You know that stereotypical kid with a small blanket tied around his neck? The one where he’s trying to jump higher and higher on his bed? Yup, that was me. I’m a Superman fan.
Saying that publicly—whether it’s to a good friend or, even worse, to the World Wide Web—is awfully difficult. It’s embarrassing for a whole host of reasons, the biggest of which is that it’s just about as geeky as you can get (barring 8 or 10-sided die, of course). I probably shouldn’t write something like this, and I suppose I could just close my eyes and rest my index finger on the backspace button until I’ve got a blank page again, but I’m not going to. I feel like I at least owe the Man of Steel that much.
I was watching Superman cartoons, and especially the movies, before I was making memories, but I’ll never forget when I first got into the comic books. When I was six, my dad picked up my brother and me for our usual weekly visit. But on that particular day, we went to the comic book store instead. It was the day Superman died (which went on to become the best selling graphic novel of all time, mind you). Needless to say, I was hooked.
And here’s yet another embarrassing thing I probably shouldn’t tell anybody ever: I had a comic book collection, specifically a Superman comic book collection. Why not have any Green Lanterns or Spiderman? Because that would be like watching college football when you can watch the NFL, and why settle for anything that’s less than the best?
But besides being the best there is, and being the archetype for all things superhero related, Superman had my attention for a multitude of reasons.
First off, he’s got a great background story. And what’s makes his story so great, for me at least, is that Superman embodies “the American Way.” Think about it. He’s an immigrant, and he’s the biggest, strongest thing around. Also—and yes I know this is coming straight from Kill Bill, but it’s true—Superman’s disguise is Clark Kent and not the other way around like most superheroes. In essence, Clark is Kal-El’s mask.
I also like the dichotomy surrounding Superman: he’s Clark Kent and Superman; he’s nerdy and popular; he’s shy and charismatically unavoidable; he’s a servant and a savior; he’s fearless but he’s got something to hid; and he’s got everyone’s attention but he’s completely alone.
More than anything else, though, the one thing that really drew me in is who Superman really is, physical and personality attributions aside. No matter what, he’s going to do the right thing, period. That’s his main objective on every page, that’s at his core, that’s what drives him. He’s a symbol for goodness and decency without compromise. That’s the reason I’m a Superman fan.
I must admit, though, that along the way I stopped collecting Superman comics on a even a fairly regular basis. There’s no specific timeframe when it happened, but let’s just say it slowly curtailed when I hit puberty…well, for obvious reasons. But I never sold off my stash of comics, and every so often (but not too often) I stop into the nearest comic book shop and pick up the latest issue of Superman, you know, just to see how he’s doing.
Now, after that entirely too long preface, that brings me to the point of the article…or maybe the beginning of the (or a) point.
About a week ago, I was seeing a lot of bad hype surrounding Superman: Earth One. It started before its release, when D.C. leaked a picture of the newest incarnation of the Man of Tomorrow. Comic book nerds everywhere immediately began moaning on their blogs for justice, saying things like Superman was too “moody” or “emo” or that he looked too much like Robert Pattinson from Twilight.
At first, yes, I was outraged. “How could they do this to him?” I remember thinking. “Superman doesn’t listen to the Cure. They’re screwing it all up!”
Naturally, I had no other choice but shell out the 20 bucks and take this blasphemous piece of trash home. Every time I turned the page, my inner-monologue took on more of a Lewis Black tone. I hated the fact that Clark was much more narcissistic than he used to be. I mean, it seemed like all he wanted to do was make himself happy instead of solving the plight of others. Also—and this is small but it was a pinprick to my heart—Clark Kent doesn’t make Lord of the Rings references.
Afterwards, relying on instinct, I got myself as far away from that comic as possible, but it stayed in my direct line of thinking. I did find some solace in a couple of articles I read on the web, which said that Earth One was set in a different universe from the one in the more concrete (albeit fictional) storyline. And that, exactly, is when I realized something overwhelming but enlightening.
Much like the Republican Party, I realized that I was afraid of progress (yes, I know, even though Superman’s a fictional character). And again, like the GOP, I think that irrational sentiment grew out of the fact that I’m growing older, and I’m all too well aware of it. But Superman, on the other hand, hasn’t grown old for 72 years now, and there’s no reason for him to start now.
So subconsciously, yes, I didn’t want Superman to change. But if that were to happen—or ironically, if nothing happened to Superman—that would just be wrong. And even though I’m a Superman fan, I’ll admit it: he’s a tough character to write about. And a character like that can go stale fast if they’re not allowed to evolve every so often. I mean, he must’ve put Lex Luthor behind bars close to a million times, figuratively speaking (but perhaps not).
So whatever happens to Superman in the future, I’m going to gripe about it as little as possible. I’m sort of mentally sealing him off, like how my dad always saw Superman as George Reeves and mine was Christopher Reeve. I’m not saying I’ll totally agree with whatever changes come his way, but if the younger fans like it, then that’s the way it ought to be.
Because, at the end of the day, Superman is more than just a story, he’s a reason for kids to tie a blanket around their necks. And isn’t that really what needs to be preserved?