I am really into superheroes. This is fairly evident to anyone with even a passing familiarity to me. On first dates, I ask the person sitting across from me about their favorite heroes and villains. I’m the first one to organize a viewing of the latest, greatest Batman movie. I even write about comic book characters when I’m trying to get out of a slump.

I love superheroes.

Despite the recent success of the many, many Marvel movies, I think we can all agree that DC Comics has the best characters. Period. Deadpool, Spiderman, Daredevil, and the X-Men are amazing, but they’ve never set my imagination aflame. I can close a comic book and feel satisfied at a story well-told. With DC Comics, I set the comic down and wonder.

That’s not to say DC Comics doesn’t make mistakes (Have you seen any of their live action movies?), or that I love all the writers. In fact, I could film a ten-hour rant on every decision that’s made me want to scream.

Passion is a double-edged sword. If you don’t have a strong opinion on the outcome, are you really invested in the story?

While I usually to stick to Batman and other Gotham-related stories, I’ve recently taken a deep dive into Superman. Before, I’d never given the Kryptonian hero much thought. He was a known quantity, the comic book equivalent of a sneaker. Useful and easily matched with most outfits, but lacking the excitement of a strappy, zebra print stiletto.

Yes, I know I just implied Batman was the shoe equivalent to a high heel, and no, I don’t care.

To be honest, I’ve always found Superman to be a bit boring.

Then I discovered the 2001-2011 show Smallville and I ended up going down the Superman rabbit hole. Since then, I’ve read a lot of comics and rewatched a few movies with fresh eyes.

Superman is an impossibly powerful, yet somehow still down-to-earth man. In most iterations, he trails after his love interest, usually Lois Lane, like a lost puppy-dog. His moral superiority can be grating, but he’s generally just an omnipotent boy scout. At least, that’s what I assumed.

Now I believe that Superman fulfills a vital niche. Other heroes are often driven by past trauma or a desire to prove themselves. While everyone’s moral compass plays a part in their decision to take up vigilantism, his sense of right and wrong is the only reason Superman put on a cape.

Supposedly, he represents hope. He has the symbol emblazoned on his chest. In all the movies he gives lengthy monologues on the concept. He might inspire hope inside the people who spot the red cape while their plane falls out of the sky, but it isn’t his emotional motivation.

In my absolutely correct opinion, he’s a better representation of compassion. Clark Kent lives on Earth. He has every reason to stop it from being destroyed. Fighting supervillains like Darkseid and Doomsday isn’t heroic. It’s brave, certainly, but who wants to see their home destroyed? His devotion to rescuing people from muggings and natural disasters is far more commendable.

Superman can sympathize with the child who’s seen their mother murdered, but he can’t empathize with them. He doesn’t fully understand the pain and panic associated with being trapped in a burning building, because that’s a struggle he’s never faced. At its most basic, compassion is the capacity to recognize the suffering of others and the willingness to help. Although he doesn’t experience pain as frequently as most humans, Superman cares about the world and has dedicated his life to saving others.

This comes at a cost. In most iterations, he has to hide his identity from the government and the public. Every time he puts on the totally-not-spandex uniform, he’s risking exposure. Superman values his life as Clark Kent, yet he consistently risks it to help others. Furthermore, his heroic activities often put a strain on his romantic relationships, familial duties, and career aspirations. Much of the conflict in the comics derives from this tension, as opposed to his takedown of the villain of the week.

I originally assumed he had little internal conflict, but that isn’t true either. He struggles with his powers, his feelings of not belonging, and guilt. Lots and lots of guilt.

Even Superman can’t always arrive in time to help.

He projects a confident image into the world, but underneath the cape, he’s more Clark Kent. He’s insecure and uncertain of his place in the world. He second guesses his decisions. He’s committed to upholding the moral values Martha and Jonathan Kent raised him with, but it’s an impossibly high standard. He’s a ridiculously overpowered alien with an extraordinarily human outlook.

To the writer in me, this gives his narratives endless possibilities.

I reject the idea that Superman has to be edgy or morally ambiguous to be interesting. In recent years, there’s been a lot of Evil Superman type characters. Invincible’s Omni-Man, Homelander from The Boys, and the movie Brightburn have all fed into this trope. DC Comics themselves has had several stories that fed into this trope. While on occasion I love a good Temporarily Evil Superman, I’m usually most excited to see what forces him to become a hero. To me, the trope itself is boring. An evil Superman is no more exciting than Darkseid. We see overpowered villains all the time. It isn’t special.

Superman is the gold standard for heroes in the DC extended universe. Many heroes follow his moral code and attempt to build the same relationship he has with the general public. Second generation heroes like Dick Grayson and Wally West view him as an inspiration.

He isn’t perfect. Sometimes he’s a real asshole. Sometimes he’s self-righteous or acts like he has a god complex. He’s a flawed individual who consistently tries to be better.

While his storylines still lack the emotional complexity and moral ambiguity of my favorite heroes and antiheroes, I’ve decided to promote Superman.

No longer is he a sneaker, now I liken him to an ankle boot. Cute, versatile, and utterly necessary for a well-dressed woman. Never quite as sexy as a knee length boot, but something you can wear on a first date or visit to your grandparents.

Author: Louise Rainey

Louise Rainey is an author and apocalypse enthusiast. Although she primarily writes in the fantasy and science fiction genres, she’s been preparing for a myriad of untimely disasters since childhood. It’s possible she might’ve read a few too many survivalist books at an impressionable age. Regardless, she’s ready to rock n’ roll at the first sign of zombies, and a Yellowstone eruption will never take her by surprise. When she’s not preparing for the demise of her Texas home, she’s baking, listening to the same song on repeat, or playing with her gorgeous cat, Robin and her monster-dog Percy.

Louise has a degree in psychology and neuroscience and an unofficial doctorate in Random Ridiculous Knowledge. As a child, she won several writing contests, and she’s been trying to top her blue ribbon at the state fair ever since. Her latest published books include Benevolent Keepers and The Frog Eater.


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