I’m going to warn you up front that this is just a rant. I understand that Superman is an incredibly influential character, and he’s well loved by many people. I can even admit that he can, at times, be entertaining. Despite all that, I hate the character of Superman. I think he has a long history of being poorly written and overrated. This post is just here to vent some of the most egregious problems with the character. I’ll also state that I’ve never followed his comics closely (because I hate him), nor do I consider myself well versed in the mythology. This is all just my opinion, so don’t take it too seriously.
And so, here are my main reasons for hating Superman:
This is the biggest problem I have with Superman. He’s completely invincible, so there’s no sense of danger in any of his stories. I get that most superheroes are similar in that they’re rarely, if ever, in true danger, but very few superheroes are as blatant about ignoring weaknesses as Superman. “But Kryptonite!” You may say, because kryptonite is technically Superman’s “weakness” and by most sources I’ve found, can kill any Kryptonian in about an hour. The problem is that, as far as I can tell, kryptonite has never actually killed Superman. It seems to rarely even hurt him. It weakens him to varying degrees, but it’s never really been a legitimate threat to his existence. The movie Superman Returns may be the most egregious example of how inconsistent this “weakness” is. Superman is immediately powerless and immobilized by a small chunk of the rock at one point, but 20 minutes later is lifting an entire island made out of kryptonite and carrying it into orbit without difficulty.
Way Too Convenient Powers
I’ll get into this a little more later, but it really irks me that the writers of Superman have always just been able to add powers on a whim if it gets them out of a corner. This may have been more common before the character was rebooted in the mid-80s, but it still happens, and is even worse in the TV and movies versions. Here are a few of the worst offenders:
- Super kissing – Superman can wipe memories with a kiss. It happened in both the comics and the movie Superman II. Basically it’s just a way for the writers to make Lois forget that Clark Kent is also Superman.
- Super ventriloquism – There is absolutely no reason for Superman to have this ability other than to get him out of some poorly written scenario. This power started in the 50s (when most of his absurd powers manifested), but has also been seen in the last decade or so.
- Super breath – While I don’t like the ‘freeze-breath’ that he occasionally displays, it’s not as bad as Superman’s ability to indefinitely hold his breath for no other reason that to allow him to travel underwater or in space for extended periods of time. This is even worse when you consider that his powers come from the yellow sun, so if he’s traveling in the deep ocean, or in deep space the sun’s radiation couldn’t reach him and this power should disappear.
There are plenty of lists describing Superman’s weird powers. Going through the lists makes it pretty obvious that the writers were desperate for any idea that could make the character interesting. The ones that annoy me the most are as follows:
- Mini Superman – Superman once had the ability to shoot a miniature (yet fully-powered) version of himself from his hands. To make matters worse, he got jealous of it and let it die.
- Shape shifting – For some reason, Superman has had the ability to completely alter his appearance, yet Clark Kent is just Superman wearing glasses. There’s no justifiable reason for Superman to have this power, yet it happened.
- Throwing the S shield – I know this doesn’t happen in the Donner cut, but the fact that it made it into any movie version is ridiculous. I’ve also seen plenty of speculation that it wasn’t a power, but a device that Superman had set up in the fortress, but to me that’s just a rationalization.
(Sorry, but this was the highest quality clip I could find)
Superman Returns has some of the most blatant examples of this, but it shows up in the original Superman movie too. I think what bothers me so much about the Jesus comparisons is that Superman was created by two Jewish kids. If anything, I could see Superman as a more modern take on the Golem legend rather than on Jesus. The creators of Superman have even commented on their influences, and Jesus isn’t among them (though that may have been for P.R. reasons). Instead, they cited Hercules, Samson, John Carter, and even Robin Hood (as played by Douglas Fairbanks) as the main influences.
I really don’t like Superman’s alter-ego, Clark Kent. He’s Superman, he’s invincible, why does he need a day job anyway? Every time I think about Clark Kent, an SNL sketch comes to mind.
(Seriously, watch the video, it’s worth it.)
It seems like this is way more likely than everyone being fooled. (Though I remember seeing another comedy skit where Clark kept taking off his glasses to show Lois that he was Superman, and she just didn’t get it.) The Clark Kent persona may have made sense in the early days, when Superman didn’t have as many powers and he needed to work in a newsroom in order to find out what events he needed to help with, but that hasn’t been the case in decades. It no longer makes any sense for Superman to hide as Clark Kent.
This is the last one, I promise. I have a real problem with Superman’s priorities. He can fly around the world in minutes, he’s completely invulnerable, and he’s supposed to be a symbol for truth and justice, but he won’t take the time to stop genocide in Rwanda or massacres in Cambodia because he’s too busy helping Lois Lane avoid a car accident, or because Jimmy Olsen fell down a well (or something, it seems like that’s something Jimmy would do).
It’s not just big events like wars either. Superman has a history of ignoring the needs of the people he’s supposed to be protecting. Like in the early days when he decided that not enough people were obeying traffic laws, so he decided to destroy the car factory. (Because, obviously, the auto industry was at fault.) Not only does that not solve the problem Superman’s upset about, but it also places unnecessary hardship on the family’s of those workers who are now out of a job.
I’ve heard rumors that Zack Snyder will be trying to address some of this in the new Superman movie, but it wasn’t covered in Man of Steel. Buzzfeed actually talked to some experts to determine how much damage was actually done in the movie, and the total was somewhere in the 2 trillion dollar range. If Superman was really trying to protect people, it doesn’t seem like it would have been too difficult for him to lure Zod off to the middle of the ocean, or maybe the Nevada desert, you know, instead of one of the most densely populated cities on the continent.
There you have it, the main reasons why I think Superman is a terrible character. Thanks for letting me vent.