Superman is back

As you doubtless know, the Superman franchise is coming back. After a false start in the 90s where Superman was going to go crazy (inspiring the song Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down), they are actually working on this one. It’s supposed to fit in the timeline after Superman II with Christopher Reeves and is titled Superman Returns. While reading an article about the upcoming movie in the June 2006 issue of Wired Magazine, a side panel titled “The Myth of Superman”, reminded me of one of my favorite monologues in Kill Bill Vol. 2. First what Niel Gaiman and Adam Rogers say in their article:

…Other heroes are really only pretending: Peter Parker plays Spider-Man; Bruce Wayne plays Batman. For Superman, it’s mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent that’s the disguise – the thing he aspires to, the thing he can never be. He really is that hero and he’ll never be one of us. But we love him for trying…

I think that’s a very interesting way of looking at things, but I feel that Bill made me think a lot more in his monologue. It follows the same basic premise, but the details are much more intriguing. (SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT) As we enter the scene, Bill has shot Beatrix Kiddo with a truth serum. While he is waiting for it to kick in, he begins a long monologue and eventually relates it to our protagonist. I will skip any dialogue by Beatrix as it has nothing to do with his monologue, only with the needle protruding from her knee. I will also skip the end where he relates it to her, as it doesn’t have to do with Superman. So here we go!

As you know, I’m quite keen on comic books – especially the ones about super heroes. I find the whole mythology surrounding superheroes fascinating. Take my favorite super hero – Superman. Not a great comic book; not particularly well drawn. But the mythology, the mythology is not only great it is unique. Now a staple of the super hero mythology is that there’s the super hero and there’s the alter-ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne; Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to BECOME Spider-Man. And it is in THAT characteristic that Superman stands alone. Superman didn’t become Superman; Superman was BORN Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter-ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red S, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in when the Kents found him, those are HIS clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses , the business suit – THAT’S the costume. That’s the costume that Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He’s weak; he’s unsure of himself; he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.

As you can see, here was have a subtle, but important difference in point of view. Whereas the article has Superman just trying to fit in, Bill sees what it means that Superman disguises himself with those traits. Superman feels that he can best disguise himself from humanity using THESE traits. He wants to fit in and so this is how he feels he can keep from being noticed – the traits of most humans. I think it’s a very interesting point of view to consider next time you enjoy the Superman mythology.