Friday, September 24, 2010

Sometimes I'm embarrassed by Superman.

I'm a big fan of Superman - at least in theory.  The character is such an important icon in pop culture and I'm convinced that he's one of the most important figures in American mythology, right up there with, say, Paul Bunyan and Uncle Sam.  He's the fictionalized embodiment of the story of immigration to this country, with Jewish and Christian allegories thrown in the mix.  In short, he's a very deep, complex character.

That's not to say that Superman always lives up to his potential, though - being owned by DC Comics, and by default Warner Bros., means that the character is almost sure to stay stagnant as long as he remains financially lucrative, and that's a shame - he's got such potential as more than just a logo to slap on lunch boxes (but those are cool, too).

Superman recently eclipsed the #700 mark in his self-named title, while Action Comics climbs closer to #900.  Around such "anniversary" issues, companies often try to change things up a little to bring attention to the characters featured in those books.  Of course, we often get the illusion of change in lieu of real, meaningful change, but new things are nonetheless tried in times such as these.

In the a recent issue of the title Superman, a woman confronts the Man of Steel and accosts him for not saving her husband from a heart attack (or some similar ailment).  This apparently affects Superman to such a great degree that he decides to walk across the country to meet "real" people.  Why this would make any sense is beyond me - it would seem that Superman would realize that he can't save everybody, and by giving up his quest for global harmony to walk from Atlantic to Pacific seems rather self defeating in any case.  But, I suppose the editors of the book thought this would make Superman more relatable, and hey, it's their book.

Issue #702 was released recently, and it brings Superman to some fairly economically burdened cities in the state of Michigan.  Here Superman meets some young men playing a game of basketball, and proceeds to talk to them in the most embarrassing way possible.  Superman, you see, apparently needs to work on his "street" lingo, as he says Hey fellas!  Mind if I dial in?  "Dial in"?  Really?  Superman?  You can knock the sun out of the sky but you think it's okay to talk like you're on a very special episode of Full House?

Superman, the jerk he apparently is, goes ahead and humiliates those he's playing against, but wait!  It's for a good reason.  He invites the outcast of the group to play, and lets that kid strip the ball away from him - and then, miraculously, the rest of the group accepts the weaker kid as a friend.  As if they're stupid enough to believe he actually beat Superman in a game of basketball.

I don't know.  I realize that Superman comes off sometimes as a big Boy Scout, but sometimes the people in charge seem to want to make him out to be the biggest nerd alive, and I just don't get that.  He's a nice guy, a guy you'd want to be friends with, a guy you'd find it easy to trust and depend on - not the kid who was home schooled his entire life.

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