Superman is one of the most popular characters in pop culture; and ever since his debut on April 18, 1938, he has been inspiring readers, listeners, and viewers to reach for the sky. His character has given hope to many, and there are several reasons he can be considered the ultimate symbol for hope in fiction!
1. His Heritage
Unless you've lived under a rock all your life, you know that Superman is the Last Son of Krypton. He was raised on Earth, but is an alien by birth. This is one of the aspects that made his character so relatable then, and still resonates with fans today. How many of us have felt like outcasts, like we are alone in this world? These are issues that Superman stories have dealt with for generations. So many have read about the outcast from another planet with great abilities, who finds his place in the world, and they have escaped into those stories and been challenged to do the same themselves.
2. His Power
Superman is known for his vast array of abilities. He has so many, I'm not sure I could begin to name all of them here. The abilities that seem to be his main power set are:
- Super Strength
- Super Speed
- Heat Vision
- X-Ray Vision
- Freeze breath
- Accelerated Healing Factor
These abilities are given to Superman through absorbing the radiation of the yellow sun. Many have criticized him, saying that he is an overpowered superhero, but I argue that all these abilities are fundamental to his character. Superman instills hope because he is constantly faced with obstacles, and he somehow digs down and finds a way to overcome those challenges.
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Even in the New 52: Superman #38, Superman faced a new obstacle and developed a new ability: the super flare. This is why Superman wears the symbol for hope on his chest: He has an innate ability to overcome every obstacle he faces. We are able to look up to his character because he has all these incredible powers –– he could literally take whatever he wanted –– and yet he chooses to use these abilities for the benefit of others, not himself.
3. His Humanity
We look up to Superman because he is something of an outcast; we look up to him because he has an amazing ability to overcome the most daunting obstacles; and we look up to him because, despite all this, he still faces our everyday human struggles.
This was a quality that was notably absent in the New 52 version of the character; it seemed that Superman was fine being the mega-powered individual that he was. Superman may have been born as Kal-El on a distant planet, but he was raised as Clark Kent by two down-to-earth, country folks. They instilled the moral and human qualities that make Superman a relatable character.
There are many things that make Superman great, but these are the reasons that he wears the symbol of hope on his chest. He is an alien trying to fit in on Earth, he has enormous abilities that help him overcome great challenges, and he is still human. Superman still makes mistakes, he has weaknesses, and he struggles with many of the things you and I do every day.