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Friday, 5 July 2013

Guest piece: Why we need Man of Steel

Here is Dr Batman again to kick some Superman knowledge for you guys. What is interesting about this piece is that he gave it to me months ago - way before Man of Steel was released. I would be interested to read about how his expectations married with reality. I've spoken to many Superman comic and Donner fans who were really not happy about this film - more so than Superman Returns. It is almost like Man of Steel was a personal affront to them.

Anyway, enjoy.

When I was growing up I always preferred Marvel characters because they felt more real to me. Peter Parker felt more like my imaginary best friend: a geeky kid who I could relate to. They all had troubles that many believe make them more human and realistic than their DC counterparts. As I grew older though I noticed something that these heroes tend not to have that DC’s do: they lack a strong moral compass. Few characters (I would argue in any fiction) have as strong moral compass as the two heroes that make up World’s Finest: Superman and Batman. For newer fans just look at the film The Dark Knight to see how strong a moral compass Batman has. But the modern audience gives a lot of slack to the one that started it all, that big, blue boy scout himself Superman, for being too powerful and old hat. Well I believe we need some of his values, some of that truth and justice today making him even more relevant than ever.

Superman never truly goes away but it seems that he always appears or returns to prominence when the world really needs him. When Superman was first created in the 1930s we were going through a worldwide depression. The world was on the brink of World War and economic meltdown. Two Jewish New Yorkers, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel created The Man of Steel: a man that was for the every American. Superman always fought for the people and showed us what we could do. Clark Kent had a good job that the people could relate to. He wasn’t a rich billionaire like Bruce Wayne. He, like the rest of the people, had to work. As Superman, he showed the world what they could do with their full potential, embodying the American Dream. Superman was a character that personified hope. As Batman struggled through the gritty Gotham city, embodying everything bad about the world after the Wall-Street crash, with The Dark Knight being the only shining light in the city; Superman was different. Metropolis and The Man of Steel showed what we could do if we all worked together and fought to the best we could, understanding that yes we were going through a difficult time but things could be better. He symbolised hope.

When Superman made his first major appearance on the big screen in Richard Donner’s 1978 seminal work the world was again in a mess. Once again the worldwide economy was suffering and Britain was struggling through The Winter of Discontent. We needed that spark of hope that everything could be ok. Yes Superman The Movie was just a film but at the forefront had a character who never judged or blamed his common man. He believed in working hard and fighting for what he believed in. he believed in making sure that he was the best person he could be.

In this post 9/11world where we seem to constantly be on the brink of terror, where we are suffering through recession after recession, where we could be about to face Nuclear War is it not fitting that The Man of Steel returns once more to give us that fable that everything will be alright. That we need to start trying to help each other rather than blame each other. The Man of Steel makes me believe again, it makes me feel like we can do everything that we need to do. The Man of Steel directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Christopher Nolan seems to have hit the nail on the head from the trailer. Superman has a strong moral stance that he believes in, that he will fight for, that he would die for (Bear Edit: That he would kill for?). He is here to give the people of earth something to strive towards. One day we could all be supermen.     

I have heard people argue that he is too powerful, leading to Superman hardly even throwing a punch in Superman Returns. But again this just illustrates his strong moral stance. I see Superman as a god. He is a modernised version of the bible. Jor-El (God) sends his only son Kal-El aka Superman (Jesus) to earth where he is adopted by Jonathan (Joseph) and Martha (Mary) Kent who bring him up to the best humanity can offer. They could have taught little Kal-El, or Clark as they name him, to use his power for himself and to put people down but instead he is taught that he must constantly think that he has this great power and should only use it when he has to. Superman at the end of the day has unbelievable power. Can you imagine the strain he goes under to control himself? To make sure that one punch doesn’t kill Lex Luthor, to make sure that when he puts his fist to the ground to fly he doesn’t cause an earthquake.   

In this ever smaller world we live in, we don’t need finger pointing and a blame culture. We should look to better ourselves. We should look to accomplish wonders. We need that big red S: we need hope.