Saturday, June 17, 2006

Superman, Confused?

Probably not. But there are some contradictory ideas about the Man of Steel floating about right now. On the one hand you have Stephen Skelton, whose book The Gospel According to the World's Greatest Superhero claims that Jerry Siegel and Toronto born Joe Shuster deliberately fashioned the character after the story of Jesus Christ. Given that Siegel and Shuster were Jews this seems a bit unlikely. New York Rabbi Simcha Weinstein thinks that the Old Testament inspired them, not the New. Others have suggested that Supes was Siegel and Shuster's response to a world in which facism and Nazism were on the rise, which as Jews they may have found especially threatening.

On the other hand you have speculation about Superman as gay icon. Along with this we have debate over whether the new movie Superman Returns is macho enough to appeal to teenage boys, and tittilating talk about the efforts apparently taken to make sure no one is offended by Superman's crotch, including rumours of computer graphics being used to make it look less prominent. The idea of a gay Superman is a bit amusing given his romantic relationship with Lois Lane, long at the core of the Superman mythos. In recent years Superman has actually been married to Lois, although last I heard their marriage was on the rocks. I think it might have had something to do with mind control, but don't quote me on that.

As for Superman and matters of faith it seems to me that Superman might just as easily be an agnostic or even an atheist as anything else. After all he came from a world destroyed by a horrible catastrophy. He himself has what could be considered godlike powers, yet knows his own personal flaws, fears, and limitations. And he's had encounters with godlike beings who use their powers to commit acts of evil. So he might be a little skeptical of the idea of a Supreme Being being a proper figure for veneration. On the other hand Frank Miller, in his classic Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, has a scene that implies Supes might worship the Earth, given that he refers to it as mother.

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