Since its beginnings in 1938, Superman has become one of the most popular and influential fictional characters in pop culture, though some of his adaptations make fundamental mistakes regarding his characterization. As an icon whose recognition goes far beyond its original comic book medium, Superman has been adapted into various formats, many of which have become famous in their own right. This includes Superman: The Animated Series since the 1990s and Injustice: Gods Among Us multimedia franchise, as well as movies like Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman film and modern DCEU movies. While the first two deserve their beloved status, they make major mistakes with their portrayals of Superman that Richard Donner and Zack Snyder avoided in their respective films.
While many early qualities Superman the comics existed before he debuted in 1938 (as a super-powered being and a hero with a secret identity), Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s magnum opus changed the landscape of pop culture forever by creating a character who stood up for justice absolute in a way that the legal system couldn’t and society could emulate. While Superman’s popular status as the first superhero is a matter of debate, he helped build the genre of superhero that eventually became a cultural juggernaut that dominates the entertainment industry to this day. largely thanks to comic adaptations of superheroes, especially in film.
As one of DC Comics’ signature characters, Superman has been adapted into other mediums for much of its history. These adaptations often in turn influence comic book source material, with the Fleischer cartoons giving Superman his iconic ability to fly. In many other cases, Superman adaptations introduce fans to the character and his mythos, which is why it’s so important for them to stay true to the character’s core meaning from his earliest comic appearances. Superman is, ultimately, a force for social justice and societal progress who protects the oppressed from corruption and humanity’s worst evils, such as bigotry and totalitarianism. Additionally, Superman’s roots as a metaphor for refugees must be preserved. The villainous Superman in the Injustice frankness and the incredibly humanized Clark Kent in the Superman animated series mistaking the main qualities of the character, while the two most famous film versions of Superman avoid such errors.
Alan Moore’s Man Who Has Everything Forgets Superman’s Origin
Alan Moore, of watchmen and The killer joke fame, wrote a notable Superman story in 1985 titled “For the man who has everythingwhich unfortunately misunderstands Siegel and Shuster’s allegorical Superman roots. The story depicts Superman under the effects of a parasitic alien plant called Black Mercy, which paralyzes its victims with hallucinations of their deepest desires. In Superman’s case, it was normal life on Krypton without any superhero activity, and while the story is entertaining, it doesn’t include Clark Kent’s personality, values, and symbolism.
Clark Kent grew up on Earth among humans, with a loving family in Smallville and a fulfilling career in Metropolis, in addition to having a superhero career that saves lives and right injustice. It makes no sense for Superman to secretly wish for a life on a planet he has no memory of in a society he didn’t grow up in while living a life that doesn’t involve helping people. Superman is, among other things, a metaphor for refugees, escaping the oppression (or in Clark’s case, annihilation) of their birthplace and improving their lives in the United States. Moore’s portrayal of Superman, which has been faithfully adapted into the DC Animated Universe Justice League Unlimitedestablishes that Clark Kent doesn’t care about his adopted land or the humanity deep within him and that he would avoid his selfless activities as Superman if he could.
Superman: The Animated Series, which is also set in the DCAU, went to great lengths to emphasize the relatable and naturalistic side of Superman, which became one of its greatest strengths as an adaptation of Superman. This makes Justice League Unlimited using Moore’s story is particularly odd, as the DCAU’s Superman is normally characterized as someone who loves both the difference he makes as a hero and the planet he grew up on. Superman adaptations must adhere to his 1938 roots as someone who seeks to right society’s wrongs and improve the lives of disenfranchised people, so having him secretly wish to turn his back on his heroism and humanity betrays that. This takes Superman away from his humanity, an intrinsic quality of the character.
Injustice Misunderstands and Fails Superman’s Origins
The 2013 video game Injustice: Gods Among Us and its subsequent sequels and spin-off content are based on the premise of an alternate universe where the Joker assassinates Lois Lane and detonates a nuclear explosive in Metropolis, leading Superman to kill the Joker and gradually form an oppressive government known as the Regime, which subjugates the Earth under the Fascist regime. Although the franchise is set in a different reality than traditional DC continuities, it attempts to establish that the normally heroic Superman is capable of becoming a fascist dictator given the right circumstances. The notion of a grief-stricken Superman becoming an oppressive villain also appears in the DCAU, with the Superman episode “Brave New Metropolis” and the Justice League episode “A Better World” depicting similar versions of Superman to his Injustice counterpart.
These stories fail to understand another key part of Superman’s origin. In Superman’s earliest comic appearances, his enemies weren’t mad scientists and monsters, but the all-too-real threats of corrupt capitalists, white supremacists, and fascists. Superman would break the law if it meant fighting societal injustice, as demonstrated in a Golden Age story where Superman prevents the arrest of a group of juvenile thieves and convinces the town to upgrade their slums with affordable housing, solving the problem rather than sustaining the harmful. status quo (although Superman is wanted by the police as a result). Superman is basically an anti-fascist character who fights for social justice and against bigotry. Superman, like so many other famous superheroes, was developed by two Jewish creators who worked in the comics industry at a time when more common forms of publishing were generally run by white males who refused opportunities for minorities.
Superman’s characterization, when handled correctly, makes a turn to fascism impossible under any circumstances. Superman would be devastated by the death of Lois Lane or The Flash, but the idea of him becoming a fascist in his grief, even gradually, is a fundamental failure to understand his role as an anti-fascist who strives to advance society. . While the DCAU and Injustice are concerned with casting Superman as a “god gone bad” at the expense of his character, by Superman two most famous cinematic incarnations avoided these pitfalls.
How Live-Action Superman Avoided These Origin Mistakes
by Richard Donner Superman avoids both of these misunderstandings in one fell swoop with the film’s finale. Superman fails to save Lois Lane and, overwhelmed with grief, unleashes his powers to an unprecedented level, rewinding time and saving everyone, including Lois. Superman’s actions go against the warnings of his biological father, Jo-El, but he instead follows the encouraging words of his adoptive human father. Superman not only avoids an absurd turn to villainy, but he also chooses his devotion to humanity over Krypton.
Steel man makes this last point more apparent, with Superman having to choose between allowing General Zod to recreate Krypton or saving the people of Earth. Superman chooses Earth saying that “Krypton got his chance.” The DCEU also teases an apocalyptic Knightmare Future, where Superman becomes the tyrannical fascist ruler of Earth, similar to Injustice. As revealed in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, however, this dystopian scenario can only occur if Superman falls victim to the Anti-Life Equation, which takes away his free will and makes him subordinate to the supervillain Darkseid. The film establishes that, in his right mind, Superman would never become a fascist, forcing Darkseid to resort to brainwashing. Richard Donner and Zack Snyder’s Superman adaptations succeed where others fail by maintaining the character’s devotion to the Earth and humanity, as well as his ideals of social progress and anti-fascism.
Next: Zack Snyder’s Justice League Sequel Predicts Superman Wouldn’t Get Really Evil
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