Hello everyone. I'm back everyone, I know this article was supposed to come out quite a while ago and I apologize, but things happened I won't bore anyone with details. So anyway I'm here to talk to you about one of the biggest icons in superhero and nerd culture: Superman.
As you've probably guessed by the title, like Batman, I have a bone to pick with Superman. This isn't exclusive to Superman as there are plenty of other characters out there that are too powerful. What do I mean by too powerful? Well let me put it this way, in stories of whatever kind be it comics, books, video games, TV, and movies, we all know that in some kind of way the protagonist(s) are going to win. With the exception of horror movies, I don't know too many series/ shows where at the very end the hero is defeated/ killed, and typically when this happens, there's some sort of followup that has the villain get his comeuppance. So how does this apply to Superman?
THE RULE OF ANTAGONISTS:
The rule of antagonists is a name for a pretty basic concept. Let me use Darth Vader as an example of the antagonist and Luke as the protagonist. In Empire Strikes Back. When Luke is going to fight Vader the odds are clearly stacked against him, Vader has had at least a decade of training as both a Jedi and Sith and has a whole trap set up for Luke by the time he gets there. On the other side, Luke has only been trained for at the most a month or so, and since Luke is the protagonist we all know that at some point he does have to win against Vader and the Emperor but the fact that the odds are so stacked against Luke makes us all wonder: how is Luke going pull out of this? Essentially whenever we go see a superhero flick and we see a powered up villain we ask ourselves this same question on a subconscious level.
The rule of antagonists basically states that for every hero you have to have a villain is either just as smart or smarter, just as strong or stronger, just as skilled, or even more skilled, and so on and so on. The villain needs to be all around the stronger character because it makes their inevitable showdown more interesting. Again Darth Vader is a good example, because he was much stronger than Luke was in Empire and for half of the fight it's pretty obvious Vader is toying with him. When Vader does get serious, Luke gets messed up and left with both permanent physical scars and some mental scars.
Bane from the Dark Knight Rises is another prime example, as the showdown between him and Batman proves it, Bane is stronger than Batman, both in taking it and dishing it out.
WHERE THE PROBLEM RISES:
But how does this apply to Superman? Well Superman has a ton of powers including super-strength, flight, heat vision, ice breath, super hearing, x-ray vision, and indestructibility. Can you see the problem? When you have a hero who is too good and too overpowered without a clear weakness, then no one really stands a chance against him. So for instance someone like Bane wouldn't even damage Superman in a straight up brawl. So with someone this powerful you only have a few options here, you can make villains with powers that directly counter or nullify the heroes' powers for example Pyro and Iceman from X-men. Pyro, as his name suggest, uses fire and Iceman uses ice. Fire can beat ice but at the same time ice can beat fire so they're opposites and can therefore counter one another. Magneto and Wolverine are another great example.
So for Superman you have to make someone much stronger than him (Doomsday) or smarter (Lex Luthor). But now you may wind up with villains that are too similar and you'll have to keep escalating and making more powerful and more powerful villains and let's face it you can only go so far before you make something so absurdly powerful that eventually you'll risks numbing audience. Also once again, if you have a hero as powerful and invulnerable as Superman, then this villain feels like a punching bag that can fight back for our amusement rather than an actual threat, especially when done too much.
I think the reason doomsday worked out is because he was either the first, or only villain to defeat Superman in a brawl without the need of kryptonite but chances are if they tried making more villains like this then people would eventually get bored with it.
SO WHY IS THIS A PROBLEM?
Here's the issue with Superman and characters like him, whenever the hero goes to challenge the villain, we aren't all that invested. Remember when Dark Knight Rises was leading up to the fight between Batman and Bane? They clearly establish and hammer into your skull that Batman really doesn't stand a chance against Bane, and this builds up tension to the inevitable fight. Now when Superman is about to fight Zod, I felt no tension for the battle I wasn't worried about Superman, not even in the slightest and that's a problem.
So since most villains can't get in the ring with Superman without having all their bones broken, we have to use something called Kryptonite. Or what I call, copout. Its a copout because this little tiny rock takes away all of Superman's powers and leaves him pretty much helpless.
This isn't interesting either because Superman (to put it lightly) turns into a punk. Remember Superman Returns? The minute Superman gets affected by kryptonite, Lex Luthor is able to beat the hell out of him without him so much as trying to fight back. This is also boring because now everyone who can't put up the slightest bit of resistance against Superman in a fist fight, will just whip out kryptonite. There's a reason I call this a copout, because I think what happened is a lot of the Superman writers sat in a room and said,
"Okay we have a problem here, Superman has way too much power what do we do about it?"
"Why don't we just create a rock that makes Superman human and unable to do anything if it gets near him, let's call it Kryptonite?"
"That's a good idea! Let's do it!"
Seriously kryptonite is a bandaid solution to Superman's powers and invulnerability. Even with the kryptonite all either Superman or someone else has to do is get it away from the bad guy and its all over and Superman wins again. Going back to the fighting in general, Superman has the same problem a lot of super hero movies have now, we aren't' the slightest bit worried about the hero's safety. Unfortunately its magnified for characters like Superman since he can't be hurt by conventional means.
Solution 1: NERF HIM!
They could axe Superman's invulnerability so he can actually be harmed. They could limit his super strength a bit, or take away his heat vision, the point is I feel like something needs to go in terms of powers. I think if you took away his indestructible body and instead made him immune to small arm's fire or something then I think it would be a good nerf for Superman and would be much less radical than what my Solution 2 is.
Solution 2: SUPERMAN TURNS TO THE DARK SIDE (PERMANENTLY)
Yeah I know this is radical and has been done in Injustice and maybe in the DC movies, but seriously, I think Superman should premaritally be a villain. I think he would be much more interesting since all of the weaker characters in DC would have to team up to stop him. Maybe he can pull a Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader sort of turn where he starts off as classic Superman but then something so horrible happens, he turns wicked and turns his back on humanity and turns to murder. I think this is why Injustice worked so well because the idea of Superman turning evil is interesting and more compelling than the I hate to say, boring boy scout type that he usually is. Also this gives DC the opportunity to come up with a brand new hero who may become Superman's new nemesis, it could be a game changer for comics to introduce a brand new major character all of a sudden.
So just to wrap this up, we all want our super heroes to be powerful and uplifting in some way or another, but giving them way too much power and no clear weakness or a weakness that just seems like plot convenience isn't the way to do it and I feel like this is the reason why a lot of people, like myself, don't really care for Superman and why I think he's such a problem to tackle on the big screen.