The Man of Steel

When I was ten years old a movie came out that blew me away. Superman. I loved it so much that every weekend I begged my father for five bucks so my little brother and I could watch Christopher Reeve save California and Hackensack, NJ over and over again. We could do that because movies were in theaters for months back then, not two weekends. And even though I must have heard it twenty times, when John William’s score poured out of the Dolby speakers I got goose bumps.

Now Batman’s edgy and cool, Spiderman’s an arachnid idealist and I don’t know what the hell The Green Hornet is. But Superman was pure, incorruptible and could kick all their asses. And what little boy doesn’t dream of having superpowers?  So when I zoned out in Ms. Redel’s fourth grade class I wasn’t imagining being Han Solo or Luke Skywalker. I fantasized that I was blasting though the air at Mach 20, moving mountains with my bare hands and saving the little red-haired girl who sat next me.  She teased me a lot as I recall, but I still wanted to fly her to Bali.

Of course I got older and Superman was forgotten. It wasn’t hard. After Superman II the rest of the films were duds. Reeve should have quit while he was ahead. But a few weeks ago I revisited the original movie on Netflix as my girlfriend and I lounged  in bed. When I saw Superman swoop up to save Lois Lane from a plunging helicopter Alicia said I looked like a little kid. She was right. Watching the Man of Steel took me back to a simpler time, before I learned about corruptibility and weakness, a time when I was an innocent little boy. That was a good feeling.

So I rented the 2006 film Superman Returns last night and watched it on my big plasma TV. And when I saw Superman sonic booming though the skies to save a fiery plane from crashing that smile retuned. Now many critics panned the film, saying the director overplayed the whole Superman as Jesus thing. But what those dolts didn’t remember is that Superman is a reincarnation of a very old myth. Yes, Kal-El was sent to Earth by his father to be humanity’s savior, sort of dies, wakes up and flies into the heavens. I get the comparison. Jesus kind of had superpowers too. But the myth even predates the Gospels. Remember Hercules, the strongest man in the world? The son of Zeus who performs great feats, journeys to the underworld, cheats death and ascends to Mount Olympus? Sound familiar? So when the twentieth century rolled around we recycled an old myth and put it tights and a red cape. And that’s why I think so many people love the idea of superheroes and The Man of Steel in particular.  It touches on something primal and endless; our secret wish that there’s a benevolent being greater than all of us – someone who will save us from ourselves.

So when the movie ended I had the same tingling sensation I felt as a kid – that if I only got a running start I could slip the bonds of Earth and vault into the skies. Now all of us have dreamed we could fly but, unless you’re tripping on acid, you know you can’t. But man wouldn’t it be great? No more pat downs at the airport, usurious baggage fees and wondering if the guy in 24A is a terrorist. Up, up and away! Of course I’d like to have x-ray vision too.  And if you’re wondering why you’re as dumb as a lump of Kryptonite. Who wouldn’t love to be Superman? Even though I’m forty-three I still think I have a shot. But I wouldn’t look good in the costume. I love doughnuts too.

Now life is always full of interesting coincidences. When I got up this morning still humming William’s theme, I read that Joanne Siegel, the wife of one of Superman’s creators and the model for Lois Lane, passed away at the age of 93.  I shook my head and smiled. I like to think Joanne finally got that ride with Superman after all.

Maybe one day all of us will.


Comments

The Man of Steel — 51 Comments

  1. That takes me back. I was quite a bit older than you – in my late twenties. The ads said “You will believe a man can fly.” A friend of mine saw it and urged me to go. “You will,” he said. And when I saw it, for that brief time in the theater I did. Seems like a simpler time, but then don’t all times through the filter of nostalgia?

  2. Thanks for the pointer, Steve. We’re about the same age, and by the time “Superman: The Movie” hit, I was already hooked on the George Reeves TV show, in reruns.

    I’m not surprised the average person has no idea who he is, but when I saw a guy in a Superman costume at Comic-Con and said, “You look a lot like George Reeves,” it broke my heart when he asked, “Who?”

  3. Glad to hear you liked the first Superman movie. It was so awesome when I first saw it years ago. Better than all the sequels that came after it!

  4. I remember sitting in a movie theatre in Glendale, California with my cousin watching this movie over and over again (this is also before they kicked us out of theatre at the end of the movie). She was infatuated with Christopher Reeve but it just made me want to believe. I was in jr high school and unhappy but the way the character construct of the bumbling Clark Kent (how I felt most of the time) and the amazing Superman (who I was hoping I would be) resonated. I still get that smile when I see Superman on reruns.

  5. How funny, I was flipping around the channels over the weekend, and Superman was on. I was smiling at how cheesy the “special effects” were. But, my brother and I LOVED these movies as kids. (Born in the early 70s here).

    I was a Wonder Woman fan, myself, but probably because I’m a girl. :-)

  6. I, too, grew up on the old george reeves reruns. But Superman (1978) was a great movie. By the way, Superman was created by two Jewish teenagers named Jerry Siegal and Joel Shuster. Superman’s real name (Kal-El) has Jewish origins. Some say Kal-El means “wings of God”. Some say it means “vessel of God”. Whatever, the -El means “of God”.

    Me, I’m a Batman fan. Always have been. Always will be. Costume is cooler. Has a neat lair. Cool car. And needs tons of therapy. And Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, he was Jewish too,

  7. I used to watch The West Wing on Australian TV late at night, because I aspired to be one of these highly intelligent people, having high-minded discussions and saving the world (I also wanted to believe that such people were running the Gov, as I was disenchanted with our current leadership). A good show/movie can really inspire people to dream big and make their lives greater than what they would have otherwise been. Whether someone’s hero wears a cape or has a stack of degrees and a high-falutin job, having that high goal to reach for can make all the difference in actually having a purpose in life.

  8. I’m close to your age (I’m 40) and I’ve just been in love with Christopher Reeve since I was 7 years old! I loved, loved the movies, although – yes, the 3rd & 4th were pretty bad…
    I’ve noticed the past month or so that you can just about trip over the first two movies on cable every weekend. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, I can’t turn it off, even if it’s just on in the background while I work around the house!
    I remember being about 12 one time when the movie was on TV, and I too loved the music so much that I held one of those old-fashioned tape recorders up to the speakers as the credits rolled. Of course that was before you could buy soundtracks!
    There are few celebrities whose deaths I actually shed a tear over; C.R. was one of them.
    Rest in peace, Supe-Baby.

  9. I was about 7 or 8 when I first started watching the superman movies back in the mid 80′s. The think I remember the most is wanting to be saved by superman. Mostly because I thought he was “hunk” back then. I would make myself fall off the couch and shout “Superman! Save me!” LMAO – I was only 8 yrs old. Can you blame me for wanting a hot super hero to come and rescue the damsel in distree?

  10. The original Superman movie was the first movie I’d ever seen in a theater. My mom took me and my sister to see it when we were about five or six. For two hours, we were all spellbound! I thought that Christopher Reeve was the most handsome, perfect man I’d ever seen, and Lois Lane was the luckiest girl on Earth and didn’t even know it. And he could fly! My mom must have felt the same way, because when the credits rolled and the lights came up, she turned to us and said, “Let’s see it again!” And we did! We sat there and watched it through one more time. By the time we went home, I was convinced that I’d just seen the most awesome movie I could ever see in my life, and all that remained was to grow up a few years so I could be old enough to marry Superman.

    Even now, I think the movie’s aged pretty well. Sure, the special effects might take a little more effort to believe in; but honestly, compared to today’s movies with overblown CGI effects, half-assed storylines and actors that seem to only be there to look good instead of actually performing their part, I’d take a rerun of TOS any day. But maybe that’s just my inner five-year-old talking.

  11. Great post! I loved the original Superman movie (still do) and thought part II was kickass as well. I was in Germany visiting my grandmother when II came out and it was playing at the local USAFB in Rhein-Main. I went to see it about a half dozen times until my Oma (German for Grandma) thought I’d lost my mind! Thanks for bringing back some very nice memories :-)

  12. Superman is my faaaaavorite.

    This is the first post of yours I’ve read. I think it made a pretty good introduction. Looking forward to following your posts.

  13. P.S. My husband can’t fly. So the last time he was in an airport in Arizona, TSA stole a sealed jar of gourmet fudge he was bringing home for me. Bastards.

  14. Oh, dude, now I just HAVE to upgrade my TV (sorry, my wife’s TV) to a big a55 plasma TV! Watching superman is reason enough! (I’d love to see those 3 bad guys standing there in those restraining rings . . . awesome!!!)

  15. I go back quite a ways further. I devoured hundreds (if not thousands) of DC comics when I was a kid – Superman, Supergirl, Superboy, Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League of America (of which Superman was a member). They made up the world I would slip away into whenever I tired of the real one.

    I discarded DC comics, though, when Marvel came along years later. Marvel comics were written for an older group.

    Oh if Mom had only kept all my comics instead of selling them off at the flea markets for a quarter a dozen.

    Superman holds a special place in my past.

  16. Noel Neill, the original Lois Lane, who had a brief cameo in the Superman movie, is 90 years old and going strong. I think that movie was the first mainstream flick of that genre (superhero).

  17. Reminded me of my childhood. I prefer Batman was a pro. Similar virtues as Superman. Only without the super abilities. Was also Batmobile. As small as a matchbox. There were also coloring. Had their films on video. Then they disappeared from my life. Today we just stayed in the comics. www. konyv-konyvek. hu/book_images/13a/999625613a.jpg

  18. hey steve… well yea new posts would be kinda cool you know… we miss you here your stories are so amusing
    also just read your tipping book, and i read it at a hotel, so i knew what to tip all the workers and cab drivers!! :)

  19. On the Superman/Jesus comparision…the idea predates Heracles. A man who was more than a man, a man who could save other men, a man who does what men could not do for themselves…that is the Messiah God promised as the seed who would bruise Satan on his head (Gen 3:15). The longing in each of us to be more than we are is recognition that each of us needs a Savior. Superman, Heracles… however you change the details or remove God from the story, it does not change the fact that these are myths, pale imitations of the one true God, who came to Earth and did for us what we could not do for ourselves.

  20. Last chance big boy, if you don’t produce something bright and shiny within a week, I’m deleting you one second after that deadline. Don’t say you weren’t warned!

  21. @paulo: I’m sure he’s trembling in his boots.
    Oh no, he’ll lose a wanker like you from his readers….perish the thought.

  22. You know, paulo1, your’re a bit of a knob aren’t you. I don’t really think Steve gives a merde about losing you. He doesn’t owe you anything and I don’t think that making pointless, childish and vacant threats is going to make him blog any quicker.

  23. Lara and Jim, they were meant to be empty threats, in a stamping my feet and holding my breath until I get my way sort of futile gesture. But thanks for the abuse anyway.

  24. guru…

    I must say… You are a very good storyteller.Well said, sir :)

    Restricting my comments to just the first two Superman Films, i shall say this.I too as a child was in awe of how Richard Donner and Company brought The Man of Tomorrow to life!! As a child, i too thought that Kal-El was ‘pure and incorruptible’.I probably couldn’t count the number of times that i’ve seen these Films over the years, but after watching them recently through the ‘Eyes of an Adult’ ( The Extended Cut and Donner Cut of Superman 2) i have come to see how much of an interesting ‘character study’ they are on The Man of Steel…

    I see now that if they sought to make Superman appear to be perfect and without fault, an inspiration ‘A Model to Follow’. Than they failed miserably ‘In My Eyes’… In Superman: The Movie he manipulated time. The Filmakers had a chance in this moment to humble him and show “That even a Superman can fail”. Instead they chose to Exalt him even further!! By Superman failing to restrain himself, he proved that he was no better than anyone else.For most of us, if we could as Cher put it,”Turn back time” we would.But should we?!

    The greatest sin ( if you will) that Superman commited is akin to Esau selling his birthright to his brother Jacob. Genesis 25-36

    I often say, “That one thing that we all have in common, (socially) is the desire to ‘fit in’ and the aspiration to ‘stand out’ amongst our peers.” What Kal-El failed to see is that he was already blessed with the best of both worlds! As Clark Kent he fit in and as Superman he stood out.Till this day, one can speculate on,”What was the real reason that he gave up his SUPERPOWERS?” I’ll come back to that…

    Regardless of his motive, what he did was Short-Sighted, Reckless and Irresponsible!!! To just say, “Dude chill.Give him a break.Everyone makes mistakes.” Is unacceptable in this case… For there were no other Superheroes in this version of his story.He was all there was and he QUIT !!

  25. Continued…

    But it doesn’t end there. After seeing how much of a rough time Lois is having knowing that Clark is Superman and that they can’t be together ( Why they can’t still date or hang out is never made clear) instead of giving her time to sort it all out, he just makes her forget the whole sorted buisness! The philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche said,”What does not kill you, makes you stronger.” I can’t help but think that Kal-El robbed Lois of a valuable life expierence that could have led her to a higher state of maturity and spiritual growth…

    I said that i was only going to speak about the 1st two films, but sense you brought up Superman Returns, I’ll say a bit about that as well.They say that,”Some people have to learn the hard way.” This is the case for Kal-El.After he learned in Superman 2 (after defeating Zod and his companions) that “The price of freedom is eternal villigence.”

    In Superman Returns, we discover that not long after all this happened, he decides to leave planet Earth for 5 YEARS!! WTF!!! If he were a soldier, they would call him, M.I.A. or accuse him of ‘Dereliction of Duty’… But wait, it gets better: After discovering that he is a father, instead of acknowledging this child as his own and becoming a part of his life.He flies away and apparently lets Lois and her fiancee Jason take care of the lad…

    Look… I am not ‘a troll’ I am not here to bash Superman.I’m just looking at this character through the wise words of Professor Albus Dumbledore; who said ” It is our choices that define us, not our abilities.” And… if one honestly and objectively looks at many of the choices that Kal-El/Superman made in the movie version of his life.He doesn’t come off looking so SUPER.In fact, the guy kind of scares me! The way that some said that they were scared for America when George W. Bush was in The White House…

    I hate to say it but, I might have to give Superman ‘A vote of no-confidence’ if he does not redeem himself…

  26. ” A bit more to say ” ;)

    If all this isn’t enough Kal-El ( in Superman Returns) apparently, completely forgets that Lex Luthor knows ( if not his secret idenity) where his ‘secret hideout’ is. Kal-El leaves Earth and the Fortress of Solitude and all that advanced Kryptonian Technology, entirely unprotected… He doesn’t relocate The Fortress, He doesn’t install Superman Robots to guard its secrets, He just basically, leaves the front door open to it, for five years.

    And then LOL, he’s totally astonished upon his return to FOS, that someone has been there, whom he did not invite.In other words, next to all the trouble, death and destruction that takes place from Lex use of Kryptonian Tech, is partially Superman’s Fault!!

    To me, a True Hero, is not (just) A person who cleans up there own mess. Its a person who goes ‘above and beyond the call of duty’. Its the difference betwixt, ‘Personal Responsibilty’ and ‘Social Responsibilty’…

    Maybe the reason Kal-El gave up his special abilities? Is b/c he did not think that he was worthy of them and or he just flat out didn’t want all that power and responsibilty any longer.In Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happend to The Man of Tomorrow” he just decides that he doesn’t want to be Superman anymore.The pressure of the job is just to much for him and he quits. Even in Justice League Unlimited’s First Season, Superman is ready to disband the League b/c things get rough, but a tongue lashing by Green Arrow changes his mind.

    I recall one of the TV spots for Superman Returns saying,”If your looking for someone to believe in.Look up, in the sky.” ( I forget the rest) Is this the sort of fellow that i should aspire to be like? Someone who constantly has a way of reminding me of something else Professor Dumbledore said, “We all have to decide to either do what is right ( difficult) or what is easy.”

    When ‘push comes to shove’, Superman reminds me, that he prefers to do the latter over the former!

  27. Pingback: The Hero’s Song |

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