There are several genres of the fantastic, but the most successful in recent decades is that of superheroes. This is because, in him, the everyday -the city- is invaded and transformed by the fantastic -his hero and his villains-. The clearest example of this is Superman, number 1 on the list of the best superheroes in comic book history.
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Beyond the superlative abilities and fantastical elements, Superman’s life is everyone’s life. Thrown into a world that always seems a bit alien to us, into which we never quite fit; we have our fortress of solitude, where we accumulate memories of friends, successes and shameful defeats; We even have a pet that makes our day; and there is that special person that we love with all our being even though they don’t realize who we really are.
At the same time, what complements the interest in the superhero genre is its rarity, that absurdity that we agree to accept when entering Metropolis, Gotham or Stan Lee’s New York. And let me tell you that the most exemplary hero on Earth is extremely strange. He is an individual physically and cognitively different from the human being; that he enjoys playing the role of an ordinary person; that he has a secret monument to his friends; that he melancholy guards the futuristic relics of a world that, though it is his birthplace, he does not understand; that in the absence of omnipresence, he decides to design robots identical to him to be everywhere.
Superman does not “fight for justice” in an abstract sense, as the tagline says. He comes from a very technologically advanced civilization and his past becomes destiny. On Earth he is called Clark Joseph Kent, as an adult he decides to use a suit inherited from that extinct culture not only to catch criminals, but also to help scientists with ambitious experiments. Because, deep down, his mission is to take humanity to that technological paradise full of immeasurable wonders and horrors. Example of the latter is its undervalued villains gallery, characters that seem to be taken from a cyberpunk novel: Metallo, a man halfway to becoming a machine; Bizarro, a zombie from a parallel universe whose perverse logic threatens to supplant that of our world; Brainiac, a knowledge-devouring AI; and the classic Lex Luthor, the reason in his self-destructive facet.
In the same way as Batman, Superman underwent a radical reset/reboot in the eighties, with the script and strokes of the master john byrne. Krypton, his home planet, is not presented as a technological utopia, but as a completely dehumanized world in which science dictates all the decisions of life to the point of becoming the source of its destruction.
I think the Kryptonian shift is very successful. It makes Superman’s implied mission tragic, for by helping Earth advance technologically, he may also unknowingly lead to its downfall.
Another of the changes in the eighties was wanting to humanize the hero, Clark Kent became the real identity and Superman on the spot. It was an interesting change for the time, very much in line with Western hero lore. But I am more interested in the type from before: inhuman, strange, but always looking to get closer to others.
If I do a Superman comic around this time, I’d like detailed (I’m almost tempted to say realistic) art. Keep all the essentials and get rid of the ceremonial. No more “this is a job for Superman” or “faster than a bullet…”, no rescuing cats from trees, let’s forget the nods to the movies. Goodbye Christopher Reeve. How boring is retro; it is not even something intrinsic to the character, on the contrary. You have to look to the future; however uncertain it may be, it is all we have left. That’s what superheroes are about and, in particular, Superman. There are also other versions from which to take inspiration: Kingdom Come, the animated series of the nineties and All Star Superman, to name a few.
In the 1930s and 1940s, when this genre began, modernity was facing its biggest crisis up to that time. The Great Depression of 1929 had caused serious economic problems. That’s when they emerge in quick succession Superman, Batman, Shazam, Wonder Woman, Captain America. In the case of the man of steel, almost from the beginning he faced robots, mad scientists, parallel dimensions, etc. All new ideas at the time. That is the point! That’s Superman!
And now, the last gallery of images.
And as the last video, Superman against The Elite.
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Superman: The 15 Greatest Superheroes of All Time
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