Yes, he does save lives. Yes, he does fight for the downtrodden…to a certain extent. But does he have to be such a douche about it?
I know, I know…many people out there are heralding this version of Superman as a return to the character’s “roots”. They’re saying that the original Superman would stop men from beating their wives, that he would terrorize criminals by hanging them out of windows and whatever. Sure, sure, I get it, I get it.
But that was in 1938. And that was in the very beginning of the character’s genesis.
In years since Superman has grown to stand for much, much more than just beating up on the bad guys. He’s grown to become a symbol of not just an American ideal but of doing what’s right. Of righting wrongs and righting them without sinking to his enemies’ level. To stand for something more than just punching the other guy out.
This “new” Superman in this “new” incarnation of Action Comics # 1 just comes across as a complete jerkwad. When he’s Superman. He saves lives but he does so without any regard for his opponents. When he’s fighting cops he doesn’t seem to give a crap that he’s fighting cops. The good guys. Sure, some of these cops may be corrupt (that’s never really actually addressed here) and some of the military men in this comic are following some pretty boneheaded orders but the fact is that this Superman doesn’t give a crap about authority.
Which is fine, I guess, if the authorities don’t necessarily deserve any respect. But if you look at this issue you basically have the police chasing down what is essentially a walking tank attacking whomever he feels like attacking without any real rhyme or reason. In other words, the cops are just doing their jobs. Has Superman or Clark Kent discovered any evidence of dishonesty within Metropolis’s police department? Within its local government? None of that is really addressed here. It’s just Superman going after a sleazy business man and terrorizing him to confess to his sins in a way that would never hold up in any kind of court anyway. Which doesn’t really matter because, let’s face it, superheroes and the law of the land (at least the laws of our real world) have never really made sense anyway.
But my point is this Superman has no regard for…well…anything. He’s cocky. He’s brash. And he doesn’t seem to really give a $#!% who gets in his way. Which is kind of lame. The Superman of old may have had times where he had to face down police or the military but when he did at least he seemed like he cared about whether he hurt them or not. He was responsible. He defended himself but he had respect for other people’s place in the world. Sure he would stand up to a power mad general but he would try and make sure his troops weren’t too badly hurt in the process. He had a respect for authority…or at least what that authority was supposed to represent. Which is why he was Superman.
Which is why I always loved Superman. He stood for something. No, I’m not talking about the American Way (whatever that is). I’m talking about being a good guy. Being better than your enemies and standing up for what was right. He’s always stood for that. Even from the beginning.
I guess the part that bothered me the most about this issue of Action Comics was the sequence where Clark Kent’s landlady mentions that Superman stopped a woman from being beaten by her husband. He apparently throws the husband out the window and breaks some of the husband’s ribs and causes some other damage. Really? Even in the original Action Comics #1 I think that the worst Superman did was throw the wife beater into a wall. Even when the guy pulls a knife and tries to stab him Supes just terrifies the guy to the point of making him faint. He didn’t really even hurt the guy. So this new Superman just takes the scumbag (who probably deserved a beatdown, granted) and throws him out the window without any regard for his physical safety? That’s not Superman. As we can see in the original Action Comics Superman would scare the beejesus out of the guy but he wouldn’t hurt him.
Sure, it’s probably meant to be a throwaway line that’s supposed to have some reference to the past but it says a lot about this new Superman’s personality. Mostly that he’s more Batman than Superman. This Superman doesn’t really have sympathy for even the worst of us. Which kind of makes me sad in a way. Do I really want a Superman that just has no empathy? Or who uses his powers to hurt other people because he can?
Obviously this is just a first issue and this Superman may develop into something resembling the classic Superman that I, personally, always loved. Sure the comics weren’t always great but I always loved the idea of Superman. It was the basic idea that there would be a person with almost godlike power who would defend people because it was the right thing to do. Not because he felt pressured into it. Not because he wanted to belong. He helped people and felt empathy for the weak because it was the morale thing to do. He didn’t take the easy way and try and take over. He inspired people to greater heights by being a symbol.
Which is why I’m a bit bothered by this Superman. If he’s acting like an overpowered thoughtless thug from the outset then that shows me a big difference from the Clark Kent that grew up on a farm in Kansas and was taught to respect others by his kindly farmer parents. This doesn’t seem like that Clark Kent to me. But I guess that’s the point of the new Superman. That he’s not as “nice” as he used to be. Which is disappointing. Because this new Superman wants to be more “cool” than “kindly” and it’s sad that there may be no more room in today’s comic book world for good guys were really, really good.
Well, at least the Rags Morales art was spectacular. But don’t even get me started on the awful ‘Lil Abner costume…