As you know, Batman is my dude. He’s the greatest character and hero and due to his innumerable faults, the most human. But this column isn’t about a human — this is about an alien, who set the standard for what a super hero is.
I don’t remember first learning about Superman. Batman I recall distinctly but not the Man of Steel. There just always was Superman, a towering pillar of light, with Batman his distinct shadow. Batman is truly a “by any means necessary” type hero with Superman carrying the banner of “truth, justice, and the American way.” Of course, based on recent years, Batman’s way is probably a little more American, sadly. Superman epitomizes the good guy. He eschews force if he can help it but will not hesitate to fight savagely if his adopted home is threatened. He’s a badass when he wants to be, which pretty much defines what badass means.
Under the best of circumstances, the story of Superman could have been the origin of any super villain. His homeworld destroyed, he grows up among a race of beings genetically inferior who he could easily conquer. Except he doesn’t. He was raised right and by humans, pretty much defeating the whole nurture-versus-nature argument (in the comic book world anyway). Kal-el knows what’s right and rarely veers into gray area. And he hasn’t in seventy-five years.
Clark Kent might be Superman’s id, the bumbling goofball with big shoulders, but it’s the cast of characters surrounding which ground him. Ma and Pa Kent laid the foundation, Perry White gave him a job, Jimmy Olsen makes him laugh, and Lois Lane is his heart. Even Lex Luthor holds a pivotal role as what can happen when power corrupts, forever giving Superman his foil.
Seventy-five years of a superhero, THE superhero, is the definition of pop culture. Superman started out in a comic, then made his way to radio, animation, then television, and finally feature films. Zack Snyder’s most recent Man of Steel trailer has me captivated, and I couldn’t be more excited to see this iteration. I’ve owned the Max Fleischer cartoons for some time and it’s great they are now on YouTube for everyone to see. If you get a chance to listen to any of the radio shows, check them out — that’s where Kryptonite came from, not the comic, which is fascinating.
Happy 75th anniversary, Superman — here’s hoping you get 75 more!
You can watch Steven Smith every Sunday — and right now! — on his new MTV Geek program Cooking With Thrones .