Superman is without a doubt the most famous superhero in the history of comics. Since his debut in 1932, he has leapt from page to screen, then to a bigger screen, and even to video games. Arguably the most popular male hero to come out of DC, Superman has managed to evolve into a cultural icon, touching the hearts and minds of so many. Kal El is patriotic, a beacon of hope and all that is good in the world, he is a truly great hero — but he's also quite an awful person.
In recent years superheroes have undergone gritty reboots with darker plots, increasingly sinister villains and of course, brooding heroes. In some cases this worked exceedingly well — Logan, The Dark Knight — in others — ahem, Fantastic Four — not so much. He may have escaped Krypton, but unfortunately Superman was unable to avoid the melancholy overhaul that hit the superhero market. This left many reminiscing for the good old days, when Supes was a pure cinnamon roll and a symbol of all that is good in the world; you know, more hugging, less neck-snapping. However, nostalgia is a funny thing and the truth is that the great guy everyone idolized actually never existed.
The Last Daughter Of Krypton
We all know the story: baby Kal's space pod crashes into the Kent's farm in Smallville, Kansas, and decide to raise the child as their own, renaming him Clark — well it's not like the pod came with a full-length birth certificate and a photo ID. Clark has a swell life with the Kents, but he knows as the last son of Krypton that he is and shall always be an outsider, always alone.
That is until cousin Kara Zor-El shows up on Earth. When his cousin and only living relative in the entire universe arrives on his front door, did he welcome her with open arms or start making up the guest room in the Kent's farmhouse? The short answer is no. We understand being cautious, but throwing your little cousin — who, lest we forget, has no-one else in the entire galaxy — into an orphanage seems a bit much. Although he probably stays at the Fortress of Solitude for a reason.
Supergirl assumes the the name Linda Lee and wears a big brunette wig (because Kryptonian hair is dye-repellent I guess). All the while Superman decides that Kara is going to be his secret weapon, a fact that he didn't think to run by her.
Kara reveals her secret to Krypto the Superdog, but unfortunately she does this without the express permission of Superman, and so he banishes her to space for a year. Except she doesn't quite do as she's told and ends up being all heroic in space, so Superman decides she can come back to Earth after a week. Then PSYCH! Ah it was all a test to see if she could create a convincing excuse as to why "Linda Lee" disappeared for seven days, and if she could be trusted with his secret identity.
Superman and Supergirl are first cousins, which is something to keep in mind for a little while. In Action Comics #289 Kara decides that Superman is super-single and in dire need of a decent wife. Assuming that neither Lois Lane nor Lana Lang are good enough for him, she sets him up with Helen of Troy, a married woman and yes, a unicorn. Kara is upset that she couldn't find him a wife; it's at this point that Kal-El infamously informs Kara that he wants to marry her, but incest is not acceptable under Kryptonian law.
Never fear, Kara has a clever alternative: She discovers Saturn Girl, who is a bit older and from another galaxy, so even though she looks exactly like her, she's technically not her. Anyway, Superman falls in head over heels in love with Saturn Girl — who, lest we forget, looks exactly like his 15 year old cousin. Their relationship is short-lived as Earth's yellow sun is draining Saturn Girl's powers and is slowly killing her, and her planet would do the same to him.
It's still not as bad as Action Comics #260 though, when Superman involved his underage cousin in one of his hair-brained schemes to cause Lois emotional distress (again). He made his child-relative disguise herself as an older woman —complete with padding and a wig — and claim to be the real love of Superman's life. To really sell the story he demands a passionate kiss from his underage cousin in front of Lois. They even pretended to have children together, luckily they were just robots though.
Swipe Left Lois!
Despite spite being a smart lady, Lois Lane doesn't seem to understand the definition of insanity. She just keeps going after Clark Kent/Superman even after he breaks her heart, has a robot assault her, or accuses her of murder — you know, typical guy stuff.
In Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane #1, the avid reporter disguises herself as actress Lois LaFlamme in order to interview a French dignitary. Unimpressed by her tactics, he decides to teach her a two-part lesson. Firstly he has Clark Kent fall madly in love with her, propose, get rejected and then throw himself to his death.
The second part of this not-at-all nefarious plan has Superman duel a duke over the hand of Lois LaFlamme, resulting in the duke shooting Supes' bulletproof chest, with the ricocheting bullets killing the duke. As it turns out, it wasn't a duke after all, just Jimmy Olsen in disguise and it was just one big trick on Lois to make her feel like a terrible person.
Superman invites Lois back to his Fortress of Solitude pretty often; asking her to come over and take pictures for The Daily Planet and do some dusting. On one such visit, in Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane #14, Lois exposes herself to some radiation and has to stay in the Fortress for a couple of days so that she can prove that they should be married. Instead of giving his girlfriend a key, he decides that it's a much better idea to make the entire experience quite unpleasant for her — why move in with your partner when you can have a robotic effigy of yourself spanking her?
Daddy Don't Care
Superman is not really the most paternal person in the galaxy, and for someone who's supposed to be an investigative reporter, he's not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. Five years after returning from space in Superman Returns, Clark discovers that his ex, Lois, gave birth to a son about nine months after he skipped town. When your ex has a child with Kryptonian powers and you are the only other Kryptonian on the planet and you don't put two and two together, you're either willfully blind or a bad journalist.
After being beaten by some rock, Clark lays in a hospital bed where he is informed by Lois that yes, he is the father — surprise! Instead of maybe spending some quality time with the kid, he just sneaks into his room, hovers above him and watched the child sleep for a good 12 seconds before flying away. Healthy.
In Young Justice, the team discover that Superman has been cloned to create a younger stronger, better version of the man of steel — who is also a well-trained killing machine. So you can understand not welcoming him with open arms initially, but Clark is very cold and rude towards Conner. Even when Superboy asks him for help, he sends him to Batman because he's not his problem.
Then of course there's the incident in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #30, where Superman — not Clark Kent — adopts the orphaned Jimmy Olsen. Before the ink dries on the paperwork, Superman is told of a prophesy that states "Superman would destroy his son." Now, instead of just telling Jimmy, 'Hey, if we go through with this adoption, I'll somehow destroy you, so let's find you a safer, happier home?" He just decides to drive Jimmy away by tormenting him, mocking, destroying hand-made gifts etc, until Jimmy himself cancels the adoption.
The "son" was actually "sun" — again, not the greatest investigator in the world — and was in reference to a mini-sun that was part of some equipment that exploded, but that's cool.
Not So Super-Friends
Clark comes home to Lois, bringing flowers and groceries into the bathroom, because that's normal. She's in the bathtub, quite obviously upset at the events that unfold in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. He stands there, nonchalantly, as if nothing odd has happened, as if Lois wasn't used as bait and almost killed, and their mutual friend Jimmy Olsen wasn't murdered before their very eyes.
Collateral damage is one thing, but your best friend is killed right in front of you and you act like it's no big deal, that's harsh.
All American Hero
Over the last century, Superman has saved countless lives, planets and species. Kal-El is an all-American hero, a symbol of doing what is right, but only on a professional level. Otherwise it's all incest, abuse and downright assault. Superman is an amazing hero, but a terrible, terrible person.
Do you think Superman is an asshole?