Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Superman: Mixed Messages

You ought to be able to click to embiggen.

If the picture doesn't load, here's a transcript:

PANEL ONE: Superman and some random guy are sitting on a rooftop talking. During this exchange, Superman looks to stage right and uses his heat vision to save someone's life.

RANDOM GUY: Then do you believe in a god?

SUPERMAN: One sec... window-washer's metal scaffolding about to snap four blocks away... okay, there.

PANEL TWO: A long shot from the crowd in the street below up at the building at an angle. Superman and the random guy are specks atop the building.

SUPERMAN: I believe in humanity. If I didn't, I wouldn't be out there every day doing what I do, you know?

PANEL THREE: Basically a reverse shot of Panel One, back up on the roof, but from behind Superman and his interlocutor.

RANDOM GUY: Well, you dodged that question pretty skillfully.

SUPERMAN: Bullets aren't the only thing I'm faster than. And while you shouldn't be afraid to live your life, don't rely on some kind of savior to bail you out. Rely on yourself.

Oh, boy. What a mixed and frankly incoherent message.

A savior, counseling people not to rely on saviors, but on themselves.

Just after he saves someone from a deathly plunge.

I suppose Supes may just be trying to reduce his workload by encouraging people to look out for themselves, but the myth of Superman is that he will be there. Are you a window washer in danger of falling off a high building? Superman will save you, although sometimes he has a little competition.

My point is, the people of Metropolis, of all places, don't have to rely on themselves because Superman will always intervene to resolve their situation. In fact, he has sometimes been punished in the past for slacking off; I recall a comic from the 90's in which he takes Lois off for a romantic Parisian dinner, thus being out of the way when the kidnapper-and-murderer iteration of the Toyman strikes a Halloween party and half-a-dozen children end up dead. Man, was that ever heavy-handed.

As for the random guy he's talking to: You're sitting right next to a god, man. Okay, he's not all-knowing or infallible, or all-powerful (outside of the Silver Age), but you can put your faith in him rather than your window-washing scaffolding (to choose an example at random), and he'll save you. He can't not save you. Okay, maybe he's not Jesus Christ (and lord is that a can of worms) but he's right next to you and you just saw him reach out and save someone. Why are you still having this conversation?

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