We Love… Superheroes: Superman

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  Illustration: Adeline Pericart

Bam! Pow! Thwack! From masked avengers to caped crusaders, what would we do without spandex-wearing superheroes fighting crime and righting wrongs? While we mere mortals go about our daily business and sleep soundly in our beds at night, an army of superheroes are working tirelessly around the globe – but mostly in America – fighting to bring peace, justice and outside-underpants to the world.

And so, in honour of their efforts, our own band of Film Ireland superheroes assemble to dish out their own critical form of justice and wreak havok on those villians who long for a world without heroes.

Eat dust evil! Superheroes are here to stay.

We Love…

Superheroes:

 

Superman

‘… what makes him so interesting is the combination of this godlike power with a human conscience that is committed to doing good …’

Glenn Caldecott

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Unnoticed by most, the recent success of a certain Christopher Nolan trilogy has caused an important shift in Irish street fashion. The films have seen a rise in those taking to the streets wearing black Ts depicting a flying rodent, silhouetted against a yellow oval.

Once reserved for spotty nerds, now rockers, ravers and Topshop-shoppers alike don comic-book apparel in support of their super of choice. But despite the increase in numbers of black t-shirts, peaked caps and bras with the yellow symbol, there are still more blue ones, proudly displaying a red and yellow S, the insignia of the most iconic superhero of all time!

Let’s get one thing out the way, I don’t think there have been any truly great Superman films. Between some weak storytelling and some dodgy outfits they haven’t got much going for them. (Except that epic theme music, you know the one. The one that sounds like the Indiana Jones theme. Although I might be thinking of the music from Jurassic Park. Or Star Wars. Who cares, they’re all good).

Perhaps my favourite appearance of Superman in a film comes from one he’s not even in. At the end of Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol 2, David Carradine performs a monologue in which he explains why Superman is his favourite superhero. You can read the full speech here but, to summarise, the mythology of Superman is unique because, unlike other supers, he was born as Superman and his alter-ego is Clark Kent. Now if you are a pedantic geek (like me) you will realise that Bill is wrong in both his assumptions that this is unique to Superman and that he was born as Superman in the first place (he was born Kal-El and had to become Superman)

But regardless, while the morality of superheroes can often get a little sketchy (i.e. you can only truly make a difference in this world if you acquire powers, are one of the elite few who are born magical, or you inherit a small fortune – I shake my fist at you dirty capitalists), Carradine’s speech hints at the moral considerations that, I think, make Superman the most interesting superhero.

Our Man of Steel is indeed an outsider, but is committed to helping the people of earth in spite of this. What often makes the alien in red underpants seem boring, and is a concept that I think the Superman films have struggled with, is that it is hard for an individual of near limitless power to be in any real danger. But I think what makes him so interesting is the combination of this godlike power with a human conscience that is committed to doing good – the ‘man’ half of his name.

I mean, imagine having these powers for a day and the psychological headache it would cause. Should I save the OAPs in the falling coach or the landmine-destined toddler? Should I interfere in geopolitical conflicts? Should I look through Lois Lane’s clothing? All difficult ethical questions. These are questions relevant to all superheroes, but are heightened by both Superman’s powers and his strong commitment to righteousness.

For whatever reason, these deeper considerations, that are present in the comics, have failed to translate into films. But this only helps my argument that Superman is the best superhero. Despite the lack of a quality on screen appearance, he has still become one of the most iconic figures of the past century, something that the prevalence of Superman apparel will attest to.

The battle for superhero supremacy will not be waged on the pages of the interwebs or on cinema screens. It is being fought out there on the streets, so take up your blue, red and yellow flip-flops and join me brothers and sisters!

Glenn Caldecott

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – Daire Walsh on Spiderman

 

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