Friday, August 17, 2012


So I found this today and thought it was worth noting. It's an essay about Superman and Jesus, from a site called At the Intersection of Faith and Culture. It's interesting stuff, though I disagree with a basic point.

The author, Jack Kerwick, agrees with the common notion that heroes must be relatable. By which I think he, and others, mean that they have to be flawed so that we can see they are human, finding bits of ourselves in them. Now, he's talking about Superman and Jesus. Sure, we can look at their psychologies and see some evidence of humanity there, but I think there we need to consider that there are different rules when thinking about gods.

When it comes to heroes, sure, we need to see their lives as basically similar to our own, different in degree but not in kind. But gods are different in kind. This is, to me, the most interesting intellectual component of Christianity. How is Jesus both human and divine? It's an old question, and it sparked quite the controversy in the early church. I'm not going to even try to answer it here. But...can we ask a similar question about Superman? How is he both human and alien?

John Byrne answered that question in his Man of Steel series. Superman may be genetically Kryptonian, but he was raised on earth and has chosen to stay here to make it a better place. So he's born alien but chooses to be human.

On a related note...

Here's a link to an essay on Superman, Batman, and morality. The author is a Superman supporter, finding that the character's optimism is preferable to Batman's pessimism; that the unattainable ideal is a better model than the lower bar set by Batman. I generally agree, but then he gets into some specifics that I can't agree with. Such as...

Batman is certainly a more tempting role model because his is an attainable standard...

I've heard this argument many times. Batman is better than Superman because he's human. He doesn't have super powers, so his heroism is all the more impressive. Leonard Finkelman, the author of the above piece, doesn't agree that Batman's better because he's human, but he's making that part of the argument. The thing is, Batman's no less superior to humanity than Superman. He's just as imaginary. To be Batman, you've gotta be the strongest, fastest, smartest, richest, and toughest human being on the planet. You've got to have the several lives' worth of time to perfect your mind and your body to that point. You have to have the incredible luck to be born into a phenomenally wealthy family. That's not quite as impossible as being from another planet, but when we get down to it, there aren't degrees of impossibility.

Anyway, there are some great insights in the essay. And he ends on a great, mythological note:

Like Kant, I am continually filled with wonder by the starry heavens above and the moral law within, and to be a Superman is to bring the one closer to the other.

No comments:

Post a Comment