Monday, August 15, 2011

Blogathon 06: Who is Superman? Part Four

[Continuing my look at different interpretations of Superman from the past ten years...]

Grant Morrison used Clark Kent to balance out Superman's superiority, so, when Brian Azzarello took Clark away, what exactly was left? I keep coming back to Superman's fight with the elementals that acted on behalf of Mother Earth. They attacked him to get him to leave... exactly why isn't clear since they basically admit that humanity is just the latest infestation. But, his response is that he would kill everything, burn off the atmosphere, and then physically break up the planet is shocking. We assume it's a bluff, but, even as a bluff, that's harsher than Superman usually is. Without his connections to humanity, he drifts further away from those roots and more towards a Superbeing that is not held back by limitations of human morality or personal affection for humanity. Take away Clark and, slowly, Superman loses the man.

Azzarello's use of Father Leone illustrates this, him becoming Superman's new human connection with Lois and Clark gone. After seeing how far he was moving away from humanity, he begins to reconnect with it through this priest. It's interesting that the person he looks to as his new connection to humanity is a religious figure. It's not simply about reconnecting with humanity, it's about struggling to avoid thinking of himself as the supreme being, the god of Earth in a sense. A priest will be a reminder of faith in something bigger than Superman -- again, a humbling experience. For all that people didn't like Azzarello's interpretation of Superman, it's one that's remarkably in line with Morrison's. He simply presents the argument in another fashion. Instead of a straight forward presentation of 'this is Superman and this is what he's about,' he shows us a Superman that's removed from that and his struggle to regain what he lost. Azzarello stripped Superman of everything but his power and position and watched what would happen, how the character would go too far and try to retreat.

If Clark is his primary connection to humanity, a way to embody it, what is Lois? When Lois disappears in For Tomorrow, Clark goes as well. Lois is the woman he loves and, slowly, becomes his secondary connection to humanity in conjunction with his parents. She comes to embody the things in humanity that he wants. She's compassionate, strong, self-assured... she's almost a mirror of Superman. Is she Superman in the form of a human woman? Is that why Clark is so drawn to her...? Is it really a case of him loving himself? The classic idea of the love triangle is that Clark loves Lois, Lois loves Superman, and Superman loves Clark. Superman loves Clark because he's his window into humanity, Lois loves Superman because he's something more than humanity, and Clark loves Lois because... because why exactly?

I'm talking in circles here a little, I know, and eating some pizza took up a chunk of my time this half-hour, so only a shorter post. In 30 minutes, hopefully, I'll go somewhere with this.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative! (Details in this post.) After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]