Happy Birthday to the Man of Steel

This week is the 75th anniversary of the creation of Superman and the debut of the first comic book to feature the Man of Steel, Action Comics #1. I love that issue. This week also saw the release of the new trailer for the highly anticipated summer blockbuster Man of Steel staring Henry Cavill (I like that dude’s name). It got me thinking about the Big Blue Boy Scout and what he means.

There’s a scene in the trailer where Lois Lane and Superman are in an interrogation room, with military and scientific minds on the other side of a two-way mirror. Lois asks Superman what the “S” on his chest stands for. His reply comes straight out of Mark Waid’s Superman: Birthright, “It’s not an ‘S.’ On my world it means, ‘hope.'” And that sums up the character perfectly. Superman is about hope.

The hope looks different depending upon who you talk to. He’s a symbol of what is good about America. He’s a model of how love and accept those who are different than us. He’s a model of how to live out a truly moral life. But it all comes back to hope. That in this dark, evil, and cynical world he is a ray of light and a breath of fresh air.

And this is why the movie will succeed where Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy can’t. Batman is not about hope. He just isn’t. He’s about coping. He’s about turning fear and loss and pain and hurt into a weapon to inflict upon those who hurt us and stole our innocence. But the second Batman is able to move past his parent’s death is the second he no longer can be Batman. The Dark Knight hides in the shadows. Watch the interrogation of Maroni in The Dark Knight. If a cop for FBI agent did that we’d demand that officer be arrested for cruel and unusual punishment and torture. Batman wears a mask, he hides behind his pain and loss.

Superman, on the other hand, he’s lost both his birth parents (and planet) and his adoptive parents. Yet not only does he cope but he moves past the hurt and the loss. He transcends. He is able to be more than that. He can soar above the clouds and the darkness and live in the daylight. He doesn’t try to scare or intimidate (okay, Siegel and Shuster’s Superman did!) his enemies. He boldly calls them out before the world. He exposes them, often in the form of an editorial piece in the Daily Planet written by Clark Kent. He doesn’t wear black and hide in the shadows, he wears bright, visible colors for everyone to see him. He doesn’t hide behind masks but shows his face openly, inviting people to trust him (Yes Clark is a mask, I know but even Clark is a person whose very personality invites trust and relationship).

Don’t think I don’t like Batman or Nolan’s films. On the contrary I love both. But there’s something about Superman that sets him apart from all other heroes. He’s an inspiration. He’s an aspiration. If Batman is the hero we deserve but not the hero we need, then Superman is the hero we need. To lead us out of our despair and cynicism that has marked our world for so long and into a new light. He will help us accomplish wonders.

Happy birthday, Superman. Thanks for 75 years of inspiration–or 29.

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~ by hankimler on April 19, 2013.

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