Robot 6

Is Superman boring?

On Facebook the other day, Gail Simone re-opened an old discussion with the following thoughts:

So, Superman. Why do people think he’s boring? I love that dude. AMAZING supporting cast, fantastic origin, wonderful powerset. He can tell stories of journalism, science fiction, fantasy, crime and straight superheroics. He flies like a rocket and he punches like the Hulk. He was the last survivor of a doomed planet. His enemies include geniuses, aliens, and cyborgs.

How is it anyone can think he’s boring?

She’s got a point. There’s a lot built into the Superman concept that seems like food for an endless variety of stories. So why is “Superman is boring” as widely accepted a meme as “Aquaman is lame”?

As you might expect, lots of Simone’s Facebook friends commented with their own opinions, including some other comics professionals. Here’s a sampling:

Phil Jimenez:

I find most folks resent Superman for being so good; he remains a constant reminder of the lack of moral and ethical wherewithal of most consumers. He just doesn’t let anyone off the hook (we all know that if Superman has a bad day, he’s still gonna be a pretty good guy at the end of it). Many readers prefer characters who embody revenge fantasies to aspirational ones, anyway. But I’m with you, Gail. I love that character, just the way he is.

Carla Speed McNeil:

I think Superman is only in danger of being boring when he’s written in the character version of the FRIEND ZONE. White knights are often victims of this. If he’s too nice, he’s predictable, and the only drama has to come from how much further he can push his powers. If he’s not nice, he’s not noble– yeah, not Superman anymore. But play him too good, give him NO unworthy impulses, and you make him dull. A hero with no moral struggle is no hero.

Nunzio DeFilippis:

I wonder sometimes if there’s a class element to this “not dark enough”/”too perfect” thing, too. It’s purely anecdotal, but my experience has been that readers from working class and/or poor neighborhoods still have a lot more Superman love than middle class and upper class readers. Working at my father’s stores as a teenager, I’d work at places in neighborhoods ranging from crack-ravaged to solidly upper-middle class. And I’d wear my Superman and Batman shirts to work all the time. The best Superman responses would always be in the poorer neighborhoods (which would be the place where the Batman shirt got the least enthusiastic response – they still liked him, but not as much as they liked Superman). Like I said, totally anecdotal – and I wonder if anyone’s done any studies on this.

What do you think?

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51 Comments

LobsterAfternoon

December 6, 2012 at 2:12 pm

He’s not boring, but he doesn’t have as good a hook as other characters do, so he needs a good/great writer to make him shine. It’s easy to write a basic Batman story that fans wouldn’t have trouble paying 2.99 for, but it’s a lot harder to write a worthwhile Superman story.

Superman is only as boring as the person writing him makes him. I think Gail is right, and I can think of plenty of examples to prove it, including one of my personal favorites, “The Death of Clark Kent”: http://www.playbackstl.com/features/7535-superman-turns-70-the-mask-of-clark-kents-glasses

The upper/lower class dichotomy is an interesting one. My own take on it is that people who like Superman generally prefer the Beatles, while people who like Batman dig the Rolling Stones. I’m a Superman/Beatles guy, myself. Again, it gets down to hope/optimism/all-you-need-is-love vs. getting down in the muck and getting your hands dirty.

Yes. He is.

So is Batman. But they’ve cleverly done with Batman for years and years (and in Smallville) is they’ve made everyone else around him interesting – villains included.

Defiance Industries

December 6, 2012 at 2:27 pm

I find him a lot less compelling because, basically, he has too many goddamn powers and they’re too good. It makes a him less compelling to me than, say, Captain America, who is equally as upright morally, but much more vulnerable physically.

When Captain America stops some street thugs or Latverian spies or terrorists from doing whatever their plan was, and he does so without killing them, he does so at greater risk to himself, and opens himself up to the very real chance of reprisal, because Captain America is essentially a regular person who is really good at stuff. When Superman decides not to kill someone, it’s like when I decide not to crush an ant with my shoe. It is nice that he decides not to instantly fry people with his heat vision, but there is generally no risk to him for showing mercy. The only thing that renders him beatable is the radioactive debris from a destroyed planet halfway across the galaxy (and the degree to which Kryptonite seems to be available bugs the crap out of me).

It’s just power creep, really. Superman is so powerful with so few drawbacks or limitations that you you really can’t write a down-to-earth story with him where he’s in actual danger. He’s a god and only other gods even have a shot at harming him.

Not boring. And I don’t think it takes a great writer. He is just a different character than the darker, edgier ones and so those stories don’t work well for him. You need stories where he’s pushing the limits of his powers, like All-Star Superman and other sci-fi takes, or stories that involve why he makes the choices he does.

I think the strongest stories are the ones where he is tempted to be less noble or to give up his choice to be Superman. Apparently, Brian Singer’s original plot from Superman Returns (gleaned from deleted scenes and the novelization) involved the decision whether to continue being Superman–to have to lie to his friends and deny himself real relationships. This also reminds me of the Death of Clark Kent storyline in the 90′s that I always liked. In that respect, a lot of Superman’s stories are like Spider-man stories. The weight of responsibility and choice and how this affects a person. As contrasted to stories for Batman and Punisher, which are driven more by revenge, obsession or darker impulses.

I’ve always felt it was unimaginative writers who didn’t get what made the character work. I’ve always felt Superman works best in stories where they fully embrace the “corny” aspect of the character. My sort of touchstone Superman moment is at the end of Superman: The Movie when the Warden of the prison thanks him, and his reply is “Don’t thank me. We’re all part of the same team.” His inability to see himself as above anyone else despite the godlike power is the thing that’s most interesting in Superman stories. It’s why I always called “baloney” on Quentin Tarantino’s take on the character.

As to LobsterAfternoon’s point, I think I’d have to agree. I was lucky enough to travel last year around the world, literally circumnavigating the globe. Because I’m a giant nerd, I thought it would be interesting to wear my comics gear in other countries to see how much of a response I got. I remember standing in a market in Saigon when I felt a tap behind me. I turned around to see a little local girl who pointed at the “S” on my shirt and put her hands out in the classic “flying” pose we all know and love. I swear I just about cried.

Internationally at least, I got a lot more notice from the Superman gear than from the Batman gear.

No. He just has bad writers that don’t know how to tell interesting stories every month

I noticed similar trends as Nunzio.

Superman is working class on the farm and in the city.

Batman is a 1 percenter who beats on poor people and calls it justice.

Superman isn’t boring. Young men between the ages of 20-to-35 are appallingly predictable and boring. (Myself included). We’re the generation of college dropouts and Xbox360. My contemporaries are the very same people who call Star Trek boring, find classical literature abhorrent, and consider radio nu-metal and slasher movies to be of critical acclaim.

But don’t hold it against us. Our parents came up in the 70s and 80s and we grew up not knowing a damned thing about good taste.

ANY fictional character is what the authors/owners does with him.

Superman was very lucky and interesting in the 50`s (Weisinger), 70′s (Donner) and 80′s (Byrne) but today is boring. Because no one writting him had any good ideas lately.

Let’s think about this:
Iron Man was boring (except the classic Stern Layton stuff we all know) but thank to a good movie, and -in response to that – a lot of good people doing their best, it’s a very cool character today…!

Batman is a best anc close example:
In his early years, always in the shadow of Superman…
Then, a succesfull tv show, then O’neil/Adams, the Miller, so they did a grat Burton Movie, then Morrison, then Rucka, Brubaker, etc etc… then Nolan…
But was Batman cool? No, they authors are geniuses that’s all.

Superman needs someone who brings to his world a little bit of genius, thats it.
Did you heard that Mister Millar?

I used to think he was boring until I watched Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, and Superman: Doomsday. When he’s really being pushed to his limit he’s pretty awesome.

To me the short answer is that Superman’s origin story is so interesting that everything else that comes after it seems like a footnote. Superman escaped a dying planet as an infant, was raised by human couple and through them came to love mankind. And oh yeah, he defeated Lex Luthor, Brainiac, etc…

If there were more stories of Superman punching giant robots and less stories of Superman walking across America, nobody would call him “boring”.

We live in a boring world… but Superman is AWESOME! :)

Bronze Age Baby-68

December 6, 2012 at 3:05 pm

People keep mentioning the writers being boring, but what about the editorial and marketing control on the character?
He’s part of a billion dollar industry,so freedom on writing him has often been strict.
Even Siegel and Shuster weren’t allowed to advance him, the K-metal story line had him reveal his identity to Lois and basically showed limitations put on him.
And this was in the Golden age.
Silver-Age stories were more fantastic, but by the Bronze age, control limited what could be done with him.
So he remained stagnant while other companies and characters were able to deviant from the standard he represented.
Which was considered boring.

Some people complain that Superman is “too powerful” but that’s only the case when he’s not run through his paces. If he’s fighting Brainiac, Darkseid, Doomsday, Parasite, etc. he’s NOT too powerful. If he’s fighting some thugs on the street, then YES his potential is being wasted.

But I think a lot of the problem that DC has with Superman is just poor talent management. Like Marvel with Spider-Man, they seem content to put a good writer at the helm with B artists. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s run was amazing, but also super short. I suspect that Man of Steel (with Snyder and Lee) will be a blockbuster.

I don’t think Superman not being “edgy” enough has much to do with it…The Sentry was basically Superman with an edge and I hated him. It comes down to the power set. Some people write him as a god, and that takes so much of the drama out of the equation. The only time I remember starting to really like Superman was while watching the Superman animated series, and the Justice League cartoons. He was powerful…but not THAT powerful. Watching him go toe to toe with Darkseid was epic. Still…watch interviews with the creators of the show and they’ll talk about having to find ways to get Superman out of the way so that the fight wouldn’t be over too quickly.

For me it depends on what Superman you are talking about. Take Superman from “Red Son”. He was dynamic in that he was challenged with what he felt was right and with how far he should go with his abiltiies.
The mainstream Superman is too “good” in a sense. He has the powers of a demi-god, the mind of a scientist and the tech of an advanced world…it’s sometimes hard to relate to Superman so writers have to make him be relatable to us and that’s hard.
Another example is from “Kingdom Come”. Superman was pretty much a demi-god in that series and that inability to relate to the world around him made him fascinating to read. He wanted so badly to be the good guy and not let the world down that he just couldn’t see what he was doing was in essence wrong. Great concept.
The best I have seen Superman in the “modern” sense probably comes from the animated Justice League from a few years ago. For example, Superman was trying to get info from a badguy. He grabbed him and even got his lazer eyes glowing but the badguy just scoffed at him. He wasn’t buying it a bit. Superman commented later that Batman made that stuff look easy. Then there was the “death” of Flash by Lex Luthor. Superman was on the very edge of killing Luthor and had to force himself to bakc away from that choice. It was a very awesome moment for him. He could dominate the world at any moment but has to always choose not to.
Superman boring? Not really if you can just apply who he is properly in a story.

Some really good points above.

Superman can be boring, if he’s not written well. I’m currently enjoying the current incarnation of Superman, though I think Johns’ is less interesting in the pages of Justice League than the others.

There’s an argument above that Superman is less interesting than say Captain America because of his powers. I’d point out that what makes Superman a compelling character has as much to do with the fact that his costume is Clark Kent, and not the Red and Blue underwear. Where Steve Rogers can give up being Captain America and settle down for a “normal” life, Superman can’t give up Clark Kent.

I also believe that there is a increasing divide between corporate and artistic intent. True there are the exceptions (Kingdom Come, the promise of the All-Star line, Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Superman), but the less interesting Superman, and indeed any character, is the one that is driven more by corporate imperatives than artistic ones.

Well said retrowarbird

Not boring – but he’s not someone you can relate to. There’s no internal character conflict, no emotional hook. We know he can’t be hurt and that he always saves the day.

I think if the book was called “Clark Kent: Superman” it would be more interesting – to learn about the man behind the cape. I know Clark Kent IS Superman (it’s just his alter ego) – but learning how he carries the burdens of being world’s strongest man yet can’t save everyone or can’t have the love of his life because it puts her at risk – - I think the storytelling doorway into Superman IS Clark.

It would also be cool if non-DC people wrote him. License him out to people from different story backgrounds who don’t know mainstream comics so could bring new takes on him. I think Marvel needs that too for most of their characters.

Defiance Industries

December 6, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Saying that Superman has to be “run through his paces” to make for interesting conflict is another part of the problem, though. You’ve eliminated low-level conflict as something that can menace him, so every fight he’s in has to be against a being of comparable power. You might as well just have dudes who pick up and throw black holes at each other. It makes it even harder to relate to him, because he’s so far divorced from conflict that’s understandable.

I haven’t read many Superman comics, but I loved Superman: The Animated Series. It’s my favorite interpretation of the character. One thing about the show is that Superman is less powerful than he is in comics and other media. For example, he had to wear a space suit with oxygen supply in space. He wasn’t overpowered compared to his enemies so he was in real danger during his fights.

One thing that I hated about Superman Returns (and there was a lot to hate) was how Superman could hear everyone in danger all over the world. Aside from the fact that he could hear things at faster than the speed of sound which makes no sense, it bugged me because it makes Superman perpetually responsible. Like it makes him seem like a bad person because when he takes time for himself he’s actively ignoring cries for help. The whole point of him working at a newspaper is so that he can learn about trouble as soon as it happens, but if he can hear everything in the world then there’s no point to working at the Daily Planet.

In summary, I think Superman works best when he’s roughly as powerful as his enemies. That’s why I want to see Brainiac or Metallo as a villain in a movie instead of Lex Luthor again (even though Lex is awesome).

Superman is boring when people try to make him cool.

The thing that strikes me about Superman is that, even though he’s arguably the first superhero, and absolutely the dude who got the superhero genre rolling, he’s absolutely terrible in a traditional superhero comic (or, I should say, what has become a traditional superhero comic). Month to month, I don’t actually care about his adventures; in order to challenge him under most circumstances is break out that diabolus ex machina that is Kryptonite, send someone equally godlike after him, or make him forget about whatever superpower would be most handy to resolve the conflict (in fairness, a lot of extremely powerful characters get hit with that last one).

At the same time, though, he can’t really do much to start solving the world’s problems (again, something that hits a lot of characters). Gotham still needs to be a crime-infested hellhole, even though Supes could clean that city up in a matter of days and there’s not a lot that could really stop him. Metropolis’s crime rate at this point should be hovering around parking tickets and littering.

So Superman doesn’t really work for a standard superhero story. He’s too powerful for dramatic tension based on “how do I stop the villain?” and he can’t effect change on par to one faster than a speeding bullet and able to change the course of mighty rivers. Hence, boring.

Remove him from a shared universe (or, more to the point, continuity) and he gets more interesting. Not having to worry about playing nice in the sandbox, you can start exploring the effect of a superhuman of Superman’s caliber on the world (“Red Son” is a favorite of mine) or push an insane, pure-superhero sensibility that doesn’t quite jibe in a world with the Joker or Deathstroke the Terminator (Grant Morrison writes the hell out of this sort of story).

So, ultimately, the character in and of himself is interesting. Fascinating, really. But he’s not a character that works as well in a shared universe, or in a run-of-the-mill superhero story. The month-in, month-out, four-titles-a-month grind does Big Blue no favors. But, contrary to Phil Jimenez’s theory, I think people care about Supes. He’s an incredibly potent symbol. People who have never read the comics or watched the movies proudly wear Superman apparel. Look at the furor that happened when the Death of Superman was announced, or when he got his electricity powers.

But they don’t read his month-in, month-out adventures. Those tend to be kind of dull.

That’s my take, anyway.

As long as he has to compete with characters such as Batman and Spiderman — who are far more versatile and dynamic than he is — he’ll always be considered boring by many people.

I think we as Americans sort of take Superman for granted because he’s everywhere over here. It’s easy to overlook the grandeur of his character and concept, and a lot of folks think they get all there is of Superman pretty early on: “Truth, Justice, and American yeah, yeah, yeah… we got it already.”

But I think it was Paul Cornell who said (and I’m paraphrasing here) growing up reading Superman outside of the “American way”, makes him seem much more like a true superhero than an untouchable American icon.

US writers too often approach him as an ideal. Seriously, how many times have you read an interview with a new writer explaining how they’re going to make Superman relevant again, or return him to his glory days? But UK and non-US creators see him as the world’s friendliest cop/older brother/best friend/superhero. They can really go nuts with him, as, on some level, they see him for what he truly is — the world’s greatest superhero — and write him as such, using all of the tropes and pieces in ways we sort of struggle with and are somewhat embarrassed by.

Nope. Not boring. Some of the stories he’s in are boring but that’s bad writing.

That said, the Boring Superman is one of my favorites: http://wayneboring.com/

Characters are only as boring as their writers let them be.

I know a LOT of characters that are much more boring than Superman.

Deadpool. Spawn. Red Hood. Grifter. Chamber. WildCats. Gen13.
All the characters created by Rob Liefeld.

Just for a start.

Superman is “boring” in the sense that he is a hard character to root for. The classic superhero appeal is really the underdog overcoming challenges through perseverence, skill, or just by wits alone. Can Superman ever be the underdog? When the character is constructed as the strongest, fastest, smartest, and most morally infalliable being on the planet — it’s hard to see him that way. In many cases, he becomes the bully pushing around physically inferior opposition.

When Superman works is when he is confronted by a moral choice without an obvious, easy answer or moral– and that takes a lot of heavy lifting on the writer’s part. In a classic, stock beat-up-the bad guy way, Superman is incredibly boring.

I love Superman. I always have. I am a little less thrilled about him because of the New 52 and all of the changes. And as for him being too moral? So what. So what if he has intregrity and morals. There are plenty of characters in the DC universe that are gritty and immoral or dark. Look, Batman (who has his own set of morals) is one of my favorite characters, but his dark-gritty-my parents were murdered schtick can be a bit much. I like that Superman is there to balance out the darkness in the DC comic world. I like that Superman has morals. I like that he has struggled with them at times as well. Superman may have better morals than half the people in the DC universe, but that doesn’t make him perfect or infallible.

Also- I agree that the writers are responsible for a character being boring.

I think the “I can lift a planet, and physically defeat anything” Superman bores me to tears. Its only when someone confronts him with a powerset that doesn’t lend itself to the physical that we get a chance to see who this guy is. Like when in an 80′s Superman annual the vampire Skeeter was about to bite him. He was shaking in his red boots then lol.
I also love when a writer, like John Byrne takes his power levels down., and writes him in a series like MAN OF STEEL or Byrnes run on Superman. I really liked the guy and rooted for him, because again, he faced stuff that he wasn’t familiar with and Luthor really had it in for him and used a plethora of schemes and lackies to give it to him.
I personally don’t buy any character that is all good all the time. That bores me. People can be ambigeous at times and while I can buy Supes being a really good dude. I cant buy him or even Cap being the “bsstions of all that is good.”. Uninteresting at best.

My issue with Superman is that in order to keep him interesting he has to get more and more powerful over the years? What’s left….defeating God? What conflict can happen to create a great story tension anymore? The tropes are feel completely exhausted at this point especially for someone who has been reading comics for the better part of 30 years. All Star Superman was truly a breath of fresh air (although very nostalgic), but over all he seems to be a character only the young and newly involved comic reader can enjoy.

It is the drama element that keeps people interested in any character. Superman, like any character, needs some sort of obstacle worth his/her time. Those challenges need to be huge , physically, but can be a real struggle when they are emotional.

Who didn’t love seeing Superman give Lois the gift of being a Superwoman for a day in All-Star? What about Superman struggling overwhelming odds on Warworld? These were stories about his power to physically and mentally “show himself off.” He embodies power tempered with great empathy and we enjoy seeing him fight just as hard as Batman, Spider-man, The Hulk, or Iron Man in forcing himself to get up and protect those less powerful than himself.

Superman can’t punch himself out of every obstacle and the writers who understand that have had the best success.

Superman is not inherently dull or tedious. Kal-El aka Clark Kent is as fascinating or as boring as the writing and editorial policies of a given period at TimeWarner subsidiary DC Comics. The continuum of interest in him and the stories are not so much affected by the magnitude and variety of the super-powers conferred upon the Man of Steel by his yellow sun-charged Kryptonian physiology as by the same considerations of scripted dialogue, use of the supporting cast, development of plots and subplots, and the kinds of adversaries he is pitted against. By Caesar’s Ghost, other characters, like Marvel Comics’ Thor, the God of Thunder and the Silver Surfer are pitted against near-omnipotent opponents, including Galactus, Mephisto, Surter, the Celestials, and Ego the Living Planet. Franklin Richards can create worlds and universes; the High Evolutionary has indulged in world creation; Professor X’s son Legion and Magneto’s daughter the Scarlet Witch reshape reality on molecular and sub-atomic levels. In the Golden Age, the Spectre had no (or virtually no) limits. By Rao’s Sun, we’re discussing comic books–a medium shaped by and borrowing from so many different literary and pictorial genres–that a reasonably imaginative writer can create threats for any super-hero (or super-villain) regardless of the power levels of the protagonist. In the pre-New 52 DC universe, Superman, an experienced uber-mighty super-being, was even killed for a time, by Doomsday and there were storylines featuring other foes, General Zod, Imperiex, Superman-Prime, and Darkseid, who were worthy physically-capable arch-enemies. Is Superman boring? Yes, if you write him that way, e.g., having him walk across America, he is the personification of BOREDOM as would nearly any other character in any medium. There is a saying, an adage, perhaps just a cliche but I believe it is more than that: Give me men to match my mountains. Formidable foes can include the following varieties of menace: Mad scientists, sorcerers, Daxamites, alternate-universe dopplegangers but don’t shut down your imagination, Oh Mighty Writers of America. I wouldn’t rely on the crutches of green kryptonite and a red sun either but it may start with the editors’ responsibility in hiring proficient writers who diod not have to power Superman down to lift him up.

I think anyone, anywhere, anytime could write a great Superman story but to write him for 5 consecutive years would be tough. He has to be big stories and big villians all the time and that wears out.

Top ten reasons stupid people think Superman’s boring.

1) Let’s start with the most common one: “derr, he’s too powerful, so you can’t challenge him.” Of course, we’ve seen time and time again that that’s NOT true, they’ve toned him down over the years, and you can ALWAYS introduce some villains who are MORE powerful than him and CAN hurt him by punching or zapping him. That complaint probably goes back to the earliest comics and the Adventures of Superman TV show in the ’50s, where he had a bigger audience but usually fought bank robbers and wife-beaters and stuff. But how many people who troll our message boards have even SEEN any of those? They just picked it up through popular osmosis! I’ve even heard this tripe through people who ought to know better.

2) Liking Superman, to these people, means not liking Batman and they can’t imagine their lives without Batman. Why do they think you can’t like both? Because there was always some kiddie rivalry even when they were written as best friends with interchangeable personalities, there was this bull$h¡t sports-team-like rivalry. Since 1986 when they’ve tried to play them in this extremely circumstantial hero/lancer relationship (and I’m not even talking about the Dark Knight Returns, I mean the regular continuity starting in Man of Steel #3) where they didn’t care for one-another even though the differences in their “methods” were way overblown.

3) Superman is OLD. That’s right, he’s a product of a more innocent time: the 1930s when the country was doing great, and has been boy scouting it up ever since. Yup. If you read Superman Chronicles 1-3, you’ll see he’s never, y’know, distrusted and chased by the authorities like Spider-Man. Nope. That “world’s biggest boy scout” was there from the beginning. He managed to stay popular into the ’70s and ’80s before anyone was cynical about their leaders. When Superman: the Movie came out, nobody thought the president was a whimp, or that his predecessors were corrupt or anything. My how things have changed. They changed in June of 1989. Or July of 2000. Or whenever my favorite pivotal superhero film came out.

4) Spider-Man is more relatable. Hence, you can’t think Superman is relatable. Even though their not terribly different. The nerd working in the newspaper office for a temperamental boss is really a superhero. That’s so boring/exciting. Wait, which one was I describing.

5) Another reason you can’t relate to Superman and therefore have to find him boring is the fact that he’s an alien. In order to relate to someone, their background has to be the same as yours and you CANNOT view being an alien as an allegory for something else. Mutation? Yes. Otherworldly origin? No.

6) Now, on the last three, I was being sarcastic. But in any case, the thing is that the people who think that expect us to believe that they find all the personal dramas involving other superheroes “exciting” or “riveting” and flying around beating up robots doesn’t do anything for them. Why, then, I must ask, are they even INTO superhero stuff and why don’t they just watch reality shows and soap operas?

7) Granted, it can be more entertaining to watch someone like Wolverine say stuff you WISH you could say to someone like Cyclops than to hear Supes talk about the virtue of honesty (despite his double life) and doing the right thing; but that’s not the same thing as “relatable” and if you actually went around giving people two tons of attitude, you’d get your @$$ kicked. That’s all well and good but pardon us for having an aspirational figure who makes us wish we could do more to HELP people than be self-absorbed; and who has powers that are more fun than many anti-heroes’ (btw: has anyone ever noticed how modest most anti-heroes’ powers are? I’m sure there’s some exceptions, but still…)

8) I’m also guessing these people aren’t interested in the behind-the-scenes stuff. Superman’s had so much backstage history–one actor who may or may not have killed himself, one who suffered a terrible accident and bounced back–whereas I can’t think of a fictional entity who can compare! Maybe the combined history of Disney, but that’s about it.

9) Speaking of which, the best of the Christopher Reeve films, in my opinion, was the first one. But if you’re going to expect it to have a lot of great fight scenes from start to finish, you’re gonna be disappointed. The second one, IMHO is really overrated. I wouldn’t recommend III or IV either, but I enjoyed them more than II, and it’s sad to see how everyone makes a special point in reminding everyone that “only the first two were good,” like if they mention the films as a whole and don’t mention that III and IV weren’t good, people will think they liked them.

10) I’m not gonna get too into politics, but REGARDLESS of your political views, you do have to admit that a lot of people with only a perfunctionary understanding of politics think, “liberal = new/ conservative = old,” hence think of Superman as a right-winger. Now, anyone who knows much about politics starts to get the impression that liberal and conservative are just ornamental terms for extremely vague set of principles and policies, but to the dumb people who hate Superman, it’s all about, “oh the old people think that all criminals should be locked up.” Yes. Some people think Superman is like that and was always like that. They obviously haven’t read Superman Chronicles vol 1, or if they did, they thought it was too “boring” to see the leftist (not using it as a pejorative) slant in them.

To me, it depends on what you mean by “Superman”.

All these long-lived superheroes have had many, many versions. Superman is the oldest and has cycled through at least a dozen incarnations. Some of them are great and others are dead boring.

For me, the best iterations are the ones that stick closest to the original conception of the character. The Batman franchise benefits enormously from re-examining its roots from time-to-time. Superman has had less success doing that over the years, because creators seem to get stuck on some later version.

Tried to read the new Action Comics Found Them Rather Boring

I think there are two reasons people find Superman boring, and both of them are editorial decisions chosen by DC. First is tone. Batman works equally well as camp, light-hearted romp, or grim-and-gritty avenger (see the 60′s TV show, the recent Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon, and any 90′s era comic). Superman can be funny, whimsical, light-hearted, serious, melodramatic, high drama, or tragedy — a whole range of styles — but he fairs poorly with the 90′s grim and gritty style. If DC had not chosen to pursue this tone to the exclusion of almost all others for the last 20 years, Superman would not have suffered the way he has since Christopher Reeve first made us believe a man can fly.

The second reason is a limitation of scope. I do not believe DC’s universe can compare to Marvel’s universe in terms of breadth. Besides Earth, Marvel comics have Asgard and the other godly realms; Kree, Skrull, Shi’ar and other space-faring civilizations; the Microverse; Dr. Strange’s mystical realms; an infinite number of alternate realities; and many more examples. What does DC have? The Green Lantern Corps patrols space, but it is a nebulous, undefined and unexplored space that for the most part readers are never really shown or given a reason to care about. The Legion of Super-Heroes has a well-defined galaxy (or did at one time), but it is only loosely tied to the regular DC universe. During the Silver Age, DC superheroes had regular interactions with aliens and alien worlds. Now that doesn’t seem to happen much any more. They pretty much only have Darkseid and the other New Gods. You can only go to that well so often before it become stale. Since Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC has repeatedly attempted to strip their shared superhero universe down to a single world for all the heroes to play on.

Some of my favorite Superman comics growing up were Action Comics #498, “The Catastrophic Man,” where, if I remember correctly, Superman battles the alien superhero Vartox for Lois’ affections, and Superman #418, “The Replacement,” where Superman is absent the entire comic helping an alien world while an alien robot replacement Superman tries so hard to protect humanity that they are allowed almost no free will. These comics where pre-Crisis, so there was no effort to rein in his powers. In fact, he was so powerful, he was considered a famous hero throughout the galaxy. The problem is not really that he is too powerful. It’s that his character is too big for the tiny sandbox DC wants him to play in. Yes, he is the hero of Metropolis. But he used to a hero to a whole galaxy. How interesting is that?

I love Superman you guys.

ZOOOOM! *Runs away, arms outstretched, sheet tied around neck.

@ James

I don’t see it that way. Clark is the Real guy. Superman just allows him to use his powers without having everyone and their brother come after him and the people he cares about. Clark allows him to have a life.

As a counter. Batman is the real person and Bruce Wayne is the disguise. To Batman, Bruce Wayne is just a tool he uses to further his Agenda.

There was a comic company a few years ago that tried to start a superhero line. The lead guy at the company said that the last thing he’d do if he had superpowers would be to put on a costume and do good things. Not a bad idea if you’re trying to start up a new line that might have a different twist from other publishers. Superman is the reason that you need that other twist. Superman is considered boring (not to me) because some people can’t wrap their brains around the fact that you can have great power and use it for good.

He’s pretty boring to me, just because the majority of story arcs I’ve read have not been entertaining. It has nothing to do with being a boy-scout good guy, it has to do with everything else. His “secret” identity consists of taking off his glasses and curling his hair, this may not always be the case though since there are so many supermen that people consider superman. is it Earth One’s brooding weirdo movie-style superman, is it cartoon superman, or the new52 superman that reverse-aged into a 19-year-old depending on who’s drawing him? All these choices/possibilities add to the boredom. Then you throw in the further confusion of Superman Red and Blue, Kryptonite and Red Kryptonite, Earth-22′s and 44′s, and the whole thing becomes a confusing mess of mediocre storytelling coupled with a badly thought out superhero.

Also, no need in bringing up other characters as if they’re stealing superman’s thunder, he’s boring all on his own and no other character should be used as an excuse for it. Write him better, show actual progress in his life and leave space for actual evolution. Not this “oh let’s split him into Blue and Red and let’s add red kryptonite to the green kryptonite and have him fight the same things(but with different names) over and over, then reboot the entire universe. Rinse. Repeat. Until the NewNew-104.”

A convoluted superhero makes for a boring superhero.

Is Superman boring? Not at all. He’s probably one of the most fascinating characters in superhero comics, American fiction even. Just that fact that so many focus on his power set and heavily use that to determine whether his boring or not says a lot. The comparisons to God due to how his perceived with little talk of how the character sees himself or how aware he is of his perception is interesting in itself. One thing that doesn’t get enough attention is the character’s intellect. Not book smarts. He could read ever book in a library in a few minutes. He mean in terms of his humanistic intellect. This is a character that has visited different dimensions with a variety of cultures, in several time lines. Put simply, the character is a well travelled man. For how big the character is perceived ( in our lexicon of pop culture and within his fiction worlds), he’s smart enough to fully see just how small he is and realize that that is perfectly fine. He sees that he’s one of many in an universe of plenty. Nothing boring about that to me.

There are 3 things that make Superman boring.

1. He’s too damn powerful in regards to both his power level and the number of powers he has. There’s no real world weapon or object that can hurt him.

2. He is rendered less unique whenever he is around other Kryptonians. Superman should not only be special among humans, he should also be special among his fellow Kryptonians and be the most powerful of his race.

3. Over exposure. He appears in too many damn books every month.

Daeleus, I have to amend your correction about Clark being the “Real Guy.” There are not two characters, but three. There’s Superman, of course, and then there’s Farm-Clark and City-Clark. Farm-Clark is real; Superman and City-Clark are the masks.

I’ll echo only what many others have echoed already: Superman is only as boring as the writers who do not understand who he is. Paul Dini understood him perfectly in “Peace on Earth” in a way few others understood him. Mark Waid understood him perfectly, both in the overrated “Kingdom Come” and in the underrated “Birthright.”

Superman is either the ultimate immigrant story — a boy comes to America, works hard and plays by the rules, is successful, and serves his adopted country — or the ultimate Christ figure story — a child sent from the heavens to serve humankind inspires others to greatness — or maybe he’s both and more. But if writers write him to be “the strong hero who can punch things and get punched, too” then of course he’s boring.

I think Phil Jiminez says it well in the original post. People resent him for being eternally good and, further, they think that makes him two dimensional. On the contrary, a man who has unlimited power with which he could subjugate and conquer the universe, who instead dresses up in a costume to serve that universe is deeply complex. What motivates such goodness? He’s confronted constantly with evil, with greed, with distrust of his motives, with evidence that his constantly putting out fires (literal and metaphorical) does little wide-scale good, and yet he remains good.

It’s Batman and others who are the two dimensional characters: They suffer a life-altering trauma and decide to avenge their losses. Such an explanation for a hero’s motivation is so sensible and understandable that it is boring. In his lack of a single motivating principle in his fight for truth and justice beyond the fact that it is right, Superman is mysterious and inscrutable and endlessly fascinating.

Everyone in comics owes SOMETHING to Superman, but none of them have replaced Superman and, 75 years later, none of them are as unfathomably deep and profound as Superman. And no character ever will be.

Obviously he is not boring. He has however been around longer than any other superhero and is so famous and ubiquitous that many take him for granted.

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