Sunday, April 22, 2018
The Consolation of Superman
This week marked issue #1000 of Action Comics, which happened to be released quite fortuitously on the 80th anniversary of Superman's first appearance, in Action Comics #1. While I have been drawn back into comic books over the past few years after two decades aways, I have never really been a big Superman guy. Picking up Action Comics #1000 and a few other comics with Supes here and there might have me changing my mind.
As has been well-documented, the rise of "prestige television" elevated a certain kind of anti-hero. Tony Soprano and Walter White, perhaps the two most emblematic, both wanted to do right by their families as they committed heinous acts and ultimately alienated the people they thought they were protecting. We have been hit by a deluge of "dark and gritty" ever since. In the cinemas, that has also meant Superman becoming violent and unlikeable in the Zach Snyder films.
Superman is perhaps the ultimate example in our cultural heritage of the untainted, pure hero, but even he fell to the pervasive need for our heroes to be tainted. In the comics, however, he is still an embodiment of the qualities we wish to see most in ourselves. Instead of rejecting this character as corny or silly, I find myself embracing him.
We live in an era where the absolute worst kind of human being holds the highest power in the land. In a time like this, the concept of heroism needs to be redeemed. After all, Superman had his origins in the Great Depression as the world was about to go to war. In tough times we need things to rally us, to give us belief. Some of the stories in Action Comics 1000 comment on this, implicitly and explicitly. I feel my fight waning every day after over a year of both commitment and political insanity. Not a lot can snap me out of my sense of doom, but Superman does. If that's corny, well corn me up.