Something I read online has me thinking about Superman today. Superman usually bores me as a hero because he’s so powerful and so many writers try to out-power him and write him with lame external conflicts, when really Superman’s struggles and challenges should be so much deeper. Superman should rarely if ever be depicted in a fight in a comic again. Here’s why:
Do you remember what it was like when you were a child, and you were upset, and hurt, and screaming mad. And then an adult, perhaps a parent or grandparent, they scooped you up and held you until the tears dried and the hurt stopped, just a little.
Have you ever known what it was like to feel someone holding back their strength, the gentleness in a touch that comes from this restraint?
Now imagine you’re a low level supervillain and you’re trying to fight that guy.
It’s impossible to overstate just how strong Superman really is. He is a god come to Earth, for all intents and purposes. He can move the Earth, fulcrum or not. The guy could flinch and destroy cities.
Imagine being in a fist fight with that.
If Superman were to lose one iota of control, he could kill thousands. His entire life must be like walking through a room filled with cobwebs, determined to never tear a single web.
The only way in which Superman can show his true strength to ordinary mortals is with his compassion. I guarantee that when Superman catches you the supervillain, envelops you in his arms and flies you off to prison so you can pay society for your crimes, you cannot help but to feel that compassion, that restraint, all that love and adoration for his adopted species.
Superman’s embrace must be like the embrace of a fatherly God for those that experience it. Nobody should come away from him unchanged. His very presence in the world should cause massive ripples of positive change. Nobody caught by Superman should ever return to crime, knowing that they felt in those intimate moments.
Well, nobody but Lex Luthor anyway. Lex felt nothing, because he’s broken at such a fundamental level. And he wants everyone else broken that way too. He can’t feel what Superman is radiating with every action, and he never will. So he will destroy Superman, but even more, he will destroy your faith in the hero as well.
Or perhaps they lash out like the do over and over again because they do know what its like in Superman’s embrace. Maybe their villain dads weren’t around a lot and they didn’t have strong role models. But if you threaten people, maybe you can get his attention again. You can feel that again.
When nobody in the world cares about you, Superman still does. He has that much love and compassion because he has to.
That would make Lex the one who needs it most of all.
I’m not sure which interpretation I prefer.