It’s a little astonishing how interesting Superman is. I recently finished reading All Star Superman, which is a twelve-issue comic in which Superman basically gets cancer (err he gets overloaded with the sun’s rays) and discovers he has a year to live. The comic was filled with the lighter-hearted ridiculousness that I am starting to discover is something of a Superman staple, and it was a bit of a revelation. Superman isn’t just a different sort of hero from Batman or the X-men or any of those guys. He also occupies a very different world. His world has so much…hope.
Like, okay, sometimes it was off-putting. At one point Superman gets sucked down into the Bizarro world, where everything is the opposite of in our world, and where people say strange shit like, “Me no am like you” and Bizarro versions of all the heroes (for instance, a Bizarro Flash “Who no am slow and go two inch per hour”), and I’m gonna say that much of that plotline was a little stupid.
But there was also a person in there: Zibarro. And he was sort of a mutation in the Bizarro world: a person who was capable of thinking and feeling for himself. And he helps Superman to build a rocket to get himself out of there, and at the last moment he begs Superman to take him with. For some bullshit reason, the gravitation stresses or some shit, Superman isn’t able to do it, but then he gives Zibarro a peptalk, saying that this is his home, and that he shouldn’t feel alone, because he, Zibarro, is proof that the Bizarro world is changing and adapting and becoming better.
Superman is the fucking king of peptalks. This is not something the movies ever capture. He just has so much faith in other human beings. Even when he’s face to face with Lex Luthor (who knows that Supes is dying), he says, “You always told everybody about all the good you could’ve done if you hadn’t been obsessed with fighting me. Well now’s your chance. Go do it.”
This is the guy who’s inflicted a fatal injury on Superman, and yet Supes is not angry. He’s still searching for the good.
It’d be so easy for Supes to come off as insensitive or inhuman, but he somehow always manages to seem so normal. Throughout the series he mourns for himself and for all the things he could’ve done, but he does it in a sane way. I guess that’s what struck me the most. Superman isn’t just super in terms of his powers; he’s also super in terms of his emotional health. When he gets angry, he talks things through. When he gets afraid, he confronts his fears rather than lashing out. He honors his friends and forgives his enemies.
And you’d think it would be boring, but it’s not. I honestly could not tell you how or why it works. I think it’s because Superman is always finding new ways to be good.