Friday, May 18, 2012

So we chose not to deconstruct the superhero but to take him at face value, as a fiction that was trying to tell us something wonderful about ourselves. Somewhere, in our darkest night, we made up the story of a man who will never let us down and that seemed worth investigating.

--Grant Morrison, talking about All Star Superman in Wired.


That interview was from a few years ago now, but it's an interesting thought. He wants to investigate what it means to 'never let us down.' It's not always intuitive. It's not always obvious. What's the right way to help people? What's the right way to be a hero? What does it mean to be good? In interviews I've read and conducted, people say time and time again that we always know what Superman would do in any situation.

There's a pretty good recent book called Do the Gods Wear Capes? by Ben Saunders. There's a chapter on Superman, and it's pretty much about this question. In his view, Superman is basically a way for writers, from Jerry Siegel onward, to explore this very notion of 'the good.' And it's got a nice Mike Allred cover.

I guess this is why the Supermen (Supermans?) of so many recent incarnations are so troubling to me (I'm looking at you, Earth One--sort of you, too, Smallville, though I haven't read the new comic version of that). If Superman represents what we think of as someone who is the definition of good, why do those guys stand around so much, waiting for there to be no choice but to act?

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