I gotta say, this idea that Batman is broken and therefore relatable, whereas Superman isn’t, makes sense to me. Every time I see a Superman movie or read a Superman comic, I am desperate to find some human foible in him, something normal that I can relate to. I’d seriously rather have a whole issue where his problem is “They keep giving me the wrong drink at Starbucks” than “Starro is invading the planet.”
I think the problems with Superman in the 21st century are manifold. One, he’s a child’s character, an idealization made flesh. We are in a cynical age. We don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus is a fiction, etc.
Two, Supes is informed by Judeo-Christian stories and ethics. He does good because it’s the right thing. We are too secular and too atheistic to buy into a powerful man doing good for its own sake. What’s his real motive? A hero like Batman we get. He’s out for revenge, he’s a little damaged like most of us. But Superman? Forget it.
Three, and this is where the movies come into play. Folks are trying to redefine Superman using more modern ideas that don’t fit him. A lot of folks got upset when Snyder mentioned reading “Atlas Shrugged” while working on Justice League. Folks took that to mean Supes was being recast as a Randian hero. Which really doesn’t fit her philosophy. After all, by Randian logic, Supes should have used his gifts to become a captain of business or science.
...Superman is the ultimate Man for Others in an age when most are out for themselves. They are the Randians in that sense.”
Fourth, “Man of Steel” suffers from not knowing how to repackage the Superman concept while repackaging the plots from earlier movies. Because of that, the beats don’t make the same sense they once did... for example, the Death of Pa Kent. “Superman” milks it for all that it’s worth in terms of the moral lessons that Supes uses to resolve the death of Lois later. In MoS, Kent dies in a meaningless gesture of obedience on Supes’ part.
Given how he painted Superman as essentially a good guy trying to do good things, I wondered how he would compare the character with Peter Parker. Why does everyone still love Spidey, who also is fundamentally a good person trying to do the right thing, but they would rather throw their television out the window than watch or read anything Superman again?
To me the thing about Superman is creators overthink him. The idea of a good man trying to be good in a challenging world is plenty interesting. Someone's convinced tons of writers that only dark and edgy characters are interesting. A person can be clean cut, optimistic and...dare I say it...boring and still be a compelling character.
Superman is better than us and yet if he totally gave into his powers and lorded that better-ness, he'd be worse than us. He has to control himself in order to be our better and yet that he HAS to makes him, in a way, worse.
I really like Tom's point about how Spider-Man’s limitations make him more interesting. Obstacles force him to be creative, which is always a lot more fun to watch.
Well Peter has the out and out failure baked into his background (letting Uncle Ben die) and physically he's limited. Peter with Superman's powers would be as effective a hero as Clark but he can physically do less - he has to be creative.
Plus he's funny. Clark isn't funny. But alternately a guy who can do everything AND be funny? That's a bully, not a likable person.
So it's partially the organic design of the character -- Pete has failure in his back story, Clark has the failures of others--and partially what they can do
To me the most interesting Superman is the “Death of Superman” Superman; showing him be relentless despite knowing there was only one way out of this for him made him far more endearing to me.
This is definitely my biggest problem with the movies. In general, other than Batman, for me DC is to Marvel Comics as Star Trek is to Star Wars – yeah, okay, I’ll watch/read DC or TNG, but I’ve learned not to rely on them. They never seem to go very deep or far. (Star Trek exception: Deep Space Nine. DC exception: Johns’ run on Green Lantern.)
Mostly what doesn't work for me is that the newest Superman adaptations are full of ManPain. But Superman isn't Batman. He isn't of this world. His primary struggle, such as it is, is that he's not one of us. Zack Snyder's take on him feels wrong to me -- Superman should be closer in resemblance to Thor than to Batman: the beautiful, well-meaning dope who loves us all without quite getting our mortal angst. “Batman v Superman” could've been amazing, were it not so joyless. The saddest thing about that movie was how no one truly was saved - there's an entire scene where Superman *stands around watching people be murdered.*
That's not Superman. He's not a nihilist. Superman saves people. He's a hero in the truest and purest sense.
We live in a world where ironic detachment is a mark of refinement, so an old-school superhero may seem a little cornball. But like a wise man in another, very different superhero movie, said: "With everything that's happening... people might just need a little old-fashioned.