It’s no secret that I loathe Superman and the imminent arrival of a Superman movie directed by Zack Snyder provokes the sort of gut-wrenching angst that’s normally associated in my mind with sitting at an airport bar on a rainy Tuesday morning drinking scotch and waiting for the long-haul flight that will take you to your Great Aunt’s funeral. That’s not a normal reaction for somebody who’s a self-proclaimed comic book geek. That’s not normal at all. I loathe Superman. I think he’s a self-righteous dick. I think he’s a symbol of American imperialism that’s even worse than the usual American imperialism because it’s just chance that his morals happen to ally with ours. I think he’s a benign dictator who enforces a morally relative perspective and acts with impunity. I also hate him because he uses his powers selfishly.
If Superman could forge a diamond with his bare hands, he could synthesize Graphene that we could use to forge a new direction for technology. He could give us Kyptonian technology so we could solve world hunger and poverty. But no, because Superman’s a dick.
I recognise that Superman’s iconic, but I’d respectfully like to suggest a few superheroes we could use in place of Superman as symbols of all that’s good and pure in comics.
Green Lantern takes the candle for having the single coolest power of any superhero (bar one, as we shall see): he has a ring that can make anything he thinks of out of green energy. In the comics he can lock a bad guy in an invincible safe, or punch them into the stratosphere with a giant green boxing glove. I think, however, that Green Lantern has a darker side that isn’t explored in the comics. Let me phrase it as a question: if you had the power to make anything you could think of out of energy, would you waste it on boxing gloves and anvils?
It’s probably a good thing that I don’t write comic books. Because there would be lots of boobs in Green Lantern. Glowing green boobs. Boobs hitting the bad guy upside the head. Boobs a thousand miles across crushing his underground lair. Boobs.
It’s often been claimed by feminists or women without a sense of humour (the terms are largely synonymous) that characters like Wonder Woman are adolescent masturbatory fantasies. I can see their point, but if that’s true all comic books, stories about heroes and heroines and the myths our culture is based on also fall into this category. Characters like Wonder Woman are hot – I’ll give you that, and I’m going to get a readership spike right after I post these images – but it’s a little more than that. All comic books are fantasies. Boys who read them want to be superman or batman when they grow up (they never grow up). And they want to screw women who look like Wonder Woman. It’s a self-imposed fantasy. That doesn’t devalue characters like Wonder Woman any more than it devalues male heroes. You want to talk about how Wonder Woman’s breasts are unrealistic? Okay. Let’s also talk about how a middle-aged man dressed as a bat is unrealistic. You want to have a pop at Supergirl? Okay, let’s also discuss how the very notion of Superman – the last son of an alien species that looks exactly like us – is absurd. You want realism? Read Time magazine and shuddup.
I did have something to say about Wonder Woman but I’m too angry now. Dammit, feminists. Oh hang on – while browsing I found a mock-up of Jennifer Connelly as Wonder Woman and it made my day:
Aquaman gets a bum rap for being the most ineffectual of super heroes, like in this Family Guy skit:
But really, Aquaman single-handedly patrols the oceans -and, if i might take you back to geography for a minute, that’s like 70% of the earth’s surface, right? All superman has to do is patrol the land. And the sky. And he has a back-up team of,like, thousands of superheroes. But Aquaman has to deal with all sorts of trouble on his own – overfishing, illegal dumping, zoning, oil drilling and all that…you know what actually I’ve changed my mind, Aquaman sucks.
Doctor Manhattan is officially the coolest Jewish doctor of all time. Originally Jon Osterman, Doctor Manhattan came about as a result of an accident with a particle accelerator in Alan Moore’s iconic Watchmen. I’m not really doing the story justice but that’s the gist of it. Endowed with absolute control over matter and energy, Doctor Manhattan’s arrival precipitates exactly the sort of social and technological change that we should associate with Superman. Doctor Manhattan wins the Vietnam war overnight. He turns the Cold War into a minor scuffle by acting as the ultimate nuclear deterrent – he could evaporate the nuclear missiles with a thought – and he single-handedly synthesizes enough Lithium to have the whole world running in electricity, removing the need for fossil fuels. Doctor Manhattan is the dude.
At the end of Watchmen, bored with human beings, Doctor Manhattan leaves. The galaxy. To create new life somewhere else. That’s hardcore.
Ending on a poignant note is good. Oracle (real name Barbara Gordon) was the first Batgirl and acted like a champ until an accidental run in with the Joker and a revolver left her paralysed from the waist down and unable to continue her costumed adventures. You know how you sometimes wonder what happened to famous faces after they left the spotlight? I’ve always wondered that about superheroes. Does Spiderman still eat his breakfast upside-down when he’s eighty? Does Batman use the Batcave as a rumpus-room once he gets too old? and what happens to superheroes crippled in the line of duty?
If Oracle is anything to go by, they get back on the horse. They pick themselves up again. No longer able to swing and pow-biff-whack!, they diversify. Oracle is the best example of that. No longer capable of duking it out with the Penguin or Joker, Oracle developed a talent for analytics and research and became the centre of Batman’s global anti-crime operation. If a spider sneezes in Senegal, she knows about it. As any law enforcement operative can tell you, intel is the most important aspect of the game. Oracle is no longer physically capable of fighting crime, but she devotes herself to being a critical part of the larger game. And that makes her by far a superior, if less ostentatious, superhero than any of the others.
And she’s a hot redhead. Wait, is that weird? Oh god, I don’t even know any more. I need to go lie down.