Is there really any surprise here? I think the minute that Superman wasn’t number 2 and Batman wasn’t number 1, everyone knew where this thing was going.
I am unashamedly a fan of Superman. I have been for years, even though I forgot that for a while. I said from the outset of my top ten list, and I have said several times on Geek Out Loud, that my favorite super heroes are the ones who are heroes. Superman epitomizes this. He is a hero at his very core. Every villain he’s ever faced, every evildoer to ever cross his path, even those who claim to fight for the same tenants of truth and justice have pointed out that Superman’s biggest weakness is not krypronite, rather it is his concern for the people he has chosen to protect.
I also think it’s important to point out that Superman has CHOSEN to protect the people of the world. Wonder Woman is a warrior. Batman is on a crusade. Superman would love to be able to live a normal life, but he realizes he can’t sit back with all of his power and do nothing to save mankind. It can be a bit cheesy at times, and Superman has for years suffered criticism because of his do-gooder nature. It is that nature that interests me about the Man of Steel.
A lot of people complain about how powerful Superman is, but that appeals to me as well. It is a strong individual that can wield the power of Superman and not abuse it. His immense power speaks volumes about the strength of his character.
I guess I was introduced to Superman on a bath towel in our home. Seriously. It’s a towel with an image of Superman in the pose from the famous Superman #1 cover. Only instead of the Metropolis skyline as a background, there’s space and some kind of domed city. As a kid, I watched Superfriends on Saturday mornings, and reruns on whatever channels would show them. I also watched the old Filmation cartoons thanks to Bozo the Clown every now and again. I also watched the classic George Reeves Superman show every now and again when it happened to be showing on a Saturday afternoon. Then, of course, there was Superman the Movie and Superman II. I vaguely remember when these movies were being shown on television and how my family scrambled for a blank video tape on which to record them when they aired. Superman II was recorded after a Little House on the Prairie reunion movie. I never watched that movie…except for the end, the littel town was destroyed and there were bunnies all over the place. I digress.
My point is, that Superman has been with me for as long as I can remember, in many different forms, and he has been my favorite super hero for a long time.
Over the years, there have been many criticisms leveled at the Man of Steel. Among those criticisms are that he’s too good, he’s too powerful, and the combination of these things makes Superman boring. Therefore, I think the best way to explain my enjoyment of the character is by answering those criticisms.
As I’ve already said, I like the fact that Superman is so powerful. Let’s face it, through the years, Superman has been given some of the coolest super powers of any super hero. Invulnerability, super strength, x-ray vision, heat vision, super speed, and of course flight. Some would argue that his super breath is kinda lame. I like the power, but I can’t argue with that particular opinion. The thing about Superman is that his powers do not define him. Rather, what defines him is the use of his power. Ask anyone what they would do with the power Superman possesses and the real world answer would be something that would benefit the wielder of the power nine times out of ten. Superman, is completely different. He chooses to use his power to help others rather than himself. He chooses to serve rather than to lead. He chooses to inspire rather than to enforce. The most interesting stories to read about Superman are the stories where he has to make the decision to continue to walk that line. Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s KINGDOM COME is an excellent example of this. Superman crosses the line just slightly and begins to force others to do things his way and the results are quite destructive.
The other main criticism that people level at the last son of Krypton is that he is too good. Referring to Superman as a boy scout has become somewhat of a backhanded comment, a little bit of an insult. I disagree with people who think that he’s too good and that makes him boring. Quite frankly, the fact that Superman chooses right and tries never to skirt the line of darkness makes him more interesting than Batman, Wolverine, The Punisher, or any number of anti-heroes. Why? Because in a world as filled with darkness and people who choose moral ambiguity over moral fiber, it’s harder to be a light than ever. Superman is not naive. He is not ignorant of the way the world is, but he chooses to keep his light shining as brightly as he possibly can. That’s something that few super heroes are seen doing anymore. It’s easy to blend in to the shadows and be a Dark Knight, there are a lot of shadows. It’s easy to allow rage and revenge to consume the soul and become a Punisher. It’s easy to shut out the world and ferociously attack like a Wolverine. What’s not easy is to never cross the line. It’s not easy to choose the light. It’s not easy to carry the burden of doing the right thing over and over again. Superman does it though. Even when it’s hard to know what is right, when everything seems to be shades of gray, Superman chooses right. That’s intriguing to me. That’s interesting.
Finally, I find it amazing that an alien would inspire humanity the way Superman has. How is this possible? I think it’s because within every child there is the desire to grow up and be great. Every child dreams of doing something with his life. No one ever plans to fail. No one every plans on being stuck in a monotonous job. No one every plans on being ordinary their entire life. Superman appeals to the child that still resides in all of us saying, “You can take what you have and do great things with it. Don’t abuse your talent, your abilities, you time. Use them to do the greatest things you can do.” Though, we often don’t, we always wish we did. Superman uses what he has to it’s fullest for the best of reasons. That’s inspirational. That’s something to work for. That’s why he’s my favorite.
You know, I just realized that for the past two or three paragraphs, I’ve been writing about Superman as if he were real. That’s what talking about the character does to me, he gets me talking like a kid again. So, that’s it, that’s my top ten. Now, up, up, and away.