Sunday, March 20, 2016

Why we look up in the sky...

UPDATE: You can read my spoiler-heavy "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" review here 
UPDATE 2: You can read my "treatment" for a Superman movie here

For me it started when I was very young. There was a red cape I wore regularly - and that my Mom still has - a VHS tape featuring a handful of the Fleischer cartoons, Superfriends, Ruby Spears, George Reeves and a handful of comic books. It has since become a life goal of mine to write Superman in comics or some form of media.

I love Superman. I love his mythology, what he stands for and ultimately, the idea of what he represents, something I'll mention a few times here... an ideal to strive towards.

I have been an outspoken critic of "Man of Steel" for the last three years. I don't outright hate it... I don't think it's a particularly great movie, but as a Superman movie it fails on multiple levels and is not very good at all. I hate it's portrayal and representation of Superman. It's unfortunate, because I LOVE the cast. But I'm on the same level with Mark Waid, Dan Slott, Jamal Igle, Tom Brevoort and many other outspoken comic book personalities who know a thing or two about Superman.

When I first saw "Man of Steel," I was left very uncomfortable. I tried to be positive and justify what occurred as the fog of Superman on the big screen was still thick. After a day or two, it started to wear off and I realized that like Waid, the movie broke my heart.

With that said, I am also NOT a huge fan of the Donner movies. I understand why people love them, and yes, Christopher Reeve embodies a near-perfect Superman. But from a story standpoint, I've never been a huge fan. That extends to "Superman Returns." "Returns" is essentially "Richard Donner's Superman III" and that was both it's greatest strength and greatest weakness.

I'm going to see "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice," albeit with low expectations. On one hand, I'll see it to form an opinion. On the other hand, I'm interested to see Ben Affleck's Batman and the big screen debut of Wonder Woman. Will they improve this version of Superman to be more like the Superman that has been built for three-quarters of a century? I don't know, there's a lot of ground to make up, but as you may see by the end of this, because I believe in who Superman really is, the truth of the character, there may still be hope. Going dark and broody is against what Superman is and if you think it makes him "interesting" then we're all a lot more cynical than we care to admit. If you make a Superman (or Batman movie for that matter) that you can't take a child to - even Ben Affleck has said he won't let his 4 year old see BvS - then you've already failed. Of course, kids will still go - after all, kids went to see "Deadpool" but that's not the point I'm making, obviously.

As "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" is upon us and my Facebook postings have been rife with Superman material and questions raised by friends, I decided it was time to finally address this issue in one fell swoop. This particular writing deals with one of the more controversial aspects of "Man of Steel" - Superman killing Zod and the ultimate question of "does Superman kill?"

No. Superman does not kill.

Let me get that exhaustive Forbes article where writer Mark Hughes justifies "Superman the killer" out of the way. I read it. A few times, actually. And it's still wrong. There's an argument out there that "Man of Steel" defenders use regularly, arguing "well, Superman has killed in the comics before, so there's precedent" or "in the Golden Age he killed people, 'Man of Steel' was the Golden Age version!"

Two things here about "it happened in the comics." 1) Batman used to carry a gun when he was first created. Shortly thereafter he no longer did and he began to abhor guns because they were the instrument used to murder his parents. To this day, Batman hates and does not use guns. Batman also doesn't kill. 2) As comic creator extraordinaire and Superman authority Mark Waid so passionately pointed out in response to that Forbes article:


You see how stupid the "well he did in the comics in the 1940s" argument is? This is a character that over 75 years has become an icon, an American myth. Something that obviously means something more to a lot of people. Suggesting it's okay to present a betrayal of a character and brand's core values because of something that happened in the early days doesn't hold water. It's also important to note that in the Golden Age, you never really saw the villain die and it was often in outlandish, pulpy ways which were typical at the time (think the German Mechanic in "Raiders of the Lost Ark"). You can't really point to those and say "See!"

To quickly divert, but keep with his "it happened in the comics idea," a serial "Man of Steel" defender often points to a panel from Superman #1 as the definitive take on Pa Kent and the justification for Pa Kent's out-of-character portrayal in said film:

Unfortunately for the defender, this is a man telling a child to hide his powers and show restraint, followed up by his mother telling him to assist humanity when the time comes. There's no malice, no message of "maybe let people die," there's a father just being concerned for his son - something that is part of every iteration of Pa Kent. There's no way to state or use this panel as definitive. 1) Clark is still a boy who has yet to understand his powers and 2) Pa Kent could be referring to using a secret identity. There's no definitive statement of Pa Kent's true feelings.

Back to the "no killing" thing. The Forbes article highlights other examples too. Like in the imaginary tale "What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" Superman kills Mr. Mxzyptlk. The article's author outright IGNORES the thing Superman does immediately after, without hesitation - he kills himself out of guilt. He stops being Superman.
Another example Hughes uses is Superman #22 where Superman kills a version of Zod, Quex-Ul and Zaora after they commit a genocide. What the writer ignores is that after Superman does the deed, he's so wracked with guilt and shame he exiles himself from Earth. Eventually returning after an alien helps him come to grips. Also of note, the public was unaware of Superman's actions, his exile and decision to stop being Superman was completely self-imposed.

Superman #75 is also cited. The famous "Death of Superman" where Superman and Doomsday apparently punch each other to death. Except neither of them die. Superman had entered a "Kryptonian sleep" and Doomsday was in a coma, only to be found, revived and strapped to an asteroid by the Cyborg Superman. And if you aren't satisfied with that and want to still believe that Superman killed Doomsday (which he didn't) it was an instance where he sacrificed his own life.

Each one of the author's citations can be easily picked apart as alternate tales, or Superman making the ultimate sacrifice himself, or being willing to make that sacrifice. Each comes back to the same conclusion. Superman does not kill. So if your argument is "well, it happens in the comics" then "Man of Steel" should have been the beginning and the end of Superman, because when he kills in the comics, he stops being Superman.

Another argument often made is "Superman II." When Superman depowers Zod, Ursa and Non in the Fortress of Solitude. Supeman throws Zod into a smokey abyss, Lois punches Ursa into a smokey abyss and Non stupidly falls into the abyss. If you know the history of the first two Superman movies, you know it's a mess. In Richard Lester's version, that's how the villains meet their end. It's ambiguous as to whether or not they're dead, but you're just meant to assume it. But in original director Richard Donner's cut, which is now considered the definitive version, the three de-powered Kryptonians are arrested along with Lex Luthor. That was actually shot. That's how the movie was supposed to end. It once again reinforces the point.

Superman does not kill. He certainly CAN kill. But he chooses not to and that's what makes him Superman.

Let me explain why as simply as I possibly can. Take the very core basics of the Superman mythos. Clark Kent was raised by two genuine, non-religious, mid-western Americans. Their politics didn't matter, all that mattered was that they were good people. They cared deeply about others, enough so that when they found a crashed rocketship in a field carrying a baby, they feared the worst. They feared for the child's life. Who did that to a baby? Were they going to come and take the child? They didn't know this child, where he came from or what his future would entail. All they could do was what they thought was right: take him in as their own and give him a sense of hope for a brighter tomorrow. They valued the life of this complete stranger and raised him on something we once considered a core American value - the American Way, if you will - compassion for your fellow citizen and the value of life. That's ultimately what has been built upon for more than 75 years from what was created by two young Jewish immigrants looking towards their better tomorrow.

Clark Kent was raised to help others less fortunate than him. Even if the Kents didn't have much, Clark was raised to show compassion, valuing every life above even his own. When his powers started to develop, Clark was steered by the good people he was raised by to use those abilities to help people when necessary but keep them a secret for his own protection, before he developed the Superman identity. As any parent would - but not to the extreme extent of Kevin Costner's Pa Kent - there would be some justifiable trepidation along the way. But Jonathan and Martha Kent's motivation for taking in that alien baby was giving him a sense of hope. They knew eventually it would be their son's duty to pass that on. That's what any parent ever wants, for their child to learn from them and improve upon them. The Kents, not Jor-EL, gave their son an ideal to strive towards. Now as Superman, the most powerful person on the planet, it was his duty to take what he learned from his parents and improve upon it, giving all of humanity a sense of hope for a better tomorrow - an ideal to strive towards.

For this reason, we as consumers of the Superman myth, and beyond that - as humans - people who in real-life believe in the good of our fellow human - are never supposed to relate to Superman. We are supposed to aspire to be him. We aren't supposed to connect with him on a level that says, "I share this experience." Over time, as we've all become more cynical over the years, we start to relate and identify with things - people, causes, ideas. Superman - once the most popular character on the planet - becomes "too good," or "boring" because he "can do anything" and he stops being what he is meant to be - a symbol of hope. He has to be explained as an alien, or a messiah. But Superman is more than just a super-powered alien, he's not even supposed to be a Christ-like figure. In fact, the moment you want Superman to be "grounded," "realistic" or "believable" is the moment you're not really looking for Superman.

Even New 52 Pa Kent gets it.

Superman is the best version of us, he's above all of us. He's everything we hope for and everything we can hope to be and attain. Using his abilities to help the less fortunate, stalwart in his belief of doing the right thing, unwavering in his compassion for people and always being able to see the smallest shred of decency in a person - even Lex Luthor - human, alien or otherwise. Ultimately, he believes in the inherent good in people, sometimes to a fault. That's who we are meant to be, that's the ideal we strive towards.

If Superman becomes a killer even when "absolutely needed", then there is no point to him. When Superman kills, he's not better than any of us. He no longer represents that ideal. He's just an alien with powers. He becomes just like any other person, who as Forbes' Rob Salkowitz put it: "The character who spent the last 75 years being better than us because of his ability to place principle above power is now just like any flawed mortal who can be pushed to extremes by fear and desperation."

That's the thing about Superman to reiterate the earlier point, the abilities beyond those of mortal men is not what makes him super, it's his values and who he is, the pinnacle of the human spirit and compassion - his principle.

In "Man of Steel," Superman snaps General Zod's neck, killing him. For many it's the ultimate moment of contention. For some like me, it's just the icing on the cake of an entire story that had already misrepresented everything about not only Superman, but Clark Kent. Many say "well, he had only been Superman for three days" or "he had no other choice." But that's not entirely true, he had only learned to fly in the past few days. He'd already been saving people and had already been using his powers. He had also been Clark Kent for 33 years at this point and should have at least developed the basic core value of the character - to rise above human pettiness and always find a better way. 

He could have done anything else. Flown Zod away, covered Zod's eyes, found a way to knock him out, put him in some kind of stasis, found another way to send him back to The Phantom Zone, ANYTHING besides killing him, because that goes against everything Superman is and is meant to be. But this was a story choice that Snyder, Goyer and Warner Brothers decided to make that went against EVERYTHING that has been built around Superman, his character and ultimately as Salkowitz points out, the brand.

But this was a cynical, construed version of the character who destroyed a man's livelihood by wrapping a tractor-trailer around a tree because said man was a bully. This was a character who nonchalantly floated over a gas truck, allowing it to hit a parking garage and explode, likely killing a few people. This was a character who - rather than taking the fight elsewhere or using his super-speed to remove bystanders - simply told people on Smallville's Main Street to go inside and lock the doors while he fought equally as powerful people and the U.S. military reigned down enormous firepower. This was a character who made out with his girlfriend in the center of a literal crater of death. Long before Superman and Zod tore apart the skyline of Metropolis, and long before Superman snapped Zod's neck, he was already gone.

The opportunity was there to show Superman's real weakness - have him not focuses on Zod, but saving as many lives as he could, ultimately giving Zod a huge edge in the battle. The filmmakers chose not to go that route.

"Man of Steel" did some things really well, honestly. The cast is EXCEPTIONAL. The first quarter of the movie that took place on Krypton was really well done (the world established and history behind it was neat). The visuals when Jor-EL explained to Clark the history of Krypton were really neat. And I really liked how Lois figured out who Clark was and ultimately helped him develop his secret identity. But those were ultimately small tweaks that were bogged down and muddied by the darker aspects and overall depressing tones of the film. The moment Superman takes off and flies for the first time was great. And that soundtrack... oh man, that Hans Zimmer score is fantastic (I did and still love the new theme). Those story elements were well-done, but they paled in comparison to the dour, mopey characterization of Clark, The Kents and the ultimate misrepresentation of Superman. Making Superman dark, broody and a ultimately a killer doesn't make him more mature or interesting, it betrays him.

There was absolutely nothing hopeful about Superman in "Man of Steel." It was a movie about an alien invasion and another alien who decides to stop them leaving behind a wake of death and destruction.

As many will say, "well just because it isn't YOUR Superman," or as a friend of mine often says to me, "I'm rigid," "extremist" or not "open-minded" about other interpretations of Superman. Not "open-minded." I know he means well, but it's kind of insulting. For example, The New 52 Superman is a different interpretation of the character. I've been open-minded about it, there's a lot right and a lot wrong in my opinion. But if you read Superman comics religiously like I do, you know that the New 52 Superman has started to adopt the more classic traits, and even that the pre-New 52 version is still around. It feels like DC is trying to reset the brand at least in the comics.

But what of interpretations? When you strip away the core values of what makes a character special, then you're no longer in the realm of "interpretation." Take Daredevil for example, since that's timely and amazingly relevant. The TV show is an interpretation of the comic character that has many differences from, but shares the same core values as the comics. He seeks justice, doesn't kill and he's Catholic. In fact, one of the show's biggest running themes in season one and two is about how Daredevil won't betray his principles and become a killer. Had the TV show removed just one of those principles, for example his Catholicism, you're stripping away a core aspect of his character and no longer telling an "interpretation," you're presenting an entirely different character. And it's funny, Stan Lee and Bill Everett didn't outright make him a Catholic or have his religion motivate him at first, but it's become such defining trait of the character that you'd never think otherwise.

Yes, there are exceptions... in Superman's case the "Injustice" franchise is a good example. But the difference there is that "Injustice" is about what happens when Superman abandons his principle and kills the Joker in a fit of rage... becomes a tyrant in an alternate universe... and is ultimately stopped by the "true" Superman from the main universe. Confusing right? It's not though, because Superman doesn't kill. 

One of my favorite Superman stories ever is "Ending Battle."  In this story-arc, the telepathic super anti-hero Manchester Black unleashes every Superman villain from Master Jailer to Lex Luthor in an effort to break the Man of Steel. The climax of the story features Black using his telepathy to make Superman believe that Black murdered Lois. Superman walks into his apartment to find her dead, truly believing everything he sees. Black is trying to push Superman over the edge, prove that deep down and pushed hard enough, he's a killer. But even with his dead wife in front of him, Superman refuses to kill. Dumbfounded and realizing the truth about Superman, Black ends the ruse, Lois is fine and the last we ever see of Manchester Black is him committing suicide. In trying to get Superman to break his moral code, Black himself became a super-villain and he couldn't live with the fact that in trying to corrupt Superman, he corrupted himself.

The divisiveness "Man of Steel" has caused over the years proves that the decision to make Superman a killer in "Man of Steel" has hurt the overall brand. The critical and fan response to "Man of Steel" was so tepid that it did feel like Batman's involvement was rushed (I am seriously intrigued by Affleck as Batman, and I think there are some neat ideas at play in the DCEU, the characterization of Superman - and that's a big one - is not one of them).

Superman is a fictional character owned by Warner Brothers. They can do whatever the hell they want with him. I shouldn't care, right? Quite the opposite. The character is iconic, what he means transcends the comics, movies... all of it. The Superman shield is instantly recognized all over the world, a brand that has been built for nearly 80 years, one that arguably every superhero is a derivative. So when you fundamentally change the characterization and principles of that brand after nearly 80 years for a mass audience, you're running the risk of destroying the brand. The divisiveness caused by "Man of Steel" is proof of this questionable brand management tactic. Ultimately, as Forbes' Rob Salkowitz put it:

"What did Warner Bros. get for undoing 75-plus years of equity in a multi-billion dollar brand? Well, it appears they set up the next movie, which picks up the thread of having a super-powered alien around who is unbound by any firm principle, and feels entitled to dispatch his enemies if he sees fit.

That might be a cool story. It’s just not a Superman story that anyone would recognize."

So why doesn't Superman kill? Why should he be the ultimate good guy?

Because he's better than you, than me, than all of us. He's Superman.


  1. "He could have done anything else. Flown Zod away, covered Zod's eyes, found a way to knock him out, put him in some kind of stasis, found another way to send him back to The Phantom Zone, ANYTHING besides killing him, because that goes against everything Superman is and is meant to be."

    Zod is the exact equal of Superman, that's the whole point of the character. The defining characteristic and most popular idea about their dynamics is that they cancel each other out because Zod will never stop. The movie stays true to this and gives us a battle where their fight is given enough development to show us how devastating it will be for all of us if Superman only stops him. Superman can't because Zod has access not only to a similar power set, but a relentless will that's not going to just sit idly while Supes brainstorms a way to stop him in a matter if seconds.

    The movie has spent its run time showing us that nothing will stop Superman, only when he surrenders to the military or the Kryptonians. So, what could possibly stop Zod if he doesn't want to surrender?

    I agree it is disturbing and awful to see Superman in a position where his only option is deadly force, but that's the kind of outcome you get when you are involved in a war scenario and you come up against with someone who has as much power as you. If the movie Superman was allowed some skills in battle strategy perhaps he could've figured out means to have enough advantages over Zod to neutralize him. But the last Ship that could generate the Kryptonian atmosphere that depowered them was not immediately accesible or in full working order. Someone like Batman or Captain America would've considered that because of their superior tactical minds, but not Superman.

    The movie stays true to the character, plus fleshes out even more his ideals and quest to find out how best to help the human race. It tries to stage everything we know about his core values through emotional scenes and dialogues that at points are too ponderous fir their own good. We get a devastating scene where he's submerged deeply into Plato's Republic, a famous book about the nature of justice, only to have to deal with bullying. At the tail end of that scene he learns that toppling your opponents isn't justice.

    The character understands justice, truth and compassion. He understands his purpose, not as a messiah, but a guide and protector of us, above everything else. And all this ideas are at work when Zod presents him an impossible argument. He can save us or continue to fight him. The cist of the fight was already monumental, would it be worth it to continue a few more hours until Supes could figure out how to save Zod?

    Zod is Superman's dark reflection, much more than Bizarro. He is always at full capacity and ultimately the worst Krypton had to offer(until Doomsday). So, Superman's myth boils down to 2 simple questions:

    1. Does Superman kill? No.

    2. Does Superman kill Zod? Yes.

    Which, in terms of mythic comicbook moments equals to:

    Does Bane break Batman's back?

    Does Superman die when he fights Doomsday?

    Does The Flash sacrifice himself?

    Does Aquaman lose his son?

    Does John Stewart cause the destruction of an entire planet?

    Do the Teen Titans get betrayed?

    And so on.

    Superheroes are challenged at levels we could only dream of. As hard as these challenges and losses are for them, they still rise the next day to continue their battle against the forces of evil. They have lived in ideal worlds in the comics and cartoons, less ideal ones in most of live action films. But something always remain constant, especially for Superman, in Man of Steel: they exist to help us.

    1. But Superman in MoS DOESN'T help us. He doesn't help anyone. And that's nearly as wrong as killing Zod. His complete lack of concern for the people dying while he engages in his big super battle is shocking.

      And the questions you pose aren't equal. They're not even similar. I don't really understand what you're saying there.

    2. Please explain HOW he could have helped anyone? He was engaged in a no hold barred fistfight and was doing everything he could to stay alive. He was constantly being blitzed and thrown around. Zod was intent on killing every human on the planet, and by stopping Zod he saved the world. When Metropolis was being leveled by the world engine he was on the other side of the world trying to disable it. By disabling it he saved the city from further destruction. Would you have rather him have saved a few people, but in the process the world ends because he doesnt stop the machine? If you want to be technical he saved those people that Zod was about to incinerate by killing him.

      The thing that people miss is that Zod wanted to die. Superman had taken his entire purpose for existing. Superman was born with choice. Zod was bred for a single purpose. When the rest of the Kryptonians got sent to the Phantom Zone again he lost whatever purpose he had to exist. He told him at the beginnning of the fight that it would only end 1 of 2 ways. Either Zod would be dead, or Superman would be dead. He wanted to inflict as much pain on Superman as possible. Kill every human that he held dear. To save the planet he had to kill Zod. The Phantom Zone projector was maybe the only thing on the planet that could hold him, and that was destroyed. There was nothing that could contain a Kryptonian. Since they were so new to the planet Kryptonite hadnt been found, and they have no clue about any other weaknesses other than the atmosphere on Zods ship which again was destroyed.

      My point is that a story is whatver the writer intends. Of course he could have written some way in which Superman wasnt put in a kill or be killed situation, but that would be against the point they were trying to make. Setting up Batman V Superman where I think alot of these questions and dilemmas will be dealt with.

  2. Superman helps a lot of people in the movie, starting when he was a kid and all the way into his adult life. The movie is pretty clear on that.

    Zod and Superman are equal forces. In the most simple and literal terms. That's what I meant. And equal forces always cancel each other out. Clark doesn't consider this because of his concern for his mother and his concern for his hometown. His immediate reaction was to stop Zod.

    And when he tries that, his hometown is laid waste. The city sustains massive damage. Zod will never get to terraform Earth and Clark will never get to save it.

    Equal forces. Neither can stop each other.

    Earlier, Clark had a hellish vision of what Zod was capable of doing. But after fighting him long enough it was obvious Clark was starting to be complicit in that vision. The movie is not so complicated about this: the only way Zod can be stopped or neutralized is through death. He is a living organism, but change or redemption is simply not written in his DNA or soul.

    Superman doesn't kill but he kills Zod. It's built in their mythology, for better or worse, as much as the other ones I mentioned. Bane breaks Batman's back. Apollo kills Hector. Jesus forgives a prostitute but goes on a rampage in a temple. Hercules goes mad. Abraham is asked to kill his son by God. The Flash sacrifices himself in Crisis. Etc., etc., etc.

    Superman is not a killer but he kills Zod.

  3. This is the stupidest shit I've ever read.

    Reading shit like this, proves so many loud mouthed fuck knuckles like you, don't truly understand the character of Superman, and your only knowledge of him as a character is from the 78 Campfest film.

    1. Unknown, how does posting a comment like that help anyone? I disagree with Kevin's points about the movie, but it's obvious he's a big fan. Why would you insult him for writing a sensible post?

    2. If you read even the first few paragraphs of the article you'd know you're completely off base. But it's easier telling off a strawman than it is debating their actual points, huh?

  4. I'll be honest. There is a lot the film did wrong, and many things I quite enjoyed. I won't go into them here, as these points have been made elsewhere and in most cases better than I could. Something that was ommitted from the film, which I have never seen mentioned elsewhere, was the weak manner in which Superman was revealed to the world.
    The Donner film managed this wonderfully, and Superman's first night in Metropolis was a joy to behold. This was echoed years later in Byrne's Man of Steel #2. In both cases, the idea of Superman's was met with suprise, awe and hope. NOT fear.As it should be. He's Superman.
    In this film, he's only revealed AFTER an entire shipful of aliens turns up, tells humanity he's been here twiddling his Kryptonian thumbs for the better part of thirty years. It completely destroys any impact Superman's debut should have had. And the manner in which he's revealed? Flexing in front of the military. Atrocious.

  5. I'll be honest. There is a lot the film did wrong, and many things I quite enjoyed. I won't go into them here, as these points have been made elsewhere and in most cases better than I could. Something that was ommitted from the film, which I have never seen mentioned elsewhere, was the weak manner in which Superman was revealed to the world.
    The Donner film managed this wonderfully, and Superman's first night in Metropolis was a joy to behold. This was echoed years later in Byrne's Man of Steel #2. In both cases, the idea of Superman's was met with suprise, awe and hope. NOT fear.As it should be. He's Superman.
    In this film, he's only revealed AFTER an entire shipful of aliens turns up, tells humanity he's been here twiddling his Kryptonian thumbs for the better part of thirty years. It completely destroys any impact Superman's debut should have had. And the manner in which he's revealed? Flexing in front of the military. Atrocious.

    1. The movie addresses the reveal in a more heartfelt and grassroots way than you can imagine, but it flies under the radar of most people.

      If you're looking for a scene staged like the iconic one where he saves the airplane or helicopter in the Donner film or Byrne reboot comics, MOS does it with the schoolbus scene. I believe the reason why it flies under most people's radar is because it happens earlier, he's not wearing his suit and most don't care about his hometown.

      Personally, I think the reveal and parent sit down makes for a stronger bond between Superman and his hometown, and sort of reflects how legends grow in our world, from local customs to global trends.

      But yeah, that's the reveal scene. And the movie suggests there are many more spread out which Lois Lane connects through her investigation.

      The world knew there was someone. They just didn't notice.

  6. The article quotes Salkowitz, saying that MOS abandoned the real Superman just to "[have] a super-powered alien around who is unbound by any firm principle, and feels entitled to dispatch his enemies if he sees fit." This is not a fair representation at all. The Superman in MOS clearly has principles and made a huge choice to side with humanity. (I think the fact that it was an adult choice actually makes it more meaningful than just being indoctrinated to humanity from the beginning.) And dispatching enemies "as he sees fit" makes it sound like this was just a nonchalant murder. It was certainly not. Superman did not know what else to do and he had a real fear that he would lose the fight to Zod and all of Earth would perish. He killed Zod but it was not murder and Superman obviously regretted it and felt the grief of it.

    I also respectfully disagree with the author of the article about the Kents. I think it's naive and childish to stick with the old version of the Kents who just tell Clark to "do the right thing." The MOS version of the Kents it more deep and complex, showing their love for him and their safety, a recognition that alien life is a big deal to the world, and being with Clark through all the uncertainties and gray areas. The article here says that Superman gets his moral compass because the Kents taught it to him. That feeds into pop psychology that is actually not confirmed by research (if you ask people where they get their values, they always say its from their parents, but we actually know that values are formed by the broader culture and peers much moreso than a direct transmission from parents). I think MOS embraces a more complex and realistic parental relationship, and MOS shows Clark learning from experiences rather than from being told what to do by his parents. Jonathan's personal sacrifice and Superman being forced to kill Zod are big character moments, and they ring truer to me than if the Kents had just sat him down and said, "Be good and try to save everyone."

  7. Thank you for this article. It successfully puts into words my feelings on the movie. I left the theatre feeling fairly melancholy, which isn't how I was expecting to feel after seeing a Superman movie.

  8. Great article. I also go back to the Garth Ennis series Hitman, where Superman guest stars and is guilt-ridden over not being able to save the pilot of a commercial airliner while saving every passenger. Even Supe's line to Tommy as he lights up a cigarette - "if you could only see what those do to your lungs" - vintage Superman, a fatherly caring super-being that you just have to look up to.