As much as I love comic books, and am a fan of most of the iconic characters in the realm, there is one however that I lost interest in a long time ago…and that’s Superman. I’ve been asked why I have such disdain for the most popular and recognizable figure in the history of comics. And the answer is quite simple: flaws make things/people interesting.
Think about it. Really. Think about your favorite characters from literature, television, cinema, or history. Who are your heroes? Why do you like them? What makes them interesting? What draws you to them? Is it the great things they did? Possibly. That’s probably part of it. But I’d wager that there’s some flaw in them that you either relate to, or admire that they were able to overcome. I know mine do.
Even in the world of superheroes, the most interesting characters are the ones that despite their amazing abilities have some shortcoming that draws readers in. Batman, the pinnacle of human perfection in every facet, yet his distrust and suspicion of almost everyone around him can border on paranoia and keeps those he cares about (and those that care about him) at arm’s length. Peter Parker is a social outcast. This leads him to overcompensate and can be rather cocky at times when he’s fighting crime as Spider-Man. He’s also responsible for the death of his first love, Gwen Stacy, which will forever weigh on him. Iron Man is an arrogant, womanizing, alcoholic. Daredevil is blind and has an even worse history with the women he has loved than Spider-Man. He may not be directly responsible like Spidey is, but he is the reason that so many of them have wound up dead.
Now let’s look at Superman. What are his flaws? He has no real weakness, aside from a glowing green rock (which is a terribly lame weakness, by the way). He has strength rivaled only by the Hulk, speed second only to the Flash, invincibility, heat vision, x-ray vision, frost breath, unmatched senses, genius-level intellect, an absolute moral compass, and can fly at sonic speeds, which, since he doesn’t require oxygen, can be done in outer space. With all of this, there isn’t a conceivable scenario in which Superman can’t emerge victorious with little to no effort. I want to be surprised when I read. I don’t want to be able to see the ending coming before I get there. I’ve never gotten that sense with Superman. He will always win. He will always prevail. He cannot be stopped. So is the outcome ever really in doubt? That leads to a pretty boring read. Even his life outside of Superman is perfect. He is married to the love of his life. He has a stable job. Yeah, he lost his biological parents when his home planet of Krypton exploded, but he was adopted as a baby by the practically perfect all-American Kent family. And while they act like he’s the last member of his people, other Kryptonians keep popping up. So even the things that would make him slightly interesting, aren’t even true anymore.
Like I’ve said before, I loved Superman as a child. I think every boy (and some girls) does at some point. When you’re a child, he seems so much bigger than life…so incredible. You pretend what it would be like to be able to do everything…to have every power imaginable to help people. But with so many other characters that I saw helping others with no real superpowers (Batman, Captain America, Moon Knight, Green Arrow, the Punisher), how could I not out grow that?