The Humanness of Superman
Who is Superman?
A super human? An alien in disguise? A god? A nerdy journalist who just happens to possess superpowers? A man in tights with a big ‘S’ on his chest and a red cape? Just who is this guy? How do we begin to define him? Is he human? Or does he pretend to be one to fit in?
Everyone knows the story of Superman. A baby from another world finds himself on earth and is raised by the childless couple who discovered him on their property. I’m guessing it’s through no fault of his that he landed in a world that loves labels. If it’s too different, too unusual, we’re afraid. We need everyone to fit in tidy little boxes so we can heave a sigh of relief and go about our businesses.
I think the debate has always been whether or not he is one of us humans. If I could ask him in an interview, Clark Kent would probably say he’s just a guy from Kansas and the son of a woman named Martha.
The Power of Kal El
Superman’s abilities have evolved since the 1930s. However, we can all agree that he has super strength, speed, senses (seeing, hearing), laser eyes and can fly. Also, his body looks like everyone else’s but is impenetrable like steel. The other general consensus is that he has one weakness – kryptonite.
In Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Volume Two, Bill shares his thoughts on why he thinks Superman is exceptional as a super hero.
“Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent.”
Son of Krypton
There’s a perfectly understandable reason why Kryptonite has the property of depriving Superman of all his powers. It makes him human just like any regular Joe. Kryptonite is a mineral from Krypton, which is where Superman comes from. This means that in his own world he is a normal guy. No super abilities whatsoever. No flying or laser eyes. None of that.
It is interesting that his super powers showed up when he came to Earth. His body adapting to earth’s dynamics produced these fantastic abilities. So you see, Krypton is not some poison mineral that makes him lose his powers. It’s the actual thing that takes him back home, where he is normal.
The real weakness I ascribe to Superman is Lois Lane. All she has to do is scream and he’ll come swooping in to rescue her. He’ll leave everything else. It doesn’t matter what. Lois Lane is his weak spot. We saw that in Superman Returns where Lex Luthor kidnaps Lois to trap Superman. I also get the feeling the next movie will further depict this thought. Superman goes evil because of something that happened to Lois. If you saw the after-credit scenes in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, that was a peek.
So, having considered all of these angles, what do you say? What is Superman? A man? An alien? Or a god?