Apologies to Graham this week but I’m going to be stepping on his toes a bit and talking about the world of comics. Specifically the best known comic character out there, Superman.
Recently I watched the full animated series of Superman and although it was enjoyable, it really did drive home the fact that the man of steel is a pretty empty character. My favourite moment in the series wasn’t a fight scene or some big twist. It was a single line of Clark Kent’s, said as the narrator. (Referring to a crime he’s unearthed) “I could have flown to the police station but I’ll admit there was some ego involved. I wanted this one to be Clark Kent’s, not Superman’s.”
For this one (and pretty much only) moment, he was a character. He wasn’t perfect, he had wants and desires of his own. Unfortunately, this was the only time we got to see any semblance of a personality.
The longer I watched the series, the more I realised that when you get right down to it, superman doesn’t really have a story to tell. Think about it, he’s already the most powerful so he doesn’t really have much to achieve or aspire to and he’s the panicle of good so the only way his character could develop would be negatively, which would defeat the object of Superman.
That’s not to say that some amazing stories haven’t been written about the character. All-Star Superman was an amazing bit of writing, although as it was an alternate timeline sort of thing, I’m not sure if it helps or hinders this argument. I certainly don’t think a serialised series is the right format for Superman.
As I said in my post about character writing, superman is a singular concept in the world of fiction and is compelling because of it. I didn’t realise at the time of saying it but I think I hit the nail on the head. He’s not a character, he’s a concept. He’s the idealised version of a super hero, the most powerful, most trust worthy. Unfortunately a concept doesn’t drive a story. A concept can define a story but it can’t move it forward, only a character can do that.
So yes, I think Superman would be a lot better suited to being a recurring character so he could live up to his own hype.
What do you think?