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  1. #1
    Astonishing Member Lightning Rider's Avatar
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    Default What are the many "sides" of Superman you'd want the public to be more aware of?

    I'm thinking of making a video on this, and I need your help.

    It's not an effort to argue or convince naysayers that Superman isn't "boring" or "too powerful" to be interesting, but rather a celebratory showing with positive examples that there's more to the character than the casual comic book media fan might be aware of. More aspects of his personality, mythos, and internal dynamics that reveal a character with a bit more nuance & intrigue.

    I can't think of a more well-read group, who spend the time to really think about the character and what they love about him, than you all.

    So let me start with a couple of categories and examples I was thinking of to start off.

    Superman's Mischevious Side

    Superman has often been no stranger to bullying the bully and being creative with his "punishments". Compassion is something he always has, but he's not afraid to taunt enemies once in a while that will leave a lasting impression and deter them from doing wrong again. (Had a whole thread devoted to this one)

    http://community.comicbookresources....schievous-side

    Superman's Secretive Nature

    Credit to Ascended for always bringing this one up and bringing my attention to it. Superman is often very secretive and keeps a lot of his circle at arms length from certain aspects of his life. Many times he'll omit information about his adventures, the existence of certain lurking dangers, and aspects of his home culture; he doesn't openly and generously share everything with everyone and would rather reflect alone on certain things than air them out. (Examples welcome! This one is more subtle.)

    Superman's Intelligence/Cleverness

    This is a big one for me. Superman is often cheated of his Super-intelligence (and worse, robbed of even average intelligence) when subject to team dynamics, particularly with Batman. But there are many different types of intelligence, and Superman has not only great familiarity with advanced technology and the ability to compute at a superhuman level, but also the strategic thinking required by combating the laws of physics while saving lives. Morrison obviously had a great handle on balancing this, and the preview comics to BvS contained a cool scene devoted to that concept, but I can't seem to find it online at the moment.

    Super-Tricks

    These are self-explanatory. Fighting like Superman is awesome, but his abilities don't stop there. Everyday life is full of small miracles. Performing surgery with fingernails, crushing coal into diamonds, sitting on a cloud, wrestling harmlessly with lions, cooking steak with just his eyes...the list goes on. The universe is your plaything and you can create wonders at your whim.

    A subset of this might be his perception. Lex's tearful moment of enlightenment in All-Star summed this up perfectly, and things like Birthright's "soul-vision", hearing the truth (or lack of it) in people's heartbeats, and more would certainly give one a different perspective on life and the world.

    Superman's Loneliness

    This one can be controversial if abused to the extent that it stamps out his noble optimism. But it's undeniably a part of the character. From an extinct culture with unique abilities, Superman grew up with limits on how well he could relate to others, had to keep a big part of his life a secret, and can only partially grasp the reality of his homeworld & birth parents.

    Superman's Rebellious Side

    Again, controversial, but Superman's origins lie in being a champion of the oppressed. Corrupt businessmen, wife beaters, Nazis were his target, while children and the vulnerable were those he served. This strain is far more prevalent than his supposed obedience to government authority. The Golden Age, the renouncement of his US citizenship, Morrison's Action Comics, and plenty of other examples (please provide!) point to a regular lack of hesitation to upset the powers that be to protect the innocent.

    It seems to me that Superman also has a lot of rugged boyishness to him. Played football & boxed in his youth, fantasized about war heroes and sci-fi as a child; he's not so straight-laced and uptight at all.

    Mythical Qualities

    Superman's story is timeless in large part because of how similar it is to other stories spanning thousands of years. Hercules, Odysseus, Perseus, Gilgamesh, Beowulf, Moses, Jesus, etc. The idea of a god living among men and foreshadowing what they might achieve, morally and physically, makes the character larger than himself and taps into a sense of awe capable of bordering on the spiritual.

    Compassion and Inherent Goodness

    This is probably the one to start off with since it's the most well known one. But there is more to be explored here as well. Landis made an interesting point that Superman's powers don't corrupt him the way they would a human. It's natural for him to want to help and he wields his abilities free of our worst impulses. Not to the extent that he's flawless, but inherently good in a way humans can tap into from time to time. There's more to be said about this, and more artfully, but I'll leave it at that.

    In my view, these are like a pie chart. All of them are a part of the character, and the version you like or idealize in your head may shift the percentages a bit.


    So what examples would you add, and what new/different categories would you include?

  2. #2
    Fantastic Member RepHope's Avatar
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    Rebellious side. Supes is too often cast as either the government stooge or would be tyrant. Anyone with even a basic understanding of his history knows that’s character assassination.

    Supes Mischievous side. He’s NOT Space Jesus and he never has been. He’s got a funny side to him, and that along with his wit, could use more focus.

  3. #3
    Obsessed & Compelled Bored at 3:00AM's Avatar
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    I think Bendis is doing a good job of reviving Superman’s oft forgotten mischievous side. He’s a funny dude.

  4. #4
    Extraordinary Member Robotman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bored at 3:00AM View Post
    I think Bendis is doing a good job of reviving Supermanís oft forgotten mischievous side. Heís a funny dude.
    Totally agreed! I love it when Superman is shown to have a good sense of humor. He doesnít quip or make jokes at other peopleís expense but heís definitely witty. Itís great that Bendis has captured that facet of Supermanís personality.

    I also love when Superman acts a bit like his Golden Age self and is a true champion of the people. Which was one of the reasons why I loved Morrisonís Action Comics fun. He brought him back to his roots. Frank Miller made Superman a stooge of Reagan and the establishment to Batmanís incorruptible rebel. That portrayal has damaged Superman more than any in recent memory. People forget that Superman started out as a hero who fought for the oppressed. Punching out wife beaters and scaring the crap out of corrupt politicians. I think more people need to be reminded of that side of the character.
    Last edited by Robotman; 06-08-2018 at 12:12 AM.

  5. #5
    Obsessed & Compelled Bored at 3:00AM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robotman View Post
    Totally agreed! I love it when Superman is shown to have a good sense of humor. He doesn’t quip or make jokes at other people’s expense but he’s definitely witty. It’s great that Bendis has captured that facet of Superman’s personality.

    I also love when Superman acts a bit like his Golden Age self and is a true champion of the people. Which was one of the reasons why I loved Morrison’s Action Comics fun. He brought him back to his roots. Frank Miller made Superman a stooge of Reagan and the establishment to Batman’s incorruptible rebel. That portrayal has damaged Superman more than any in recent memory. People forget that Superman started out as a hero who fought for the oppressed. Punching out wife beaters and scaring the crap out of corrupt politicians. I think more people need to be reminded of that side of the character.
    The crazy rich dude who inherited all his wealth from his parents would of course become a champion of the people while the humble sun god raised by poor farmers in Kansas is the stooge of the government.

  6. #6
    Incredible Member Restingvoice's Avatar
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    Yes. His dorky, snarky side. I agree he's either too good or a dictator. As a filthy casual, I didn't even know his hobby. He's either Superman or a reporter, fighting for truth and justice, but I didn't know what makes him as a character.
    Then I found out that he genuinely likes writing. I never even thought why he's a reporter because they're too busy portraying him as a symbol than a human, but now that I know, it makes sense. I also found out he used to be a football champion, and he really did enjoy it until Ma and Pa urged him to save the world instead.
    He also roasts Batman, double-teaming with Dick Grayson on occasion since they have a similar personality that contrasts with the brooding bat.
    On the other hand, his good side genuinely believes that Ollie and Dinah will stay together despite his playboy nature while the rest of the superhero community not buying that the marriage will last.
    Those are interesting, fun and enjoyable.

  7. #7
    Astonishing Member Lightning Rider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Restingvoice View Post
    Yes. His dorky, snarky side. I agree he's either too good or a dictator. As a filthy casual, I didn't even know his hobby. He's either Superman or a reporter, fighting for truth and justice, but I didn't know what makes him as a character.
    Then I found out that he genuinely likes writing. I never even thought why he's a reporter because they're too busy portraying him as a symbol than a human, but now that I know, it makes sense. I also found out he used to be a football champion, and he really did enjoy it until Ma and Pa urged him to save the world instead.
    He also roasts Batman, double-teaming with Dick Grayson on occasion since they have a similar personality that contrasts with the brooding bat.
    On the other hand, his good side genuinely believes that Ollie and Dinah will stay together despite his playboy nature while the rest of the superhero community not buying that the marriage will last.
    Those are interesting, fun and enjoyable.
    Ah yes, Clark the Reporter is a great one, and I'm sure there are many stories out there where he's focusing on his mission to contribute to the world in that sphere.

  8. #8
    Notorious M.O.S. Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    You could say his subtle side. Sometimes when I read about how people assess his character, it's as if they feel the entire content of those thousands of comics was revolving around his power levels, either wallowing in self pity or being utterly careless with his self confidence. Dating Lois and solving problems by punching. He seems either boring or... I dunno, fleek or something. Maybe he goes to the White House and licks Reagan's feet, or boycotts outside of Starbucks.

    There's a commonality to so many of his depictions throughout the years and it's very subdued. Very connective to form a great and balanced character. There are many looks that plant him firmly in the middle of everything he's known to be and do. If being mild and upright is boring then I guess you can level that against him. But you can also learn to accept it and love it. This guy has saved so many cats from trees and pepped up so many young children, he's so sweet. But if getting fired up and firing that big Murican right hand at his opposition seems low brow, I think it's then about digging into the blunt humor of the situation and why such a sweet guy feels compelled to act that way.

    In short, I guess I wish people just see his "actual, regular comic" side.

  9. #9
    Astonishing Member Lightning Rider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kuwagaton View Post
    You could say his subtle side. Sometimes when I read about how people assess his character, it's as if they feel the entire content of those thousands of comics was revolving around his power levels, either wallowing in self pity or being utterly careless with his self confidence. Dating Lois and solving problems by punching. He seems either boring or... I dunno, fleek or something. Maybe he goes to the White House and licks Reagan's feet, or boycotts outside of Starbucks.

    There's a commonality to so many of his depictions throughout the years and it's very subdued. Very connective to form a great and balanced character. There are many looks that plant him firmly in the middle of everything he's known to be and do. If being mild and upright is boring then I guess you can level that against him. But you can also learn to accept it and love it. This guy has saved so many cats from trees and pepped up so many young children, he's so sweet. But if getting fired up and firing that big Murican right hand at his opposition seems low brow, I think it's then about digging into the blunt humor of the situation and why such a sweet guy feels compelled to act that way.

    In short, I guess I wish people just see his "actual, regular comic" side.
    I think I understand your point. In many ways he's the most reliably good character who you can depend on to react in a balanced way, and everything else flows from that. Every other layer he's got is just based around that essence. And sometimes people can get lost in the conceptual layers, or those layers in other characters dominate them. I actually think that makes Superman more relateble, in a sense.

  10. #10
    Notorious M.O.S. Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    That's a great way of putting it. It's like "oooh, it's Spider-Man! Say something funny Spider-Man!" And maybe Batman is something brusque, and Deadpool is something cheeky. Not to dismiss them really, but the effect is that it makes Superman seem plain and simple to people and I think it should be the opposite.

  11. #11
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    I'd say a combination of what is being called his mischevious and clever sides. A lot of those early "champion of the little guy" stories and some of the less Superdickery Silver-age stories had Superman dealing out poetic justice. He didn't crash into some factory owners office and demand better working conditions, he often forced the guy to actually endure the current working conditions. One of my fvorite bits was his taking the leaders of two warring nations and dumping them in a field, then telling them to resolve the war by fighting it out themselves one-on-one.

    Or the way in some Silver Age tales he would find himself bound by a promise but using the exact wording to twist the results. Promising to reveal his "true identity" and answering Kal-El of Krypton. Being obligated to give a guy a ton of money and then burying him in 2000 pounds of pennies. The TV episode where he tricks a criminal who is waiting out the statute of limitations by convincing him the time limit passed when there was still 15 minutes left. His various ways pf getting Mxyzptlk to say that name backwards.

    I always loved the stories where Superman's powers were used to outwit the bad guy rather than out power them.

  12. #12
    Extraordinary Member Ascended's Avatar
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    On top of what a lot of other people are saying, I'd include his "hypocritical side." A lot of people complain about how Superman is too perfect, but in fact he's actually a flawed guy with a lot of contradictions in him. I suppose this might play into the "secretive side" that Lightning Rider mentioned (props for the name drop! >brofist!<) but I'm gonna say it's a related-but-distinct aspect of his personality.

    He's a champion of truth (its even in his slogan) but he lies all the time. And not just about the usual things heroes lie about (like his secret identity). He lies about things he doesn't have to lie about, things he shouldn't lie about, and no matter how many times it bites him in the ass he keeps doing it. He'll lie to Lois about his powers acting oddly, he'll lie to the League about the extinction-level technology he's got hidden in the Fortress, etc.

    And I know this is a touchy subject here, but he'll break his "unbreakable no-killing rule" when he thinks he has to. He's taken more lives than most of the League despite being one of the most vocal advocates for non-lethal force. And it's not just the three Phantom Zone criminals from post-Crisis or the multitude of gangsters and spies from the Golden Age; it's throwing Darkseid into the Source Wall, it's throwing Brainiac 13 and Imperiex into the Big Bang, etc. Hell, at this point he's killed Zod in a few different continuities and mediums, and it might even be getting to the point where it's becoming a regular part of his mythos, just like dying at the hands of Doomsday is slowly becoming a fixed point in his journey regardless of medium and format.

    I think if the general public were more aware of these contradictions in Clark's personality, they'd probably realize there's a lot more depth to Superman than they give him credit for.

    EDIT: This might be a part of his "intelligence" but I also miss seeing Clark "the gear head." This is a guy who will sit in the garage in his Fortress and tinker with time spheres and rebuild old muscle cars, or fix the tractor at the farm (gods I miss the Hamilton family farm! Never thought I'd want Clark out of the city!). Back in the day he seemed like he loved mechanic work and engineering, and he'd build incredible devices and technologies, or at least mess around with them and take them apart and rebuild them. He built his army of Superman robots, Jimmy's signal watch, and suits designed for specific purposes, such as his lead-lined anti-kryptonite suit or his anti-red sun suit. I believe in the old days, his costume was actually made out of a unique fabric he invented that was super durable. I miss that kind of stuff.
    Last edited by Ascended; 06-09-2018 at 07:08 PM.
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  13. #13
    Astonishing Member Lightning Rider's Avatar
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    Ascended, you are summoned:

    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    ...with Clark, I can tell you what his favorite foods are, what his favorite Metallica album is, and what his favorite movie is, all from looking at what is said on panel.
    Please list as many hobby and personal preferences as you can! Music, food, fashion, weather, etc.

    (I also loved your last post contribution. I might add a "kills if he has to" side and the other factors are definitely incorporated in the other categories. The liar and junk gear-head.)

  14. #14
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    The side that doesn't conflate kindness with weakness. If someone gives him crap there shouldn't be a problem with him shutting that person down and no one should have a problem with that. Batman, Spectre, whoever.
    OOOHHHHHH!! - Joe Rogan

  15. #15
    Extraordinary Member Ascended's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lightning Rider View Post
    Ascended, you are summoned
    >a wild Ascended appears!<

    Please list as many hobby and personal preferences as you can! Music, food, fashion, weather, etc.

    (I also loved your last post contribution. I might add a "kills if he has to" side and the other factors are definitely incorporated in the other categories. The liar and junk gear-head.)
    Okay, let's see.

    He's a Metallica fan (which I adore, because so am I) and his favorite album is "....And Justice For All." Conner Kent favors "Ride the Lightning" and "Master of Puppets." There was also a fictional album Clark loved that was a combined effort from a number of varied artists including Prince, a country music singer (Reba something maybe?) and....it might've been one of the Beatles? I forget exactly who was involved, and I couldn't begin to guess what it sounded like. I also believe (though this is maybe more my guesswork than established canon) that he favors the blues, country, and classic/anthem rock. John Mellencamp, AC/DC, the Blues Brothers, and Garth Brooks are all likely in his music collection.

    He's a fan of mustard covered pretzels; there's a street vendor near the Planet that Clark visits on his way to work and these pretzels are responsible for most of the stains on his ties. And of course there's the beef bourgeoisie, though I believe that was a sex joke that writers never let go of. And according to Birthright, which was kinda-sorta continuity for a while, he's a vegetarian. Once BR got thrown into main continuity my assumption was that he really loves his veggies but won't say no to a good steak when it comes his way. That seems like a fair compromise for a story that was never designed to supplant the then-current origin.

    Clark has no fashion sense. He's still wearing the same three button suits and plain fedoras he's always worn, regardless of whether that look is currently fashionable or not. In his downtime he wears simple t-shirts and/or button downs of average cut and quality; likely bought from some cheap retailer like Target or Wal-Mart rather than a high-end designer (which Lois seems to favor quite often). And as Superman, he barely changes his look at all even as the rest of the heroic community make adjustments and tweaks to their costumes. As Clark once said, "I've never been fashionable. So I can never be un-fashionable."

    I'm relatively sure he's said that he loves bright, warm, sunny weather (given his powers that's obvious), but wants at least a few clouds in the sky (I guess he likes having something to sit on? ) In any case, we've often seen direct sunlight give him either a mild high or a sense of great comfort (especially after he's been hurt). He also has a healthy respect for the raw power of nature and is in awe of its more violent patterns like hurricanes and tornadoes, though that of course doesn't stop him from trying to minimize the damage they cause.

    He seems to love books of all genres, and I recall seeing everything on his book shelf from sci-fi to biographies to mysteries to political thrillers to non-fiction, as well as a number of Greek classics (many of which are either inspirations for his character or parallel him). And I know that I've seen Gladiator (another direct inspiration for S&S) on his shelf too. It seems that Clark just likes words. And of course, he's got a copy of his own fiction novel he wrote and published. I think it was called "Under a Yellow Sun" or something?

    His favorite hobby is writing. He wrote for his high school newspaper, and obviously made a career out of being a journalist and has written a novel or two on his own. He's said that part of the appeal is that writing is something his powers can't help him do; as an author there's no way for him to "cheat" and his work stands on its own merits just like any other writer. I personally believe that Clark finds it challenging because it doesn't come easily to him. His brain is certainly wired differently than our's, probably with a strong favoritism towards mathematics (because Krypton = science), so writing something that humans will enjoy must require more effort than a lot of the things Clark is capable of doing.

    Hobbies include collecting rare and strange things; which we easily see in the Fortress zoo and armory and trophy rooms; it doesn't matter what the thing is or where it's from, as long as its lost and rare Clark Kent will want to have it. But he does seem to favor the rare and lost things that no one else wants; he has a distinct lack of ancient pottery or sculptures or paintings; the stuff that most collectors seek out. So, I suppose we should say Clark collects rare, lost, and unwanted things. If it's dangerous, even better. The subtext there is pretty clear.

    He loves to tinker, as I said in my last post, and will work on a tractor or a star ship with the same familiarity and comfortable ease. He loves science and spends a lot of down-time messing around with bio-chemistry, engineering, and climatology. These projects often seem to have a particular goal; such as finding a cure for cancer or the common cold or solving world hunger. He doesn't seem to have much interest in economics or politics beyond how they impact his job as a reporter and the lives of the regular people he looks out for. In fact, I'd say he likely has a stark distrust of big business, considering his farm background and his rivalry with Lex. Obviously there are some good CEO's out there (like Bruce) but Clark probably sees those as an exception rather than the norm.

    Clark's politics are murky. He's obviously left leaning on a number of issues and has a strong socialist streak in him, but there are other topics where he seems to be right leaning. He obviously supports gay rights and leans left on immigration, but has no issue with guns and likely favors less regulation and government interference. And on some topics he's completely mute (such as abortion). So he's probably a moderate socialist/libertarian fusion. He has a strong distaste for politicians and a lack of confidence in the system; otherwise he wouldn't be working outside the law as Superman, but will also easily set aside differences to work with the government when their goals align. He seems to hold the "good" politicians in very high esteem; likely figuring that if they're able to accomplish anything positive in the quagmire of Washington DC, they're superheroes in their own right.

    He's also got a bit of a historian in him, at least when it comes to Krypton, though whether that's an interest in history itself, or him just trying to save as much of his homeworld's culture as possible is unclear. And he's a bit of a sociologist/anthropologist when it comes to earth, but whether that's an honest interest in the subjects or just Clark trying to find a place where he belongs in the world is unclear.

    He also "scrap books" on a superhuman scale. The Fortress is full of mementos from his adventures, family photos from Smallville, giant statues of his parents, etc. It could be said that the Fortress itself is Clark's scrap book.

    Clark's morality is binary; a thing is either right or wrong and there's little room for gray areas in his mind. He knows on an intellectual level that circumstances and intent matter, but emotionally he struggles to work through those variances. As he says, "there is right and wrong in the universe, and that distinction is not hard to make." As such, it's very hard for Clark to recognize a "lesser" evil, and he's unable to let even those small things slide. He'll be in the middle of first contact with a new civilization, with everything going well, and then screw everything up to save some animals that are being mistreated by that civilization. He'll have very little sympathy for a gang member who was forced into the gang by threats of violence or attempts to protect their family from said gang, though he'll try to help that gang member turn their life around if he can.

    He's straight (obviously), with no signs that his sexuality is anything more exotic than that. He likes boobs, and that's all there is to it.

    Clark doesn't seem to put much thought into religion. The Kents may have been christian by default, but weren't terribly devote or church going people. And Clark tries to follow Kryptonian traditions where he can. We see an odd mix of these two religions when Clark dies and Blaze tries to trick him into hell; Clark's got enough faith in both earth-based christianity and Kryptonian Rao-ism to accept that both were carrying him to the afterlife. Complicating his religious outlook is the fact that Clark has punched any number of gods in the face, beings who weren't gods but might as well have been, and is friends with gods and/or divine creatures from a number of different faiths, not all of them earth-based. I suspect Clark is, when he thinks about religion at all, more of a spiritualist than a practicing member of any particular religion; the universe is too strange and big and he's seen too much to discount the existence of a higher power, but I don't believe he worries too much about the details. He'll celebrate a strictly Kryptonian holiday one day, then turn around and celebrate a christian one, and he'll see no discrepancy or inconsistency in doing so.

    I suppose that's probably enough for now.
    Last edited by Ascended; 06-17-2018 at 11:21 AM.
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