The Last Boy Scout: Some Thoughts on Superman

The Last Boy Scout

My first memory of Superman is the cover to Adventures of Superman #475 where Batman and Wonder Woman hold the titular hero’s arms apart as The Flash delivers a punch for all he’s worth. I was four years old and saw the book in a grocery store rack and got drawn to the image, my young mind trying to understand why Superman’s friends hated him now. Turns out it was just robots and I forgot the book as quickly as I’d picked it up.

Nearly four years later, my father died and I was in a place where I was just emotionally numb and trying to process the fact my real life hero was gone. ¬†My mom gave me a packet of single issues she found at the mall that made up the Death of Superman, hoping the comics might make me feel better. As I read them and saw Krypton’s Last Son fall protecting the city he loved something clicked and I began picking up the then current Reign of the Supermen line but I wasn’t satisfied yet. This was what Superman currently was, who had he been? What made him run towards a situation that so many others were trying to escape? So I started going to flea markets, comic shops I even spotted an old lady selling comics on the side of the road once.

I eventually found John Byrne’s The Man of Steel mini-series and familiarized myself with Superman’s new history. While driving home, Johnathan and Martha Kent find a space ship with a baby inside and go on to raise him as their own. Clark’s powers manifested during high school and after he graduated, he leaves his hometown of Smallville to travel the world and discover who is as a person. He ends up in Metropolis, saves a space plane with Lois Lane in it and later on pisses off ruthless businessman Lex Luthor by refusing to be his flunky for hire. So what I took from Superman was he is a man who does what’s right because, frankly, that’s how his ma’ and pa’ raised him and he’ll stand by people trying to do the same thing in the face of bullies whether it be Brainiac or a parent abusing their kid. Although I always felt him getting kittens out of trees was pushing it a little.

I stood by Superman as writer after writer took stabs at the Man of Steel: he lost his powers, regained his powers, became a hulking monster, got put on trial, lost his powers, got married, gained electric powers, became two¬†electrified heroes, lost those and regained his original powers, tried to impose his will on the earth,walked around trying to understand the common man and so on.¬†As I’ve gotten older and use the internet I’ve had the same debates I’ve had since I was in middle school, “Why do you like Superman? Nobody can relate to him anymore! If I had his powers I’d just take out the bad guys with my heat vision! Batman, Punisher, other gritty comic character… is SOOOOOOOOOO much cooler!!!!” And I tend to give about the same reason I did back then, “Because despite his strength, how invulnerable his skin may be it’s his heart that is Superman’s greatest power. He believes in humanity as a whole and that by being an example we can become the best version of ourselves possible. It’s up to us to make that choice and take¬†responsibility¬†for our own actions.” Usually I hear back “it was a rhetorical question, duh!”

But in a world filled with¬†cynicism and where everything has shades of grey the idea of someone completely standing for Truth, Justice and the American Way became unrelatable along the way, even to the character himself. It’s easy to be a beacon of light when you don’t have to worry about making next months rent because you’re not locked away in a cubicle just waiting for your shift to end.¬†He’s never missed out on that promotion because the boss’ son needed “to start somewhere”.¬†Superman can wag his finger at us and preach about morality because¬†he’s not raising children alone and trying to go to college at the same time. And people are right, he isn’t. He’s just a character in a comic book who we project our foibles on.

The reason I wrote this is because Superman will be relaunched this month and a preview of the first issue has been release along with writer Grant Morrison saying Superman’s story and moral compass will be shaped to fit the mold of the here and now. Cynical and¬†temperamental, he’s going to get justice his way and damn the¬†consequences seems to be where the book is heading but I won’t know till I’ve actually read the issue. While I am looking forward to seeing a proactive Superman again, I can’t help but worry; “What’s going to happen to the Man of Tomorrow?”

Rudy Tovar
Staff Writer

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