Apr 06 2009

Is Superman a top-tier superhero? Discuss.

Published by at 1:06 pm under Discussion

What do you think?  Is Superman still an A-lister?

24 responses so far

24 Responses to “Is Superman a top-tier superhero? Discuss.”

  1. B. Macon 06 Apr 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Rather counterintuitively, I’m leaning towards no.

    1. His comics don’t sell particularly well. For example, in February 2009, a Justice League comic sold at #10 and Superman ranked at #28. In contrast, Spiderman, Batman and Thor had issues in the top four. Superman was also beaten by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Green Lantern, Captain America and the Fantastic Four. In January 2009, his comic reached #19. In December 2008, he reached #34. In November 2008, he reached #9 and #24.

    2. His movies don’t sell particularly well. We are in the middle of a golden age of superhero movies, where even The Incredibles and Ironman and the Fantastic Four can do notably well. Superman is notably missing from the list of superheroes with recent box-office successes.

  2. Mr. Briton 06 Apr 2009 at 1:39 pm

    No. He’s not nearly as relevant in a modern market where anti-heroes and darker characters are more popular i.e. Batman and Wolverine. He is too morally uptight to create an interesting character in a film.

  3. Marissaon 06 Apr 2009 at 1:47 pm

    I’m leaning toward no too, but mostly for character reasons.

    He’s the ultimate Gary Stu. The only reasons people can give for him being ‘cool’ are, “He’s a classic!” and comments on his invincibility and powers.

    That doesn’t make a good character in the slightest. People are starting to get pickier, wanting to see real people rather than overpowered fantasy-men.

  4. Asayaon 06 Apr 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Superman is NOT a top- tier hero. He is too powerful to challenge properly, unless they make him make stupid mistakes or blunders. Smallville is a good example of this, as to make the fight look even, he looses the first punch despite his super-speed or he makes overly moralistic errors (besides trying to get back with Lana Lang, who has many times in the past, basically told him to get lost).

  5. Dforceon 06 Apr 2009 at 2:22 pm

    For my tastes– Bruce Timm’s Superman will ALWAYS be an A-lister. Despite the popular curve, he speaks to me the most.

    Albeit not that relatable, at least he stands for something utterly good (in most cases; when not made to be “angstier” for the sake of sales… bleh! |:-|). Apparently nowadays it’s better to be average than to strive for something greater. “It’s OK you kill almost indiscriminately, you had a rough day– you psychopath, you…”

    Maybe I’m generalizing too much, but that’s all I’ve heard. Don’t get me wrong, they are interesting stories, and they do sell, but they also give messages. I like to think Superman gives a good message about wanting to do good with your gifts, rather than just seeking revenge.

    The only reason I sleep at night is that I know tastes oscillate, and soon things will switch back– and then forth. (If only slightly).

  6. Ragged Boyon 06 Apr 2009 at 5:08 pm

    You guys know how strongly I feel about Superman. I may be extremely biased, but I’d definitely say hell no for all the reasons explained above. I could go on all day about how much I hate Superman, but that’s besides the point.

    No, not top-tier.

  7. Davidon 06 Apr 2009 at 5:11 pm

    I must admit I collect Smallville, but the Clark in that series can get very annoying. If it would hurt him, I’d give him a good slap.

  8. B. Macon 06 Apr 2009 at 5:38 pm

    (As I’ve mentioned a few times) I like the Superman in Lois and Clark, but that was a long time ago. What has Superman done for me lately? 😉

  9. Patrickon 06 Apr 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I don’t know if him being anti-dark has anything to do with it. Spiderman is right about the same level of squeaky-clean-boyscout and he is, unquestionably, the very definition of an A list superhero. Spiderman can be challenged.

    I agree with the Lois and Clark comment. I think the show made one key realization about Superman that the comics have avoided: Clark is a much, much more interesting character than Superman is. The more cape you see, the less interesting the story is.

    (Lois and Clark was forced to do without Superman for most of the time because when he’s in the room doing anything other than standing around looking pretty their special effects budget just went through the roof.)

  10. B. Macon 06 Apr 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Spiderman is also unusually relatable, which is one of the main reasons I think that he has aged very well and Superman has not. Ironically, Superman was set up to be the all-American guy, but he’s actually so American that no American can relate to him.

  11. Tomon 07 Apr 2009 at 3:46 am

    Superman is the most famous superhero of all time (he has the word SUPER in his name!) and is the first superhero any person on the street would name when asked ‘name a superhero’. He’s been around for generations and… well.. he’s the ultimate. Without Superman the superhero genre wouldn’t be what it is today.

    Although having said that, in the 21st century, he’s a bit dated. Back in the 30s and 40s Superman was exactly what the public wanted, an all-American, indestructible force for justice to fight against evil. Why? Well the Great Depression and Second World War might have had something to do with it. And of course the Red Scare in the 50s led to even more patriotism. And the more patriotism, the more Superman flourished, since he’s the ultimate in American. But today people don’t really want an all-American, indestructible force for justice to fight against evil. Why? Well, it’s been done, that’s why! Nowadays people want more relatable, slightly flawed (sometimes even deeply flawed, see Watchmen) heroes, and even anti-Heroes.

    Personally, I don’t like Supeman. He’s so ridiculously overpowered. Super strength, flight, invulnerability, heat-beam eyes, freeze breath, X-ray vision, super-speed. He has it all. Not to mention the character’s only flaw is that he’s too perfect. This morning (funnily enough) I was watching an episode of Justice League for the first time in a while. Hawk Girl says to Superman ‘you humans are all the same’, then, realising her mistake, says ‘oh, I’m sorry Superman’. Superman’s response is ‘that’s okay, I take it as a compliment’. This is evidence of his undying patriotism, optimism and boy-scoutness that peopled loved back in the 40s, but just doesn’t cut it today.

    So, Superman is really past his prime. The era of the Man of Steel has really ended. It’s the Dark Knight and heroes like him who really shine today.

    But every superhero fan must hold a small place in their hearts for Superman, who made the genre what it is today.

  12. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 07 Apr 2009 at 4:01 am

    I agree with all the reasons listed above. Sorry, Superman/Clark/Kal-El, but you need another name: Gary Stu.

    On the other hand, Spidey rocks. He’s cool in a geeky way (the best kind of cool) and is actually challenged by his enemies. Also, he’s not a jerk, unlike Superman, who has displayed his jerkery many times.

  13. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 07 Apr 2009 at 4:03 am

    Except in Spidey 3, where he started dressing like Pete Wentz and upset Mary Jane by using Gwen. At least he hasn’t killed some random old man or killed his girlfriend a hundred thousand times like Superman. Even if it’s non-canonical, it must be said: SUPERMAN IS A JERK!

  14. Tomon 07 Apr 2009 at 4:33 am

    I love Spider-Man so much. Why? Peter Parker is so relatable. Especially true for his newest incarnation, The Spectacular Spider-Man TV show, where he’s 16, he’s a nerd, he’s good at school and he has a small circle of friends. He’s basically me, but better. 😛

    Also, Spider-Man is incredibly funny. When Spidey arrives on the scene you know you’re in for a laugh. He just can’t help himself. Everything from one-liners to witty remarks. I’ve tried to emulate that with my work, and I hope I’ve done it successfully, because it works so well.

    That’s my main problem with the films, by the way. They just didn’t capture his humour.

    Also, Spider-Man is flawed and has an interesting back story. His is also my favourite origin story out of all of the superheroes. Forget last child of an alien world, he’s spurred on by the death of his beloved uncle, a death he feels he could have prevented. That’s his motivation.

    And of course, when Spidey fights a bad guy it’s actually interesting to watch, since, as previously stated, normal crooks can challenge him. Okay, they can’t, but at least the fights are more interesting to watch.

  15. B. Macon 07 Apr 2009 at 6:43 am

    They really toned down Spiderman’s quippiness in the movies. I appreciate that.

  16. Stefan the Exploding Manon 07 Apr 2009 at 7:27 am

    I think Superman has to be boiled down to his essentials in order to work. I seem to be alone with Dforce on this, but Superman for me is definitely a top tier superhero. He always will be. He is the iconic superhero and he’s got it all. The flight, the strength, the cape, the really iconic costume. Everything.

    And the thing about Superman is that he is THE moral compass. He knows what’s right and what’s wrong and he does the right thing because he loves the Earth and all it’s done for him.

    It’s not right to slap a couple of violent tendencies onto a character and say that it automatically gives him a personality. “Anti-hero” is not a personality.

    And what’s wrong with being a force of good? Superhero comics were meant to be escapist fantasy, and you don’t get more escapist than Superman. He has the legacy, he has the history, and that is where his power comes from, because any other character with such strong desire to do good and generally be a Boy Scout is either Captain America, who’s dead, or Jesus. Every other character would come off as pretentious.

    I don’t know if anyone else has read All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison. That is Superman written well. Before reading that I didn’t really get Superman. It’s really a fantastic comic that boils Superman down to his basics, and the first two issues sold well, too, according to Wikipedia. The collected editions are likewise continuing to sell.

    Anyway, that is the best example of how Superman should be. Not bogged down by continuity, as he often is in mainstream comics, but simply Superman. Grant Morrison said that Clark Kent who works at the Daily Planet is an act and Superman who saves people from earthquakes and fights Lex Luthor is an act. The real Clark Kent was raised by Ma and Pa Kent and is good-hearted and knows how to drive a tractor.

    People often forget that Superman was brought up on a farm, by parents who loved him very very much and taught him to be strong-willed and to have the moral fortitude that he has as Superman. Why does that make him irrelevant? Is it wrong to have a hero that people can look up to?

    I’m not American so I can’t say much about the all-American image Superman has. With regards to the arguments about his Gary Stu-like powers, I’d like to say that since you can’t really challenge Superman as often as, say, Batman, anyone that does dare to fight the Man of Steel deserves to be feared, because you’d need a hell of a lot of guts to fight Superman. And that is the appeal of Lex Luthor.

    Superman is definitely not a jerk if you go with my line of argument. Not the Grant Morrison Superman or the Bruce Timm Superman, anyway. Sure, there were Silver Age moments in the 60s where Superman was a real ass to Lois Lane and stuff, but comic book fans tend to ignore these, because the Silver Age was really crazy. It was when the Flash ran faster than the speed of light to take vacations in other dimensions.

    Spider-Man, on the other hand, has done a jerkish thing in the recent past. He made a deal with the devil to make the entire world forget that he was Peter Parker. This would totally erase his marriage to Mary-Jane. Granted, it was because of the threats to the lives of Mary-Jane and Aunt May due to his identity being public, but a deal with the devil? Seriously? That was the most heroic thing Spidey could do? Did I mention that he sacrificed his and Mary-Jane’s unborn child while doing so?

    Anyway, Superman is for the win, and the reason the film did badly was because it was a horrible film, while the Incredibles and Iron Man were excellent films. I am hoping they make a Superman film worth watching sometime in the near future so that I can see it and quietly forget all about Superman Returns.

  17. C.R.on 07 Apr 2009 at 7:45 am

    Not an A-lister? Supie will always be there. Popularity? It comes in cycles. His first movie was a huge hit(only Batman and Spiderman flicks sold more tickets). It spawned all the other superhero movies. The guy has been around for a long time–he’s gone through more modifications, revamps, reboots, than all the rest put together. Who is he today? I can’t tell you, I lost interest in his latest incarnation. His comics don’t sell as well these days? True, but the Death of Superman arc a while back was enormously popular.

    He needs a new angle, a new direction, to his character. Because of his iconic status, none of the best comic writers will work with him. They’re too scared to mess with his legend, or DC won’t allow them. He can be re-worked, it would be a difficult task. Just ditch the super-ventriloquism. 🙂

    Spidey–I can take him or leave him, IMO. Can’t relate to him, though I can see his appeal to some people. Witty? So is Wolverine and The Thing in their own way. How can you really relate to any of them, they’re so gifted with these impossible powers? It’s a kid’s game.

    Batman is dark but so what? So are a lot of dark comics these days. I go to comics shops and see little or nothing worth-while, IMO. The art and graphics are terrific; that’s what’s carrying comics today, I think. That and movies top heavy with special effects.

  18. B. Macon 07 Apr 2009 at 7:59 am

    “The reason the [Superman] film did badly was because it was a horrible film, while the Incredibles and Iron Man were excellent films.” Looking back on Superman Returns, what I hated most (besides the plot and action and the writing) was the acting. Brandon Routh, the guy* that played Superman, was strikingly wooden. What, Keanu Reeves wasn’t available? I was not very fond of Christian Bale as Batman, but he was not a liability. That’s far more than I can say about Routh.

    *Note that I don’t call him an actor.

  19. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 08 Apr 2009 at 4:38 pm

    “Every superhero fan must hold a small place in their hearts for Superman, who made the genre what it is today.”

    Yes, I agree. That’s the only thing I like about Superman, he is the superhero.

  20. Ragged Boyon 08 Apr 2009 at 5:23 pm

    “Every superhero fan must hold a small place in their hearts for Superman, who made the genre what it is today.”

    Sorry, I never liked Superman. Never will. He’s just so uninteresting to me. His morals, powers, appearance, and personality get on my nerves.

  21. Wingson 10 Apr 2009 at 9:35 am

    That overpowered Godforce Marty Stu personifies all I loathe.

    – Wings

  22. ikarus619xon 14 Apr 2009 at 9:40 pm

    The only thing I enjoyed about S.R. was him hurling the ISLAND of Kryptonite into space. To me, that showed what makes Superman great. People say that he is under-challenged, but lifting an island of the one thing that can kill him shows that it’s not the powers that make him great. The fact that he defied death to save the world shows a certain, nay I say it, higher power within all of us. Superman teaches us to never say die and when in doubt to give logic the boot and do the impossible!


  23. Anonymouson 07 Feb 2021 at 7:59 am

    As for Superman not being challenged, well the Adventures of Superman TV show managed to run for six seasons despite never featuring a single supervillain. The trick they used was not to challenge Superman physically, because nothing can hurt him, but to challenge him mentally. After all, he might be able to effortlessly defeat the bad guys in a fight, but that does him no good if he can’t find them in the first place.

  24. Byakuyaon 12 Feb 2021 at 5:06 pm

    I believe he still is, but he’s been treated very badly as of recent. The last great Superman run comic wise was Peter J Tomasi’s run. That run saw something that we have never seen from Superman, settling down with Lois and having a son, Jon Kent. This came after the very polarizing New 52 and the take on the character which portrayed him as very brash, young and nothing like classic Supes.

    Tomasi brought things back to basics which was refreshing. Ever since Man of Steel was released, there is this dumb, prevailing belief that Superman is too boy scout like and cheesy. Hence, you had Snyder and his folk try to darken him and make him something he isn’t.

    I understand he is a young Supes, but JMS did this well with Earth One Vol 1. And no, Christopher Reeve and how folks can’t let that image go is not an excuse. It is a cheap strawman to distract from the travesty that has been Superman and the entire DCEU. And don’t get me started on BVS. But I digress.

    Superman is someone who can be tricky to write for BUT if done well, his stories are some of the best. Why I believe he’s still A-tier is because he is an ideal a lot of folks aspire towards. Yeah, he’s god like, but he’s more human than what a lot of his critics will give him credit.

    And without going too much in-depth, with how polarized our world/ society has been as of recent, having a traditional boy scout would be a breath of fresh air amid the postmodernist, deconstructions we’re seening nowadays.

    If you want proof that Superman is still A-tier just look at a series like My Hero Academia. The character All Might is golden age Superman. A larger than life hero(who is number one in the world) and always keeps his smile.

    Superman just needs a talented writer who gets who he is. He isn’t such a one note character to punches stuff. He’s a reporter, a Kanass farm boy. Someone who seeks to fit in even though his Kryptonian heritage denies him this.

    In short, Superman is the quintisential superhero.

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