In defense of Superman

Ma and Pa KentWith last week’s premiere of the Man of Steel trailer, the internet has been aglow with excitement about the upcoming film. It’s been seven years since Superman Returns* played to mixed reviews, and a lot of people have been wondering if Superman has lost his touch. While Batman has been tearing up the box-office, the man of steel has been fighting a battle with perhaps his most fearsome foe, relevancy.

Now I’ve heard the arguments before. Most if not all of my comic reading friends staunchly revile the man of steel. Accusations abound: “He’s too perfect.” “He has too many powers.” “He’s an alien.” And since the character’s debut in 1938, there does seem to be a lot to criticize. Superman is an alien, and the fact that he is top heavy with abilities is undeniable, but I draw the line at him being “too perfect”. It seems that when people think about Superman, they’re thinking of some self-important jerk on a power trip. I can’t disagree more, because when I think of Superman, I think of Clark Kent.

I grew up in a small rural community. So small in fact, that I had 30 people in my graduating class. My parents were supportive, hardworking and were proud when I became the firstClark Kent person in my family to not only attend a university, but graduate. I’m familiar with 4H, county fairs and can still remember summer nights, staring up at the immense sky, salted by an endless field of stars. A twelve year old me, comic book in hand, gazing into the black and wondering what kind of life there was out there, not just on other planets, but for me…on Earth. One might say that my upbringing was positively mild-mannered.

Some people say that Batman is more believable because, with enough training, money and gadgets, anyone could be Batman. Which is kind of true, I guess. But while I’ll never be Superman, I do feel a lot like Clark Kent. I don’t go to high powered business meetings like Bruce Wayne. Most days I’m hunched over a computer, my prescription glasses balancing on my nose as I type away, trying to make rent. So when I think of the man of steel, I think not of the alien god who can travel back in time by pushing the Earth backwards. I think of Clark Kent, fellow small towner, trying his best to do what’s right, whether that’s saving people from giant robots or making a deadline.

I’ll bet there are probably some times when Clark looks up that the expanse of the night sky and wonders what kind of life there is out there. And while some of us, with hard work, could be Batman, I’d wager most of us are already Clark Kent. Looking for our place in the universe, doing our best to help others and concealing our greatness behind a quiet smile and prescription glasses.


 *I know a lot of people disliked it, but as a third chapter of the Donner films, the movie is a masterpiece

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