Monday, September 17, 2007


I couldn't sleep. Everyone has that feeling. The moment you lay your head down, your mind starts wandering, making it impossible to fall asleep. That's what has just happened to me. By the title you might have been able to tell what it was that was keeping me awake, and yes, strangely enough, it was Superman.

Superman is something of an idle for me. I've always admired him and what he represents. Then I got to thinking, "how can a comic book hero represent so much to so many"? From there spawned the memory of a question that I asked my fellow students in my World Religions class. I asked them what kinds of things that they know of that symbolize religion or stand as religious "relics" if you will, to any culture. This discussion was graded, and though I recieved a decent score, I was scrutinized for not revealing my own opinions or answers to my own questions. Well now I am. To me, Superman serves as a religious symbol in the American culture. I'm sure there are, and I plan to find, literature comparing Superman to various religious figures.

Immediately the comparison would be to Jesus. In comic books about him the people go so far as to praise him as a messiah. He has followers, both human and superhuman (that would be the justice league, in case it wasn't obvious); he represents the three great, if not the greatest, virtues; not to mention his superpowers. His greatness could even inspire comparisons to God himself, as far as the Christian religion goes.

I say that because in other religions there are such things as demi-gods. With Superman's un-equaled strength and clear mind, who's stopping those believers?

Do not get me wrong, I plan to learn a lot more about my own Christian religion and enough about others to properly respect them and maybe take some of their lessons. But up to this point in my life, I have to admit that I check myself on Superman, not the bible. When I'm thinking about the decisions I would make, contrary to the common term, "what would Jesus do", I'm more likely to ask myself, "what would Superman do?"

Of course his superpowers are amazing. If I could have any super power, flying would be it. But it's not his superpowers that make him my hero. That's icing on the cake. It's his frame of mind. His ability to stay calm in the face of danger; his ability to stay true to his roots and his morals, his ability to not give in; his ability to see the best in people. Then there's his human side, which makes him easier to relate to. He struggles with his own abilities and his inability to save everyone despite his situation. He constantly puts the weight of the world on his shoulders, not because he's forced to, but because he believes that he is the only one who can hold it up. Like so many religion figures, he tries to teach goodness and rightiousness to anyone and everyone; he tries to expunge the sins of others. If there came a time where he had the choice to give his life to forgive the sins of the human race, I believe that he would give his life. That is why I believe him to be a religious symbol, and that is why I'm writing about a comic book hero at 1 in the morning.

Interestingly, the two men who first originated Superman were both Jewish.

1 comment:

Paul Devitto said...

Not that it's much of a coincidence, but Superman is a kind of hero for me as well. I say it's not much of a coincidence because I think that there are so many Superman fans out there that what are the chances of running into one that's a teacher or a student in your class.

Superman, as a cult figure, has traces from at least most of the world's religions' mythoi. Greece = Heracles, Dionysus, Achilles; Judaism = Samuel, Elijah; Christianity = Jesus; Buddhism = the Buddha; Taoism = Lao Tzu; Hinduism = Indra, Krishna, and so on.

But what's great to me, especially with regards to the latest Superman movie installment, is the ethical dilemma he faces as a superhero. And not every superhero has the kind of dilemma he faces either. What's interesting is that his dilemma originates with the powers he possesses. Spiderman, although wielding a significant amount of power in his own right, can never experience what Superman experiences. In the last movie this came out beautifully when he was at the top of the world just listening to all the suffering of the people of the planet. Who needs Superman? As he told Lois, and I'm paraphrasing, the whole world seems to.

Yeah, Superman is the icon for our age, specifically for the western world. If anyone finds it difficult to learn scruples from anywhere or anybody, at least we still have Superman as the poster child for a pristine ideology.