To be fair, Superman means different things to different people, and it seems that every generation has a new take on the character. Superman as a concept is strong enough to withstand those revisions while still retaining the essence of what makes him a character for the ages - a strong moral background, a willingness to stand up for what's right, and a longing for equality.
The 1940s and '50s were the heyday of the "father figure" Superman, who at times could be pretty condescending and narcissistic, but nevertheless lived up to the larger ideals that we know him for today. A great example of this is in the promotional image seen above. It's a public service announcement that, when taken in the context of the time, is pretty profound, and it represents, to me, what Superman is all about. Here we are in a time when minorities of all types are, at best, second-class citizens, and Superman steps up to remind us all about our social responsibilities, showcasing the promise and potential of America. The message still resonates today! What a powerful message, and what a character to stand up for what's right. I love patriotic, inclusive Superman!
Superman, along with the rest of the DC universe, underwent a fairly well-covered reboot in 2011. While there have been some bright spots, the results have been, for the most part, pretty terrible, and Superman can't escape the mess that has become DC Comics in recent months. This has nothing to do with the character himself, but rather how he's been written in his self-titled "Superman" book. If ever there has been a ship lost at sea, it's been the Superman title, and it doesn't seem to be getting any better any time soon.
I realize that Superman has been through some rough patches before, and his high commercial status often supersedes the desire to tell challenging stories. Just before the reboot, there was a horrendous "Superman walks across America for no reason" story that was the epitome of boring, for example. But this current run rivals or surpasses even that. A great example of what I'm talking about is the character "H'El" (OH, I GET IT!! HOW CLEVER!!!), as seen above, who looks like he got hot and decided to wear his shirt tied around his waist, and who was brought out like some weird, brooding, Edward Cullen-type character who felt things and stuff.
Nothing could prepare me, though, for a recent issue, which made me want to jump out of my skin. I took a picture of the panel in question, and I've stared at it incredulously a few times since. Listen, DC, I can put up with a lot when it comes to comics. I've read some terrible stories in my time, and for some reason I stick with it when it comes to characters I love. But this -- THIS! -- drives me nuts. "You have no idea what it is your carrying around inside your head." What it is "YOUR" carrying around? Did I just read the most anger-inducing grammatical error of all time? No one at DC knows the difference between "your" and "you're"? Really? REALLY?
I hate Superman.