Whatever happened to The Man of Steel?

Next year Superman will be a whopping 80 years old. But as Batman infamously stated in Infinite Crisis, the last time Superman truly inspired anyone was when he died. But who's fault is that? Why is The Man of Tomorrow currently viewed as The Man of Yesterday?

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By hush - 1/6/2011
I don't know about you, but I have been pondering this for a few years. Superman is, without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest and most iconic superhero ever. Batman is popular, Iron Man has found his place and Spider-Man will always be a fan favorite, so why has Superman slid from his status to become almost a bit player in the DC Universe? Here's a few thoughts I'd like to share as to why The Man of Tomorrow has become the icon of yesterday and how to resolve the identity crisis The Big Blue Boyscout is currently facing.

1) Superpants! Have you noticed every other superheros costume has evolved over time. Hell, Spidey can barely keep the same costume for longer than one story arc. Batman now wears a rather interesting looking kevlar suit (minus the pants, although Dick Grayson is still sporting bat-underwear on the outside). In fact, whilst looking through my comics, I noticed out of the JLA core members Aquaman has had a massive costume makeover (Brightest Day Aquaman actually looks a bit fantastic), J'onn J'onzz has gone all Martian looking and back again, Wonder Woman has had a change of heart (ok, so it doesn't always work) and Green Lantern has removed the 'ball hugging' costume for something a little less camp. But Superman still insists on wearing the underwear on the outside. You have to admit, it's a little more difficult to take him seriously in a movie when he looks as if he got dressed in the dark. Can you imagine The Dark Knight with Adam West?

2) Someone change the record! It's as if DC are so scared to change their number one Son of Krypton they refuse to make any major changes to the character. Captain America is a fine example of Marvel updating and keeping with the times, something DC seem to struggle with. For those who don't know (where have you been?) Steve Rogers now dons a more SHIELD style uniform and Bucky now wears the Captain America uniform. It's still similar, but updated. Modern. It fits in more with the changing times. And it's not just the uniform. At the end of each day saving the planet Superman returns home to his wife and the bad guy is defeated. I know DC ran the New Krypton story, but how has that actually changed the character. If anything, it damaged him more by having this massive story off planet, only to have him return and... well... remain Superman. Don't you, as fans, think it would be more interesting to really make a major change in Superman's universe? I think the resolution is simple; kill off Lois. How would it change Superman and Clark to have Lois killed? What if it was a major villain? How would Superman change towards that villain? What if it were a B list bad guy? Which nicely leads me into...

3) Superman: The Mighty Marvel Man of Steel! OK, the thought of Big Blue going to Marvel seriously weirds me out. He is the face of DC. But maybe Marvel can deliver a major overhaul to the character where DC have failed. I would rather see Supes with more original ideas and stories, new challenges and so on that rotting away in DC. I mean, even the movie failed to produce anything spectacular. And a part of me kind of wishes Tim Burton has got his way and updated Superman. Perhaps not with Nicholas Cage though. But a definite change of pace is needed. Marvel can have Superman face off against so many new challenges. Sentry, Hulk, Thor, Doom, Magneto... wouldn't that be a nice change from whopping Bizarro and Brainiac every week?

DC have given Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash and Martian Manhunter updates (even going so far as to have Wally West as The Flash for 20 or so years so we are left with a returning Barry Allen who doesn't quite fit into this new, darker World for superheros). So why is Superman so stagnant?

I am and will always prefer DC. I read Marvel, have a large collection of the graphic novels but, since I grew up with DC, my heart will always lie with them. But I can't help but think if I want to see Superman truly back in action, Disney/Marvel should aquire the rights.

I'd love to hear what you guys think, how can they save Superman?
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32 Comments
CorndogBurglar - 1/6/2011, 9:57 AM
why is he viewed as the man of yesterday? because people don't like the goody goody characters anymore. He's too boring, he's too powerful, and he's played out.

AlexdoxA - 1/6/2011, 10:02 AM
He and his stories have just become soooo predictable... which leads to boring... which leads to nobody but super-fans giving a damn...
I mean... how many different ways of telling the same old story are really there??
hush - 1/6/2011, 10:05 AM
It's not that people don't like the goodie two shoes characters - it's actually the part of Superman character that tends to inspire people the most, it certainly does inspire me that way. It's more like AlexdoxA said, he has become predictable and boring. He gets into trouble, resolves it, fly's home and bumps uglies with Lois. The character hasn't moved on and I think it is because DC are too scared to try anything new with him.
Denn1s - 1/6/2011, 10:15 AM
i agree with your points except for marvel taking over. not gonna happen. he seriously needs an update, especially the super-pants need to gtfo! let's hope the movie is drastic, so the comics will follow its example.
hush - 1/6/2011, 10:19 AM
Don't get me wrong, I love Superman. He's everything that a human should be, and he isn't even human. He is, in his own way, a modern interpretation of how God should behave (the vengeful bugger) but, as a fan since I was a wee Hushling, I am bored of his comics.

Let's look at the last few major DC cross overs over the past ten years.

Final Crisis - arrives at the very end to pick up Batmans body and look all angry. Eyes glowed. Cripes!!!

Blackest Night - Turned all Black Lanterny and then back to normal. Go Supes!

Infinite Crisis - Ok, so he put Superboy Prime in his place with the help of Earth 1 Superman. Aside from that, the highlight was Batman's insult.

Identity Crisis - He overhears some comments and ignores them.

In movies, regardless of how much it grossed, Superman Returns is an epic flop that did more harm than good.

In fact, the best thing Superman wise for the past ten years is Smallville. What does that tell you?

Where's a comment from Grif when you need one :D



BIGBMH - 1/6/2011, 10:28 AM
I love Superman, but I've never been able to get into the comic series because it just doesn't seem very interesting. I think some of you have it figured out. It's not the character, it's the stories. It's not the costume. (note: none of the Spider-man costume changes stick, because the original look is so classic, like Superman's)DC needs to stop and think, what's a logical new direction for Superman.
hush - 1/6/2011, 10:41 AM
Totally agree Superguy1591. Superman Returns only sold tickets because it is Superman. It should have been a reboot from the start, which goes to show how scared DC/Warner are with making major changes to Superman.

And yeah, Thor seems to do alright for himself. As does Hulk. DC and Marvels B listers get better treatment than Superman does. I don't think it is the stories that are entirely to blame, although BIGBMH is right that it is a major contributing factor. I think it is DC's fear of moving Superman forward, making major changes that are essential to the character continuing to grow and actually be 'The Man of Tomorrow'.

Kingdom Come is a brilliant take on Superman. It shows the mightiest man alive more vulnerable, minus his supporting cast, how he has to deal with being viewed as out of date and possibly the greatest hissy fit in comic history. That he won't allow himself to lose control (although he nearly does at the end, and the fear in the peoples eyes when he did lose it was excellent).
hush - 1/6/2011, 12:00 PM
@ Gaston - I've been collecting Superman comics since 1986 when I jumped on board the Superman mythos with Superman: Man of Steel (post crisis reboot). I think I can safely say I've read more than my fair share.

All-Star - Was excellent, still non-canon.
Red Son - Again, excellent but non-canon
Secret Origin - nothing new, not actually the great a story
Kingdom Come - excellent, but not a Superman story, I would say it's Justice League story/ DC Universe story.
Birthright - yet another reboot of the origin story. New take on a very old premise.

And Earth One is, once again, a retelling of the same story. It's all based on Supermans history and alternate versions, why can't we have decent stories in modern continuity?

BigG - 1/6/2011, 12:03 PM
nice article dude
i agree with most of what u said, 2 b excepted in nowadays, superman needs a faithful update 2 the 21st century, in particular ditching the underwear is the best way 2 start
still man u got the chance check out my Daredevil Fan Cast
Ibz - 1/6/2011, 12:12 PM
@Hush great article i totally agree with you, and as a marvel fan i would love seeing superman in marvel but i think i would find that totally weird. one of the best ways to shake things up is to get some one else to take up the mantle of superman, yes i know the whole sidekick taking over his mentor/partners legacy has been done before but its worked for batman and captain america. bucky being captain america has allowed steve to be the biggest player in the MU. and i dont think its totally fair to just blame DC, although majority of it is there faults but you have a lot of fans out there who dont want to let things go and this dosent just apply to supes but pretty much every comic character more or less.

great article dude keep it up
hush - 1/6/2011, 12:27 PM
@ Gaston I don't see Batman as having been replaced at all. To be fair, he was dead (ok... displaced in time... yawn) but at least DC are prepared to make the much needed changes. We now have two Batmen - Bruce and Dick. We have new villains constantly being introduced in Batman, Batman and Robin and Batman Inc. The Bat-franchise is now global and Bruce has openly admitted he funds Batman. We have a completely new dynamic between the bratty Robin and Dick's Batman (which I have to admit I am thoroughly enjoying) and Bruce globe trotting setting up Batman Inc is a completely new take on The Dark Knight. And we can't over look the Batman movies, the cartoons... even the various Robins seem to get better stories and screen time than Superman. Batman and the Batman universe changes and keeps up with the times and has, over the years, produced some fantastic stories.

Although I agree he is difficult to write, point well made man. Maybe the writers need to address why he is so difficult to write for and address those issues first. When he lost his powers for a year, why give him back the powers again? Why not limit them, so he can't push planets and juggle moons? DC had the chance to update him there but chose not to. And yet they have absolutely no problems with Conner Kent, who, for me, seems to have an endless run of excellent stories. I don't think the last time he inspired anyone was when he dies, and that was only a few years ago! ;D

@ Ibz Thanks man. And the fan boy thing does seem to keep coming up. God please don't tell me it's our fault Superman is a bit 'meh'. Do you think people would really object that much if we removed the pants and
just put a splash of red somewhere else?
RoscoeFolgers - 1/6/2011, 12:29 PM
Finding Batman's body wasn't the only thing Superman did in Final Crisis. He, y'know, helped deliver the final blow to the dying Darkseid with Barry and Wally.
Ibz - 1/6/2011, 12:42 PM
@hush no i am not solely blaming us fanboys but a lot of us do over react to change.
hush - 1/6/2011, 12:43 PM
ha @ Gaston

Ma does make some nifty threads
golden123 - 1/6/2011, 1:37 PM
First off I think Superman is perfectly relatable. Second, Superman will be 80 years old in over 7 years from now. The Superman in the story "Reign of the Superman" isn't the Superman mentioned in your article.
hush - 1/6/2011, 2:01 PM
Ok, 73 years since Action Comics 1, 79 since the idea was conceived and then adapted (as in Reign of the Superman, the villain was pretty much Lex Luthor-ish). The maths isn't really what this thread is about. Or being able to relate to the character - I've already mentioned I love Big Blue, have done for years and the character is a huge inspiration for me, morally and artistically.

This isn't about being able to relate to Superman.. I think most people do or have done. This is about why, over the past ten or so years, he seems to have taken a major backseat in DC. Ironically, Superman doing 'more than just finding Bruce's body... he turned up at the end for the final blow' is actually more insulting to the character than just leaving him out of Final Crisis all together. It's very much 'What shall we do with Superman? I know, everyone else can can fight off the baddies and right at the end we'll have him swoop in and save the day'. I find that pretty insulting to the character, as well as the rest of the DC characters.

Swoop, save, fly into space, cheeky smile to the camera and back to boning Lois. Pointless.


LP4 - 1/6/2011, 5:12 PM
I blame a lot of the stupid-kids nowadays that want their heroes all "dark" and "broody" that is not Superman so their natural instinct is to hate on him.

Especially the marvel-fans. Look from Marvel I love Spider-Man and Hulk. But I'm a DC-fanboy first and foremost and Supes is my #1 hero. I would say...if the siegels take Superman away from DC/WB then sell him to a company that would actually treat him nicely, then kids these days would be able to relate with Big Blue. Fact remains- Warner Bros [frick]ING SUCK at making Superman films. They have already ruined 3 films...I'd say that's enough to warrant them as sucking. It aint Supes' fault...it's the fault of his current "parents" but once the custody battle between WB and the Siegels is over, I'm sure...actually...MAYBE we might just get a truly epic Superman film worthy of him. I still am unsure about this new reboot. I keep thinking WB will [frick] it up somehow...
matt28 - 1/6/2011, 6:37 PM
americas got captain american to look up to, but the world has superman to look up to. nothings changed nor will it ever!




*Truth Justice and the American Way*
wonderme - 1/6/2011, 11:00 PM
Hey Superman is the best there will ever be! Batman is good for being Human. Superman is not from here.
steelrocks - 1/7/2011, 1:23 AM
Good article. Im all up for change, especially if people keep failing at making A ONE decent superman movie, for today's standards.

I think Marvel could do a great job and shift things back to people loving superman again. But I also agree on the other hand that it would be weird. Very tricky situation.

I agree changes need to be done, in the movies, stories, directors, costume, actors (go away routh), and lots of things.

I think the costume definitely needs an update and it's a great point what the article mentioned about every other superhero having his costume revamped often! We need at least a slight change. No more underwear showing up would be a good start.

I think this next movie will make him more relatable to today's society. I have faith in Nolan and Snyder. They will bring justice to Supes. And then afterwards it will only get better. Gotta be positive people!
hush - 1/7/2011, 3:04 AM
Thanks for all your positive comments by the way, it's nice to have a productive thread instead of a 'Marvel v DC thread' or bitching. I appreciate all the opinions and ideas you guys have come up with. Cheers :D

@ LP4 - yes, Warner seem completely clueless when it comes to Superman. Out of the last FIVE (count 'em) Superman films, three have sucked and even the first two had their faults (flying around the Earth and reversing time? Throwing the 'S' from his shield which stopped Non for about a second...seiously, what the frick). I still love Superman: The Movie and Superman II, they are great films. But they do have their faults.

We don't need the love story between Lois and Clark. Again, anyone who knows Superman knows he and Lois are an item. We've seen it in Lois and Clark, the movies, Smallville... we get it, we know it, move along.

For a reboot, I'd actually like to see a take on The Death and Return of Superman. Obviously a few changes would need to be made. But it would work very well for a trilogy.

The first film would be The Death of Superman, having him square off against Doomsday (I'd love to see Doomsday fighting the JLI prior to Supes turning up). The second would be a great chance to introduce Superboy and Steel and fight The Eradicator or even Cyborg Superman (with a few continuity tweaks) before Superman returns towards the end of the movie leading to the third installment, which could be a large, epic battle as Brainiac invades Earth and Superman, Superboy and Steel working together. I think a change to the 'lonely survivor' story would be very refreshing.

This would open up the Superman universe. I don't think it's just the villains that need a reboot, I think the supporting characters do also.
TheMyth - 1/7/2011, 6:30 AM
Gaston, Superman hard to write? He is one of the simplest characters in all of comics, how is he hard to write for? I will agree with you 100% that it is fanboys that are the biggest problem with his lack of evolution.

Fact is, Superman is a poorly conceived character. It's like a 7 year old made him and adults have been trying to make him awesome ever since. SuperGuy presents a large piece of evidence of this himself when he says it's usually comic readers who don't like him, and that is true. The folks I meet who "love" Supes, either don't read comics at all, or they read his comic and that is it, which to me is not a comic fan, but a Superman fan. I'm sorry to those that feel otherwise, but please tell me what is relatable about a superpowered humanoid alien whose phisiology allows him god-like power by absorbing radiation from our yellow sun? And top that off with a boyscout mentality that not even... boyscouts have? Nothing is relatable about him because nobody of that sort exists or ever has! If Superman is to be made interesting and relatable, he either has to be powered down, or he has to lose his boyscout mentality. I for one would rather him be depowered to an extent, as even though his attitude is somewhat unrealistic, it is the basis for what makes him such an honorable hero. I don't find it interesting at all that his limitless power is limited by his good will. He doesn't need to be able to crack a planet in half with a punch, shoot lasers from his eyes, have x-ray vision, or be able to fly through space unaided, etc. I'd be much more content if he had his flight, speed and were the physically strongest character in DC. That is all he needs to be a great hero capable of overcoming evil. All those other powers are the reason I say he seems to have been created by a 7 year old with an inferiority complex.
hush - 1/7/2011, 6:43 AM
@ TheMyth - I did chuckle at 'All those other powers are the reason I say he seems to have been created by a 7 year old with an inferiority complex.'

If DC had the balls to 'de-power' him after Infinite Crisis and during the events of 52, I do think that would have been the making of Superman. Like you said, still able to fly, the strongest in the DC Universe and super speed. Maybe a hint of heat vision. But Artic breath? X Ray vision? Super hearing? I don't think they are essential to the character. It would actually make for an interesting story if Supes lost these powers and, effectively, felt less able to accomplish his tasks. Chuck on a nice new super suit (keep the cape, lose the pants) and you have something to be moving forward with.

CorndogBurglar - 1/7/2011, 7:38 AM
@ Superguy

"Superman isn't played out, only CB fans seem to hate him."

Only comic book fans hate him? you mean the people that know the character better than anyone? lol
TheMyth - 1/7/2011, 10:39 AM
CDB, lmao I literally thought that same EXACT thing.
batfan39 - 1/7/2011, 1:26 PM
Good article... one problem though... Supes won't be 80 until 2018. He's a very fit looking 73 though.
ChrisW - 1/7/2011, 1:43 PM
In my opinion Superman is perfect just the way he is. He's the light in the Darkness for me. I hate how that was portrayed in Superman Returns. Superman is not a gay beam of light/window stalker. He stands for something but it shouldn't be represented in the movie as a promo for Burger King or like some ridiculous commercial. Up in the sky! It's a bird? No way! Come on.... Now, let's just shut up about the obvious and get to the heart of his story. No need to exasperate all the little annoyances that have come before it. Lex Luther is a ruthless businessman not a stand up comedian with a goofy sidekick. And Superman IS the man! There aren't any men like him. He's got a good head on his shoulders and it's a deep story about a small town kid that was blessed with extraordinary gifts. There is a tremendous amount of weight to a story like this. Every sports fanatic in the country can attest to wanting an underdog to do well. This small town kid has to decide whether or not he wants to be a god. He finds out that his parents aren't from the planet he knows but that he is from an alien race sent here from a dying planet!! Holy crap!! That's freakin' heavy man!! What other changes does a character need? Bizzaro is a clone of him - stem cells gone horribly wrong. Lex contacts Kryptonians and poisons this young man in order to dominate the planet. Make Lex a politician we HATE politician in this country. Make Lex an undermining smooth talking political figure with a banner for change. Have some freaking balls and make the movie controversial like Star Wars. It's just freaking entertainment for Christ sakes. Give the guy a pair of tight pants and shirt made from rubber and materials we re not used to seeing. Anyways, the Superman story is already there, you just need the right guy handling the job. They did that, so I don't know why I'm wasting my time writing all this.
ChrisW - 1/7/2011, 2:03 PM
He's a family man. Make Superman's belief system the way a guy from a small town in America would think like, but take the woman out of him. That's not to say he doesn't understand women. I mean, let's make the guy a man. Let's show how he becomes a man. Ya know? Maybe I'm taking this too far. Anyway, he takes care of his family, but don't make him like the Superman rip off that Spiderman was. Clark Kent shouldn't be a rip off of Peter Parker like they had Peter Parker ripping off the 1978 version of Clark Kent. 2000's Spiderman had clearly ripped off the earlier versions of the 1978-80's Superman movies. Make the guy simple and a lot less complicated. Don't have him married with girlfriends and whatever else kind of screwed up complicated hogwash those silly Hollywood minds come up with. Have the guy work through his problems with some stability and focus but with an understanding of the world around him. Characters like this are deep. It's takes years to really build a story out of stuff like this. Fortunately, Superman has been here for 70+ years. Just because Superman doesn't like getting wasted at a bar or whatever doesn't mean the guy can't tolerate and get along with someone who does or is in the process of doing. Anyways, that is all I got.
ChrisW - 1/7/2011, 2:07 PM
Most of the stuff I wrote probably isn't even relevant, but hey I'm bored so what of it?
LP4 - 1/7/2011, 7:15 PM
@Hush- Couldn't agree more with you buddy :D Seriously FIVE Superman films in and we've only had what...only 2 of the villains from Superman's rogues gallery in the comics? That is [frick]ING LAME!!!

The other villains...a lame-ass super-computer and a lame rich dude in Superman III (no not Hackman's lame take on Lex lol), then Superman 4 we had...NUCLEAR MAN!!...lame. He looked like a lame, hardcore anglo-saxon version of Supes, LOL.

Superman Returns...[frick]ING RETARDED.

Superman 1 and 2 were ok...boring but ok I guess. I didn't like the addition of more powers he never had in the comics like you said "Hush" turning back time and throwing the "S" and not to mention the amnesia-kiss...c'mon Warner Bros!!! [frick]!!!

WB only seem to care about Batman and now seemingly Green Lantern. They don't give a FLYING [frick]ING SHIT about Superman. Greedy a-holes. I hope the siegels win the lawsuit now and save Superman from WB. I used to be on Warner Bros' side and i hated the damn greedy siegels but [frick] I mean WB is so [frick]ing incompetant!! They had to reboot Superman a SECOND time in a span of less than 6 years! That is retarded. And I mean shit...Superman was in development hell for 20 years...and all we got was "Superman Returns" ????

[frick] Warner Bros. Greedy pricks.
steelrocks - 1/10/2011, 2:14 AM
@hush

"For a reboot, I'd actually like to see a take on The Death and Return of Superman" -> This is what I dont agree with. At least for the first movie. Because it requires a very meticulous plan (something they obviously havent had for a good while (i.e.-last lines of LP4's post up above).

While I agree it would be epic, and the whole thing would work for the superman franchise, I cant believe they can't come up with a good story first and leave him there, up in the air (no pun intended), and after the JLA movie comes out, then yeah. Kill superman. Makes doomsday destroy the hell out of the JLA.

Now we're talking epic shit!
marvelguy - 1/13/2011, 1:30 AM
I agree with some of the above. They need to get back to emphasizing the super in Superman. The focus should be on the light he brings to humanity, the counter to the dark Batman uses as his actual cape and cowl. It should show his genuine humanity from loving Lois to saving children. And he should have limits. That is what made Byrne's "Man of Steel" so great. He was/is still amazing powerful, but still limited.

For better or worse, "Smallville" has covered the humane side the best. It still has its problems. Without beating a dead horse, their focus on his limits keeps removing and regaining his powers.

The reality is that now is the time to have a being of incredible power show the best in humanity and how he is here to help. The core of who and what Superman is should never change. The costume is somewhat of a weak argument. It is iconic. I believe Jim Lee or someone like him referred to it as being a flag. That person was right. He is a symbol as much as he is a being.

I will leave it there.

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