Thirty Days of Feelings: Day Fifteen

This year I’m undergoing a bit of an experiment: Thirty straight days of doing/watching/listening to/reading something that makes me feel – however fleetingly – like an actual human being, in the hopes that this will thaw a layer of ice off my frozen shriveled little heart, and allow me to not be such a buzzkill this year. So let’s get to it.

Day Fifteen: All-Star Superman

all-star superman

The main complaint against Superman is that he’s unapproachable. Ironically it’s not because he’s too alien, with his super-strength and heat vision and ability to fly; it’s that he’s too human. Or at least the good parts. He’s this paragon, a saint. He’s unflinchingly good and just and righteous, to the point where you simply can’t ignore his fictionality. There’s no suspension of disbelief, because we’ve never met anyone so powerfully good. So how do you make Superman relatable again?

Well, maybe by killing him.

In Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman, we get to see what Superman would do if he had one year to live. What follows are twelve beautiful, timeless tales of The Last Son of Krypton’s last days. He gives Lois Lane the ability to experience life as he does. He creates life. He frees the Bottle City of Kandor. He cures cancer. He bests Hercules and Atlas in a feat of strength. He answers the Unanswerable Question. But more importantly, and far more touchingly, he reveals his true identity to his true love. He travels through time to visit with his parents one last time. He talks a suicidal teen girl off the ledge.

It’s these human moments that define Superman as he should be. He shouldn’t be unrelatable. But he should be better than us. Instead of dismissing him as poorly-written or too unbelievable, we should aspire to that. Just like we should aspire to Leslie Knope’s unwavering loyalty, or Phil Dunphy’s unassailable optimism.

What I love most about All-Star is the way it dilutes the Superman mythos down to the bare essentials. His origin story is told in four panels. Under ten words. What matters is that Superman is strong. Smart. Kind – especially to the little guy. That he protects the people he cares for – and the ones he doesn’t. That he loves both deeply and widely. That he would never leave the world in worse shape than when he found it. And that he would face everything: loneliness, evil, even death itself, bravely and with good grace.

He’s Superman. And because he is Superman, he will always win. Isn’t that something worth rooting for? Isn’t that something that brings a smile to your face? Isn’t that something… true? Not true as in factual, or literal, but True nonetheless? Something important, even if it’s made up? Isn’t that good?

I think so.

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