When you deal in the genre of capes and cowls, one of the first questions people inevitably ask you is usually the same: who’s your favorite superhero? Now I could be an ass and list one of my own, but everyone involved in that exchange knows exactly what they’re really asking. They want to know who is my favorite from the art form that first crafted the modern superhero: comic books.
My default answer to this question is The Flash. I love his snarky banter, odd-ball gallery of rogues, and unwillingness to stop talking or flirting even in perilous situations. Add in that I have fond memories of watching the live-action show with my dad as a kid, and The Flash is perfectly respectable answer. Here’s the thing though: it’s also a lie. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Flash, and hands down he is my favorite superhero character in that I enjoy watching his adventures in various mediums. But that doesn’t make him my favorite superhero. To me, superheroes have always been about more than just the level of entertainment they bring, I think one should also look at the way they impact their readers, and even how their influence extends into our world.
So, by that criteria, my favorite superhero is the original superhero. He’s got dozens of nicknames, some kind, some not, but he’s always had one name everyone knows him by: Superman.
See, that’s something I actually have to keep to myself, because in any respectable community of comic enthusiasts, admitting that Superman is your favorite is like saying you prefer the Colin Farrell reboot of Total Recall. Superman is the hero that newbs cut their teeth on, he gets in you in the door but then you’re expected to delve deep into the annals of comic stories and find someone with more depth and texture. Liking Superman gets you negative nerd-cred, and declaring him as your favorite can get your opinions on the subject flat-out dismissed.
And honestly, that’s okay. I’m not here to rail against the cannibalization of their own that so many nerd-cultures participate in. Way smarter people than me have done much better jobs of it. I’m here, confessing my sin of Superman enjoyment, to make the case of why I love Big Blue so much.
Earlier I said that, to me, the true measure of a superhero is how they impact our world more than how entertaining they are in theirs. That comes from the fact that I look at these characters like a writer, and every writer out there, hell every artist out there, dreams of their creations having some impact on the world. Books were what shaped my view of the world as a child, what instilled some of my morals and how I looked at both what lay outside my mind as well as what lay inside. At the very pinnacle of their effectiveness, books were the refuge I turned to when I needed to believe there was a little more goodness and hope in the world than I was able to find nearby. These stories are false, of course, but the effect they can generate on people is very much real. It’s something I experienced firsthand in my life, and it’s something I dearly hope I’m able to provide to someone else one day.
To that effect, I don’t think anyone from the pages of comics is a more persistent or recognizable icon than Superman. Not the character himself, whose popularity in various mediums will wax and wane depending the skill it’s handled with, but the idea of the character, of what he represents. Nearly limitless power being used to help people, even at the cost of having a normal life himself. That’s damned inspiring, especially living a world like ours where we see how power really plays out.
Really though, I think my love of Superman comes from the fact that he’s the image people often turn to when they’re truly afraid or weak. The big S is something we mentally project on ourselves in the bad times; trying to emulate a thing we could never be, yet in the act of trying do take a few steps closer toward. I like that Superman’s entire purpose was not to try and stop one bad guy, or avenge some wrong he felt guilty for, it was to inspire humanity. Superman tries to make us, collectively, better than we are, which is pretty fucking rad in my book.
Besides; flight, laser vision, and super-strength? That’s just badass right there.
After two weeks of promo blogs, I'm happy to bring back the Youtube break section, and I'm coming back strong. For most of you I hope you're already seen this, but for those who haven't it needs posting. I've probably been laughing to this series at least once a day since Cracked.com released it.