“You’ll believe a man can fly.”
This was the tagline for the original Superman movie back in 1978. I love that ideal. The belief that one man can inspire us and lift our eyes up to something greater than ourselves (even if that man is technically an alien). This is part of the reason that Superman has always been my favorite superhero. His ability to inspire.
And I’ve caught some flack for my love of Superman. I get a lot of “He’s boring”, “He’s got too many powers.” and “How can you identify with an all-powerful hero?”
What’s worse is despite my love for the character, I’ve never been really satisfied with any one version of Superman, in any format. I like bits and pieces of the movies. Christopher Reeve’s good natured charm. The airplane rescue sequence in “Superman Returns”is amazing. And I’m sure if I gave them a second chance and looked really hard I could probably find something I liked about “Smallville” and “Man of Steel”. (I could, but I won’t).
Even in the comics, none of the Superman stories have ever wowed me. I’ve read a few good ones, but those storylines fail to reach the same heights as the best issues of Spiderman, X-Men, or Batman. (It’s sad to say, but maybe the best Superman comic I’ve read is ‘Superman: Red Son’, where he is a Communist)
Which brings up the question: If I don’t really like any of his comics or his movies, can I really say that Superman is still my favorite?
My friend John once claimed that “Superman is the hero for kids, but Batman is a grownup’s hero”. Could that be true? Had I really outgrown my childhood hero?
I kicked this question around, wondering who I would claim as my favorite, if not Superman. There’s lot of good comics to choose from. Captain America has all the integrity of Superman, with several really good movies under his belt.
Wolverine is a great character with a definite ‘tough guy’ appeal and those claws!
Then there’s Thor, who has the advantage of…well being Thor.
And of course Batman has a glut of great stories in the comics and plenty of cool gadgets and gizmos.
But if I had to pick guy to be my new favorite, it would probably be Spiderman. How can one not love Peter Parker, who keeps fighting, even as he suffers for protecting the one he loves?
But which version of Spiderman do I go with? Classic Spiderman, from the 616 Universe, has some great stuff, but I really love the Spiderman from the Ultimate Universe too (to you non-comic book fans, let me just say that such distinctions to make a difference). What about the movies? Do I go with Tobey MaGuire or Andrew Garfield? And what about the animated series from the early 90’s?
With the proliferation of remakes and reboots and alternate universes it’s impossible to pick one definitive interpretation of any given character. We usually end up building an idealized version of our favorite hero from a variety sources, creating a character who ultimately doesn’t actually exist anywhere in continuity.
A vision of someone who we look to in admiration, even though we haven’t seen them.
The one with whom we truly identify.
One inspires us to believe in the impossible.