Heroes Never Rust #67 by Sean Ironman
The Power and Humility of Superman
Issue two of Superman: For All Seasons covers the summer from Lois Lane’s point of view. It opens with Superman flying through Metropolis over Lois’s narration about Perry White, Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Planet, telling her not to believe what she sees and hears. But then Superman came and now she doesn’t know what to believe. With all the super-powered characters, along with other fantastical creatures, to which readers have been exposed, I think many of us forget, I know I do, just what it would do to see someone like Superman. We have learned certain things in our lives. We cannot fly without a machine. We cannot outrun a train. We cannot be shot or stabbed and remain unhurt. We cannot do the impossible. And then Superman comes along. He does all of it easily. He’s not like Batman, who trains for years, or one of the X-Men who have to focus their powers. He flies and runs and lifts as if the laws of physics mean nothing.
Halfway through the issue, a terrorist holds a gun to Lois in front of Lex Luthor and Superman. Lex, ever so full of himself, says, “I’ll handle this, Lois. I can negotiate with anyone, even terrorists.” Displaying the speed of Superman in still images is a tough act. Motion lines don’t really get the job done. Loeb and Sale show his speed by cutting Lex saying terrorists into three panels. He gets one syllable across in each panel. In the first, Superman stands beside Luthor. In the second, Superman is just a blue, red, and yellow blur. And in the third, Superman has the terrorists gun and stands beside Luthor once again. The other three characters haven’t realized what happened.
Superman does a lot in this issue. He dives into the deep waters and pulls a submarine full of terrorists up onto land. He stops a missile from hitting Metropolis. He puts out a fire and beats back robots Luthor created so that the city wouldn’t have to depend on Superman. He does the impossible throughout. Many people have commented on in the past that if Lois Lane were such a good reporter, she would recognize Clark Kent as Superman. Something I guess that the new movies have chosen to do away with by having Lois know his secret identity. But people are missing just what Superman does to Lois. Here is a woman who has grown up to be, in kind words, a realist. Like she states in the opening, she doesn’t believe what she sees and hears. She tells readers that, along with her sister, she once believed in Prince Charming. Then, she grew up. None of the men she met were Prince Charming. Until Superman. A man in a cape, who with all the power in the world chooses to help people because…well, he wants to do good. She can’t understand this. Superman, to Lois, doesn’t do the impossible by lifting heavy things or being faster than a speeding bullet—he’s a representation of the impossible because he’s good-hearted, and she hasn’t had much experience with that.
After she’s rescued, she narrates over Clark Kent alone in his apartment, “Where does he go when he’s not keeping a bridge from collapsing? Or stopping a train from derailing? Or answering a child’s cry for help?” The reason she doesn’t recognize Clark as Superman is because she can’t understand that Superman can be human. And, yes, he’s Kryptonian, I know, but he’s a human being at heart. A being with all this power pretending to be a reporter at The Daily Planet is too far out of her realm of thinking. Superman isn’t off in some castle somewhere. He’s not a god. He goes home to Smallville to visit Ma and Pa Kent, and when Ma Kent asks why he came, he says, “I don’t know…lonely, I guess.” Lois wouldn’t be able to understand that about him. To her, he has everything. He can take on whatever physical challenge there is and he doesn’t take shit from Luthor. He’s confident and capable. But that doesn’t mean he has no wants, no desires. Superman has done a lot of good for the world, but he’s lost. On the porch at night, he admits to Ma Kent that even Smallville doesn’t feel like home anymore. He went off to find his life, but he hasn’t been able to build a new home yet. He’s caught between forces, Kryptonian and Human, Smallville and Metropolis, helping people and living a nice life.
The issue ends with Lex Luthor tracking down a woman who was saved by Superman earlier in the issue. He comes into her apartment and she has shrine to Superman. Candles, photos, and newspaper clippings cover the walls and tables. To some, he is a god. Luthor wants to bring Superman down because Superman existing takes away from Luthor’s greatness. Lois is love with Superman because he’s everything she can’t find in a regular man. But Superman is so simple, and I don’t mean dumb. He just wants everyone to be good to one another and to help as many people as he can. He doesn’t want to see the evil in the world push around the good. He’s what we’re supposed to be, what we should be striving for. But he represents something that is so far away from where humanity is at that people either want to drag him down or raise him up, when they really should just follow his example. Maybe then he wouldn’t feel so alone.
Sean Ironman (Episode 102) earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read in The Writer’s Chronicle, Redivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.