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Superman: Abandoned?


Recently, the subject of Superman has been coming up in some discussions.   Long story short, a friend of mine asked the populace, “What about Superman makes you say, ‘Fuck this guy’?”  I cannot speak for anyone else’s opinion of the character, but let’s go over what my experiences with the character are, his faults, and what can be done to fix them.

A Primer on Kryptonians

Superman (or Clark Kent, or Kal-El) is a full-blooded Kryptonian.  Under a yellow sun, his powers are the numerous and friggin’ god-like.  His alien biology metabolizes yellow sunlight into inhuman strength (literally enough to push planets out of their orbits), heat-vision, x-ray vision, microscopic vision (enough to see a person’s DNA), telescopic vision (enough to see individual people from orbit), super-hearing (described as being sensitive enough to hear cells divide), super-breath, super-speed (second fastest being next to Flash) and reflexes, flight, enhanced durability (described as having skin tough enough to withstand any non-military ordinance with ease), a healing factor, ridiculous stamina, increased intelligence (more on this later), and an eidetic memory.  Got all that?

His weaknesses number the following, magic (simply because it ignores his inhuman biology and physics) or Kryptonite (there are many flavors, which I will not go into now).

If you were a burglar, would you really want to tussle with this guy?

Superman vs the World

Now that we have a grasp as to what we’re dealing with on a pure physical level, we can now examine what I believe, to be his greatest weakness as a character:  external conflicts.  With the laundry list of powers that Smallville has, writing an external conflict that actually challenges him, is next to impossible to do on a regular basis.  I honestly do not envy any Superman writers out there.  The only fights in which Superman is seen losing are when he is fighting Darkseid who is a god (magic), other Kryptonians (which goes to whoever has a better grasp of Kryptonian powers, usually Superman), or Lex Luthor (who almost always uses Kryptonite).

Essentially external conflicts boil down to eliminating Kal’s overwhelming superior physical prowess, or using something stronger.  Which brings us to:  Doomsday. I will say this once, and ONLY once:

THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN WAS A COP OUT.

Why?  Superhuman speed and reflexes.  Doomsday should NEVER HAVE EVEN LANDED A SINGLE PUNCH.  But WHY did he lose?  I honestly believe that the writers just couldn’t come up with a way to kill him dramatically.  I mean Doomsday was essentially the Hulk, and Hulk couldn’t beat Superman.  He doesn’t have the speed.  I feel that in order to make Clark feel physically challenged, he need foes that are on par with him at all times.  Hence, why the New Krypton arc was so engrossing.  He could die at any time because everybody was as strong as him and he was outnumbered a million to one.  DC needs to de-power him to make him fit in with the rest of the villains.  THAT will fix these issues, and that will make seeing him in a fight actually have some meaning.

WHY THE FUCK, IS HE NOT DODGING?

To further elaborate the point,

The blue bar is his health, the red bar is his power meter.  Clark takes little damage from attacks, has multiple ways to attack/get away, regenerates health at a ridiculous pace, and SHOULD you actually be in danger of dying, just fly straight up into the sky and the sun’s rays will regenerate your powers/life.  JUST LIKE THE FUCKING COMIC.  This game got it right, but it’s still a piece of shit.  DC FIX IT.

The Thinking Man

The best Superman stories involve Kal dealing with the issues what it’s like to have all this power and being unable to fix the world at its most basic needs.  Read A Superman For All Seasons, you’ll get my point.  These kinds of stories pit Clark’s powers against the woes of the world.  When he fought the Elite over becoming more violent, he chose to not kill them because he was proving that might does not equal right.  I don’t think I need to say anything about All-Star Superman that wiser men than I have not already said.  There are plenty of stories that feature this as their main draw, and as good as these stories are, the problem arises in the fact that eventually you WILL run out of introspection.  There are only so many times that Clark can go “Why can’t I be everywhere?” before it gets old.  If these questions keep coming up and not resolved, the character languishes in an emotional limbo and doesn’t evolve.  Stagnation is also BORING.

Actually, Smallville,you really CAN be everywhere…

The ideals and values of Superman have lasted 80 years for a reason:  heroes are the best of us.  We look up to their example and emulate them as best we can.  I did not write this to crucify the guy, I am simply showing the missteps that the writers have taken.  De-power him.  Keep the struggles and the characterization that Grant Morrison has established in the current Action Comics run.  Make his fights MEAN something.  People do not want to read about a walking demigod that saves people from tornados and feels like he needed to be in Italy stopping a volcano.  And for God’s sake, give him more compelling villains than bald CEO.

I will continue to read Superman when I can.  I hope you do too.

Batman can still kick his ass.

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Categories: Comics, Movies, Sci-fi
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