Sunday, August 22, 2010
Superman Week Part 4: On the Golden Age
In my lifetime (and yours too) just about EVERY single new writer on Superman will sooner or later lament that "in his first appearances" he was a social agitator who stood up for the little guy instead of being for the status quo.
Now, there are two problems with this:
1) It's kind of hard to be a social activist/agitator when you are a billion-dollar corporate icon.
2) The Golden Age Superman is kind of a dick who doesn't accomplish much.
I'm not going to spend much time on the first point because it's been covered better elsewhere. But let's look at that second point.
OK, so yes, in the Golden Age, Superman exposed crooked businessmen with corrupt practices and beat the crap out of them. That's great, and it's a nice cathartic moment for these guys to be on the receiving end of their own bad dealings, but aside from the pulp thrill, it really doesn't help the people who are suffering because of the problem in the first place. I'd be all up on a story where Superman dunks the BP CEO into a plume of oil from the Gulf Spill, but it doesn't help as much as trying to actually help fix the practices that lead to the spill or helping the victims. In fact, it tends to look a lot like super-powered bullying - yes, the guys responsible for the mess are bad and deserved to be punished, but humiliation rarely leads to redemption or turning over a new leaf.
And that's what Clark Kent is for. Clark Kent, the reporter who does draw attention to these problems. Clark Kent who does get the truth out and fights to make sure that justice is done.
So maybe, instead of focusing on making Superman, there needs to be a little more focus on Clark Kent.
Just a thought