Superman and His Most Underated Superpower
By Cody Fernandez
Almost everyone knows Superman. Most of us love the boy scout in blue. Many of us have loved the character since childhood and have grown to know his charms and powers very well. The man is unbelievably strong. He is spectacularly speedy. He can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Not sure why he’d want to leap when he can fly, but that’s not the point.
The Man of steel can shoot heat rays from his eyes, see through walls with his x-ray vision, and has frost breath. Basically he is the hero to end all heroes. Funny enough, he is also the first true comic superhero to reach worldwide renown. He set the bar for almost every character to come out of comics since, and has truly never been equaled in his influence on the medium. There are arguments to be had there but please, stay with me.
Superman is kind, selfless, but above all, human. To quote Bat-fleck in the recent “Justice League” “He’s more human than me”. Heck of a statement coming from the only powerless member of the League in that movie.
Clark Kent is the ultimate American dream. He is an alien immigrant, who not only succeeds in his personal life as a reporter and sometimes husband, but also manages to literally save the world time and time again, sometimes at the sacrifice of his own being. He is ”Mary sue” at her finest, having to have a single weakness shoe-horned in to give writers something to best him.
To me, Clark has always had something very special in his character that is rarely touched upon. The most famous example I can give, is in the final episode of perhaps the greatest Comic book Cartoon series of all time “Justice league Unlimited”.
To quote Clark “ I’ve got a different problem. I feel like I live in a world made of cardboard. Always taking constant care not to break something. To break someone. Never allowing myself to lose control, even for a moment, or someone could die.” This is my point.
Clark Kent, The Man of Steel, is unbelievably controlled with his nigh infinite power. This is his true strength as a character. A god who not only empathizes with the mortals around him, but takes care to exist as they do, no matter the cost to himself. This is so very underrated. This man can crack planets, but somehow, he also can have a cup of coffee with Lois Lane without coming off as suspicious or accidentally destroying anything. He can emit high levels of X-rays just by looking at you, but does not cause those around him to die of radiation sickness or cancer. That is a feat I find so much more endearing and powerful than any foe he has faced.
Superman’s greatest foe is not Lex luthor, or even Bizzaro or Brainiac, but is, indeed, himself. He is acutely aware of this in his every action and movement. This man has faced down demi gods and inter-dimensional horrors, but still, somehow, has the control and discipline not to kill bank robbers or purse snatchers. The scale of power he wields is undeniably impressive, but to me, the true measure of his strength is not how fast he is or how much destruction he can cause, but how precisely he wields this power.
Many heroes wield equal or, admittedly rarely, more power, but never has the responsibility of that power been touched upon like it was in that amazing Justice League episode. It really struck me the first time I heard him say it. “I feel like I live in a world made of cardboard”. As a comic fan we often have to take for granted the extremely exaggerated acts contained with those 24 or so pages. We rarely take the time to realize how much control a good person must have to wield such incredible strength. That is why Superman is important to me. His good nature controls such awesome force.
Mankind is flawed. I do not believe a single person alive today could emulate this amazing feat like Clark Kent has. Of course these powers do not exist today, but the point is the same. In our world, power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. So thank the heavens there is no absolute power given to man. The Superman needs to be a force for good. An ideal to strive for, that can never be reached, but can be gleamed again and again, by good people doing good things.
When Superman continues, glaring at Darkseid, “But you can take it can’t you” and lands that air shattering blow into Darkseid’s head, “What we have here is a rare opportunity for me to cut loose, and show you just how powerful I really am” and knocks Darkseid skyward with all the force he can muster…. That is why I love Comics. Why I love superheroes.
Just don’t get me started on Superman IV and his “Rebuild the Great wall of China vision”…