What Is Superman About

If I were to ask someone to describe Superman’s mission, by which I mean what he fights for or what he represents, that sort of thing, I expect the answers would come in two main flavours:

The first answer I’d expect is: Truth, Justice, and the American Way

Now, the American Way part of that gets controversial at times, mostly because it fluctuates so much more than the other two. But even as a Canadian I’ll say that if you show me an America that represents the other two, I’d have no real problem tacking that descriptor to Superman (I’m not seeing enough of that America these days). Truth and Justice, though. Those are exactly what I want in my Superman stories.

Clark Kent is a journalist. It’s often been said that he does that job so he is among the first to learn about disasters and stuff that may need Superman’s attention. That’s fine, but it ignores the fact that journalism is a vital force in the fight for truth and justice. More than being a vigilante, I’d say.

The other answer I’d expect is that Superman represents Hope. This is propagated as text pretty often in more recent stories (the recent Justice League movie is a big example of this). I think that a lot of fans buy into this one. I sure don’t.

At a basic level it sounds good. “The world is bleak and full of bad things and it is easy to lose hope, but don’t! Superman is proof that things can change!” but I don’t care for that. It very much places Superman in a space above those he is saving, like some god or a force of nature. One of the big complaints about Superman from people who dislike the character is that Superman can just sweep in and solve everything, and this take on the character caters to exactly that.

But I don’t like seeing Superman above those he is saving. Clark is a part of humanity (if not literally human), so when he fights to save the world, he isn’t a benevolent god reaching down to help, he’s a person standing up to help. Clark isn’t hoping for a better world. He’s acting to create a better world. If he is an inspirational figure (and I admit he should be), I don’t want him just to inspire people to sit around hoping Superman shows up. I want him to make humanity rise to action alongside him.

If I had to sum up Superman in one word like that, rather than Hope, I’d choose Action. It works on multiple levels. It implies that Clark represents the antithesis of that “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing” scenario, he acts to do good. It implies the exciting scenarios that the franchise should provide in its stories about Clark doing that. And also, Superman first appeared in and continues to appear in Action Comics. I don’t know what Hope Comics is doing, but Action is doing Superman. And vice-versa.

So those are the basic answers I’d expect for the What Is Superman About question. A third thing that would come up, though not as quickly I don’t think, is a discussion of power. Superman is undeniably a powerful character. That’s why people are always so quick to treat him like a god. I think his power is mostly overstated by those who see it as a bad thing, but I’ll get to that in some later article. But I think it is an important part of the character. Now, I don’t want to move into space that is now considered Spider-Man’s turf, but look at this exchange from the Superman serials decades before Uncle Ben came along:

Pa Kent: “You’re different from other people. Your unique abilities make you a kind of superman. Because of these great powers, your speed and strength, your x-ray vision and super-sensitive hearing, you have a great responsibility.

Clark: “I know what you’re going to say, Dad. I must use my powers wisely and justly.”

Pa: “Yes, you must use them always in the interests of truth, tolerance, and justice. The world needs a man of such extraordinary capabilities.”

I think Pa’s words speak for me. Now that I have presented my evidence, I shall sum up what the concept behind Superman stories ought to be in a single paragraph:

“What if there were a person with great power and the desire to improve the world? They would seek out the untruths and injustices in society, and act to change them.”

It’s a pretty simple sci-fi scenario and allows for a lot of social commentary and so on. And that’s the ideal I will be building toward in my future Superman Thoughts. Hopefully they won’t all be as long as this one.

I Have Thoughts About Superman

You know, I spend more time thinking about Superman than I probably do any other topic. It’s a bit of an obsession for me. For the last decade I have been in what could be called a deep research into the franchise. I have watched every Superman-family television show or movie that has yet existed (with the exception of the new “Krypton” show, which I’ll get to soon enough). In my most recent failed attempt at post-secondary education, I wrote essays about the character any time a class offered enough wiggle-room that I could justify it. My computer has more than a dozen text files just containing random notes and research related to the character. What I’m saying is: I care an awful lot about Superman and it occupies a large part of my mental real-estate.

It has finally occurred to me that maybe I should start putting some of those thoughts on my site here. What is the site for, if not to contain all my thoughts? And I mean, it’s easier than finishing Secret Government Robots, isn’t it?

With that in mind, I’m going to start a new weekly thing to join the other weekly things I do here: Unstructured Superman Thoughts, Facts, And Opinions. They’ll be quickly-written, first-draft-posted ramblings, like everything else I do here, it’s just that I’ve put way more thought into them than everything else I do. I’ll schedule them on Saturdays, I guess, so the first real one (I am not counting this post) will be tomorrow.

Now, in case I ever actually get anyone who reads my Superman Thoughts, I admit that they are just my opinion. I am going to be saying things like “Superman SHOULD have super-ventriloquism” which is a fact that not everyone agrees with. What I am actually saying is that “In my opinion, Superman should have super-ventriloquism” but this is my site, so I can act as though my opinion is fact here. But I will definitely be espousing views that many Superman fans will find even more controversial than super-ventriloquism.

Terry Fox: Unstoppable Canadian Cyborg?

This particular Heritage Piece is not from my childhood. It was not drilled into my brain and I can’t quote from it. Those, I admit, are the things that I like about these things. Still, I obviously knew who Terry Fox was. Looking back, I’m somewhat surprised their wasn’t an ad about him back in those days. Why did it take so long, I wonder? Ah well, he has one now. It’s a straightforward piece, narrated by Terry at first, then closing with a narrator filling in the blanks. I don’t even really have much to say about it. (Note: This is not a sign that I am against cancer research. Those rumours are unfounded as I have said at my many press conferences on the subject.)

True PDR Fact: Walking across Canada is something I’d actually enjoy doing. Not even for a cause, necessarily. I just think that, if the weather was nice and I wasn’t broke and I had the time, I’d be okay with doing that. It’s a dream that will never come to fruition. Terry Fox, on the other hand, did his thing under much worse circumstances and for much better reasons. I don’t think this Heritage Commercial, had it been around in my youth, would have been easily memorized, but I do think it’s a perfectly good way of memorializing Fox and that’s what it is actually supposed to do, so I’m going to give it Three out of Six Pieces of PDR’s Reviewing System Cake. It does its job.

I fully admit that my claim that Terry Fox is a “cyborg” will likely be argued by some. Fair enough, but it’s a claim I first made when Canada put him on money and I wanted to say Canada was the first country to have a cyborg on its money. You can take that away from us, sure, but it would make us feel bad. Meanwhile, if you want to argue that Terry Fox was famously not “unstoppable” okay, but in that case it should make you feel bad.

Super Sunday: Before A Live Studio Audience

The Situation

A group of innocent people are captured and forced onto a stage-like prison where they are coerced into acting out scenarios for the amusement of a mysterious audience.

The Characters

Dierdre Gates

In the outside world, Dierdre was a normal person with friends and family and a life. Then, one day, she woke up in a strange house, made up of rooms that were only three-quarters complete. And from the incomplete walls came laughter and gasps and other reactions to whatever happened within the house. Joined by four strangers, and the occasional “guest” thrown in, Dierdre is apparently meant to be putting on some sort of entertainment for an unknown audience.

Rob Flanders

Rob has adapted to the imprisonment by trying to give the audience what he thinks they want. He hams it up for the crowd and plays along with whatever storyline they seem to be trying to generate, convinced that once they are satisfied they will release him and the others back into the world. Dierdre completely disagrees with him.

Mateo Leoni

Mateo is convinced that the five of them are dead and are in some sort of purgatory, or are in an alien space zoo, or it is all a dream. He has a million theories for what is going on, and will alter his behaviour to adjust to whichever theory is prominent at any given time, making him a real wild card.

Oscar Wiffle

Oscar is just as confused as the others, but he just goes with the flow. He doesn’t try to ham it up like Rob, but he also doesn’t try to escape. The prisoners have free food, working television, and occasional events to break up the monotony. This place seems as good as anywhere else, he figures.

Charlotte Dennis

Charlotte is swayed by the whims of the others. She is convinced by Dierdre’s insistence that they try to escape, but also understands Rob’s plan to go along with the captors. She’s also developed a bit of a crush on Mateo and occasionally goes along with his nonsense plots.


This would be a show in which characters are tortured for the amusement of an audience, for the amusement of us. My theory is that the audience is bored wizards.