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Monday, 24 June 2013

Balls of Steel

I could not help myself there...

Absolute power corrupts, absolutely.
This is the first thing I am contemplating whenever I have to deal with the case of Superman, for it is a case of absolutes. The first hero in comic books that was absolutely indestructible, all powerful, immortal, essentially he was a sort of deity personified in human form – with the most ridiculous disguise in the history of disguises…

Superman was created a few years before the beginning of WWII and he was the product of a – now legendary - pair of comic book artists, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The inspiration behind this “√úbermensch“, as this is the German translation for “Superman” used by Friedrich Nietzsche, is not exactly defined, with some traces of biblical heroes like Samson, Goliath and also traces of Jesus Christ in its origins. What proved to be more important than his origin, was the influence of Superman to the USA and the American psyche. 

In 1939 the American public was not eager to participate in another bloodbath 5000 miles away from their doorstep and even when it got involved eventually, it would not accept it that easily. Superman – alongside with Batman – provided the public with new icons to identify themselves with. I find it quite plausible that some GI’s would have adopted Superman as their projection in the battlefield, a sort of “good luck charm”, a mental image of invulnerability and complete control of any situation, be that a fire-fight in Micronesia or the first wave on D-day . Superman was the embodiment of absolute power. Naturally their creators provided their “golem” with a kind heart and not an evil  mind and will. For who could ever stop Superman, if he was a villain instead of a hero?

This is my main concern about this character – and by proxy, about all the comic book characters with godlike powers (Wolverine, Phoenix, Xavier, Lobo, Thor, Hulk, etc.). On this most helpful picture we can see the moral alignment of some of the most known comic book, movie, TV series and literature characters according to the character specs of AD&D.

See where Superman is, right on the Lawful Good position, which can easily be identified as the Paladin class alignment – the most dull, unimaginative and predictable class of them all…

Superman CAN NOT be anything else, even in the story lines were he turned slightly evil – him or some other part of his Super family (Superboy) - in the end he was not stopped by his only known vulnerability, Kryptonite, rather than HIMSELF!! He’s the only person that can control all this immense power. And having being used by the American government as the role model and icon for all that America stood for in the 80’s, that boy scout in the red slip clearly had some issues to resolve if we wanted to make a comeback in the 2010’s…

This is the most important aspect in the latest cinematic version of Kal-El, Man of Steel. The so called "Man of Steel" is in fact a man of doubt. He doubts everything, from his own powers to the reasons for using them, even the point of using them FOR the American people. He is not the clear-cut, single-minded and resolute Paladin of Coca Cola and apple pie. How could he be anyway - he is the first Superman WITHOUT the super-curl on his forehead. 
In the last decade the US are not exactly a beacon of freedom, humanity, tolerance, progress and - most importantly - peace. But they're trying Ringo, they're trying reaaaal hard to become that again... And one can see that in MoS, in Clark's decision to take that "leap of faith" and trust the humans, above all trust the Americans. In one of the most ironic lines of the film Kal-El states:

 -I grew up in Kansas general, how much more American can I be? 

(H. Cavill was born in the Channel Islands. Just goes to show that UK and European actors are slowly taking over Hollywood - Dr. House was British, half of The Walking Dead's cast are limeys, True Blood is from all over the Commonwealth, not to mention the ENTIRE cast of GoT are Irish).