First off I would like to apologize for being late on this post. Classes were cancelled because of snow Thursday and Friday and I was far from being productive.
Second, I thought that this week instead of tying together some part of culture and theology I would put on my nerd hat and write a review for one of the comics I’ve read recently. I will also being using this to reiterate some of the points I made in my previous post about Superheroes (If you haven’t read it I highly recommend it).
I recently finished reading Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar and Dave Johnson. Let me preface everything I say after this by saying I do not like Superman. I have a very difficult time relating to him in anyway. When I read a comic I want the humanoid characters to have an ounce of humanity in them. Even Captain Marvel (Shazam) who has the same powers as Superman is relatable because when he isn’t Captain Marvel he’s Billy Batson, a kid, someone that I’m sure we can all somehow relate to because we were all kids. Batman is relatable because he has no powers, its his intellect and determination that make him relatable. When we read about Bruce Wayne/Batman we almost feel as if we can one day obtain the ability to be Batman (someday when we win the lottery). With Superman his most “relatable” moments are when he’s interacting with people at the Daily Planet. Clark Kent in comparison to Superman is a shy stumbling individual. It’s hard though to relate to Superman’s “loneliness” because he looks and lives a human lifestyle. The question then is how to humanize a character whom is virtually indestructible. I believe that Superman: Red Son has solved that problem, not by trying to humanize Superman, but by letting Superman flex his muscles and be who he is.
Superman: Red Son is based on the idea of Superman being born in Soviet Russia instead of Kansas. What we get, I believe, is a solution to the problem of Superman.
The story begins with the Soviet Union announcing to the world the existence of Superman, who has become a member of the communist pary. We learn that his ship crash landed on a collective farm and he was raised there. At no point during his childhood was he told to hold back his powers, in fact he was encouraged to do so. Due to the fact that this story begins during the Cold War, the United States government feels obligated to close the “superpower” gap. Lex Luthor is a government scientist tasked with creating a Superman deterrent.
Superman in this story is a man of the people. He understands Communist dogma to mean that everyone is equal, and he treats everyone that way. Throughout the entire story Superman might hear someone in need in another part of the world and rush to save them. Everything changes though when Superman is asked to be leader of the Communist party. At first he declines, but with a little bit of pressing and self examination he comes to the conclusion that he is the best person for the job. Once that happens, communism quickly spreads to the rest of the world.
Superman: Red Son solves the Superman problem. It’s surprising that Superman just seems to fit better in a communist society. He never needs to be held back. The Soviets worship Superman just like any of the other communist leaders. Superman, a near invincible hero, rises to a god-like status. He uses his powers to mold the world around him into the image of what he deems acceptable. It’s not just Superman being born in an autocratic system that makes him push for worldwide communist ideals, Superman is doing exactly what his character was designed to do: help people.
Superman is the most god-like superhero we have today. He is also one of the oldest. Superman is the most iconic embodiment of our desire of someone to save us. We want someone who is invincible, we want someone without weakness. The problem in a story is these “weaknesses” get boring. People might want heroes who are faster, stronger, and better than them to save them, but even heroes need weaknesses. Superman: Red Son tells a story of a Superman without weakness. Instead it focuses on a flawed set of ideals in order to bring not only a humanity but a weakness to its central character.