Superman is a character that has stayed with us for over 80 years and is close to the hearts of a lot of fans. For many, he has been the beacon of hope and continues to be to this day.
One might ask “why is it that the character is dear to so many? What made him that way?” However, the most asked question when it comes to Superman often causes an upset amongst fans. “Is the character still relevant today?”
Superman was an idea conceived by two Jewish immigrants, namely Jerome Seigel and Joseph Shuster, Jerry and Joe for short. At first, “Supes” was surprisingly not the character we know and love today, but instead a bald mad man who wanted to conquer the world with his telepathic abilities in a story called “The Reign of the Super-Man.”
The name was inspired by the works of one german philosopher named Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche who was famous for the introduction of the concepts like the Übermensch, which roughly translates to Overman. Later, Jerry Seigle reimagined the character to be a force for good and modeled him after the Greek God, Hercules. That is when Superman was born. After a few years the world was introduced to a refugee from a distant planet who uses his powers for good in the pages of Action Comics no. 1, where the character can be seen tackling social issues of that era. Superman, in a way, was created as a warrior for social Justice and a hero for every person.
His success was massive and the hero quickly became the symbol of hope to a struggling nation. Very soon, the character became greater than his creators had ever imagined as he was being featured and celebrated in fairs and parades. He was a cultural icon and was the charter for a new genre. The symbol on his chest was an “S” shield, which has now become one of the most recognized symbols around the globe.
Superman has gone on to have multiple iterations and adaptations over the years, constantly evolving and telling new stories while simultaneously instilling moral values and inspiring people to be something greater, to be better, to be super. The character has helped a lot of people in his lifetime, whether it means giving courage to a kid to stand up against his bullies in school being the symbol of hope that shines as a beam of light helping you get through a dark part of your life.
Why is the character so inspiring? The answer to that question is pretty simple. Even though Superman is a character with absolute power, he chooses to use that power for the benefit of the people, and the world as a whole, contradicting against the saying “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
You can see many posts and forums online saying why people love Superman but one of the most compelling examples includes panels from “All-Star Superman.” In the comic by Grant Morrison there is a beautiful section where Superman prevents a girl from committing suicide. It’s a very simple scene where a young girl is on the verge of stepping off of the building, crying. She tells the Man of Steel that all of her hope is lost and she has no one to talk to. She feels isolated and lonely and Superman arrives and says “It’s never as bad as it seems. You are stronger than you think you are. Trust me.”
Those words meant a lot to that girl and also mean the same to the people who read it. After speaking to the girl, Superman then embraced her, saving her in the process. Deep down Superman is a friend who just wants to do the right thing. When asked about the philosophy of the character Christopher Reeve, the actor who most famously played Kal-El in “Superman: The Movie” (1978), replied ”A friend and that’s what people really need the most, they don’t need a strong arm. You know, a one man vigilante force. They need a friend.”
The character is basically the blueprint for every superhero we know and love today. In fact, the modern comics landscape would not be the same if it were not for Superman.
He always had been the stepping stone for the modern representation of superheroes in media. Even Kevin Feige, a producer behind the founding architecture of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) had once stated that “Superman: The Movie” is the blueprint for all their movies. Superman has always been the leader of the pack and takes the superhero genre up, up and away.
Every generation was lucky to have their own version or iteration of the character in media showing the evolution of the character.
With “Superman and Lois” and “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” premiering, we ask that fateful question –– is the character relevant in a modern and more cynical world?
“It’s never as bad as it seems. You are stronger than you think you are. Trust me.”Superman
The answer is yes. We need him more than ever and will continue to for forever. We are living in a time where there is a lot of negativity. People don’t think of their fellow human beings and indulge in various acts of violence. Pollution and other harmful acts cloud the planet. In these times a character with strong moral values, who enacts good deeds and shows others to do what’s right, spreads positivity and hope.
Hope is something we as humans will always need. To quote Brandon Routh’s Superman, “Even in the darkest times hope cuts through, Hope is the light that lifts us from darkness.”
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, actor Tyler Hoechlin, who is playing the Man of Steel on “Superman and Lois” said, “As far as being relevant, the one thing I always look at is, ‘When is it irrelevant that you need someone who is always there to do good? I hope to God we don’t have a time where we don’t think it’s important to have people around who just stand up for what’s right and help those who can’t help themselves. For me, that relevant question always comes back to that. I don’t know a time that we’re ever not going to need people who step in to do good and do the right thing.”
This article was originally featured in the Daily Planet’s Spring Magazine.