I believe a man can fly. No, not in a helicopter or on a jet plane. I believe a man can take but one small step and still be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. I believe in Superman. Superman: Kal-El, Clark Kent, the Man of Steel, the Last Son of Krypton. Sworn defender of truth, justice and the American way. Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, the Daily Planet- the whole shebang. I believe in all of it.
Interestingly enough, I spent much of my formative years as a Batman kid. He was dark, scary, so determined and so wonderfully badass. He was cool. Superman, on the other hand, was anything but. His costume was bright and gaudy, his ideology was outdated and embarrassing. Heck, his secret identity was a dorky writer, while Batman’s was a millionaire playboy for chrissake!
Things changed when I entered high school, as did my preference for Hall of Justice housemate. My world wasn’t as bright and shiny as it had been when I was younger; changing relationships and raging hormones at home were countered with political strife and unending violence overseas. The world was an awful place of moral grays; I needed someone who could do more than throw a batarang at my problems. I needed a hero.
So I looked up in the sky. There was a bird- no, a plane. No. There was Superman.
I experienced a renaissance of wide-eyed childhood as I began to feast my eyes upon exciting old comic books, brilliant Christopher Reeve flicks, and new WB shows about a Superman that was my own age. Here was a hero. Raised by a kindly old couple from Kansas after rocketing from the doomed planet of Krypton, Superman fights a never-ending battle against evil. He is super powerful, blessed by the light of a yellow Sun with extraordinary abilities not known to any mortal man. His only weaknesses: kryptonite and an infinite love for humanity.
He is larger than life, a Herculean symbol of perfection. He’s an unattainable model, so why should I believe in him if he can’t possibly exist?
There’s an old Supes comic by Edmond Hamilton, in which Superman believes that a virus from Krypton will kill him within a few days. Using his heat vision, Superman carves a message into the moon for the human race to read once he’s dead: “Do good to others and every man can be a Superman.”
These words fuel me every day, and these words prove that Superman does, in fact, exist. For when I put others in front of myself, or when I decide to do what’s right instead of what’s easy, I know that I’m being more than just a mere mortal. So, though I may not be able to outrace a speeding train or deflect bullets with my chest, I know that when I do good to others, I’m really flying. Just like Superman. Up, up, and away.
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