Superman as a guy who's lost a home (and then has to live through losing it again). Or that lovely issue of Hitman, where Superman talks about only being able to save some astronauts on a... damaged space station, was it? There was one trapped astronaut whose eyes lit up when he saw Superman, but Superman couldn't save him AND the others, and Superman had to watch the hope die in the trapped astronaut's eyes as he realized that no, even though Superman is here, he ISN'T getting saved. Superman doesn't need to be in physical danger to be challenged.

    I guess the thing is this: we never really see superman make the 'wrong' choice. I haven't read that particular story or really even that much superman stuff, but even when he's placed in crappy situations (like in that Hitman example) he does the right thing.

    Which isn't a problem in a given story necessarily, it just makes him predictable and that's ultimately what people get tired of. I randomly followed the youtube chain and wound up watching the opening of 'A Better World' before work. The Superman that actually gets convinced by Luthor's argument is a lot more interesting than the one that doesn't. And I mean, that episode unfolds a certain way because they only have like 20 minutes and Lord Supes is the villain, but still.

    Superman's made bad choices in Justice League Unlimited. That's how he ended up getting into a fight with Captain Marvel and he lost to Luthor in that episode. He made the wrong decision to make himself human and accidentally unleashing the Krytonians in Superman 2, as well.

    Harry Dresden on
  • SolarSolar Registered User regular
    Superman in the animated series and in the JL series could be kind of a dick though

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