This weekend, the supposedly most wholesome and kind-hearted superhero returns to the silver screen. And though he goes by several names—Superman, Clark Kent, Kal-El, The Man of Steel—this space alien who possesses nearly every single superpower hasn’t been away for long. Since 1938 Superman’s been flying (initially just bounding) around in various media. But will chipper, bright-suited Superman ever appeal to the cool kids, who love their heroes dark and brooding? We say yes—because Superman has always been a depressive sad sack! Here are five reasons The Man of Steel is secretly even darker than The Dark Knight.
5. He lives in a place called the Fortress of Solitude. In the case of Winnie the Pooh’s friend Tigger, being the only one is a “wonderful thing.” But when your parents AND your entire planet is blown up just after your birth, being the last of your kind is a huge bummer. So, what does Superman do when figures out who he really is? He moves into a creepy, sterile place where his only friends are holograms from the past. Compare that with Batman, who lives in a cool cave full of awesome gizmos, with a father figure of a butler who brings him coffee. Batman: friendly and sociable! Superman: morbid and creepy.
4. He can’t improve. The driving force in all of our lives is getting better and better at whatever it is we want to do. Superman is pretty much perfect from day one—it’s not like he can get better at being an alien who is really strong and fast. We suppose he could try to get really great at bridge or online poker, but for someone who is Super, that seems like sort of a letdown. The other sad thing about not being able to improve is that, oddly, he can’t even have a downward spiral that he could try to recover from.
3. He’s never going to settle down with anyone. Superman II is easily the best of the old-school Christopher Reeve movies, and that’s because it shows The Man of Steel as an emotionally vulnerable guy. Right after he gives up his power for Lois Lane, General Zod swoops in and starts shooting up the White House. And then Supe gets his butt kicked in a diner by a dude wearing a flannel shirt. This is the ultimate reason why Superman can’t have a regular relationship: when true love ends with you sitting in the snow, bleeding and crying, you’re kind of programmed to avoid it.
2. His colorful flamboyance is inherently dark. I think it’s funny that, just because Batman talks in a stern voice and dresses all in black, he’s considered to be dark. Hasn’t it occurred to anyone that Batman’s uber-serious badass thing is actually a little bit contrived? Conventionally, Batman’s exterior style does make him cooler than Superman, but living in the shadows and embracing black clothes doesn’t make you dark. You know what does? Trying to hide your inner pain under a smile and a crisp red and blue suit. Superman’s like a character right out of Brett Easton Ellis: outwardly, he’s really nice and normal. But who’s more dark: the person who claims to be so, or the person who pretends to be normal?
1. He’s constantly right on the cusp of becoming a monster. In the Richard Donner cut of Superman II, complete with restored Marlon Brando footage, Superman gets really pissy about having to protect the mortals of Earth. He feels like he’s given them enough, and they don’t give anything back. We all know about absolute power and its temptations, but Superman’s god-like presence is actually extremely frightening. What happens when a man with limitless power has a bad day? What’s the fate of the guy who cuts in front of him in the Dairy Queen line? Or the auto mechanic who tries to overcharge him?
A space alien who can do anything? Sounds less like a hero, and more like a horror story!
Welp, we’re convinced. Superman=world’s loneliest hero. What do you think—is he even darker than Batman?