Your honor, I want the record to reflect that I am a Superman fan. I submit to you that I am not, in any way, shape or form, a Marvel fan disguised as a disgruntled DC Comics reader. In fact your honor, I am not a DC or a Marvel fan. I am a fan of comics, and comic book movies. In all honesty, I do not care which company owns the rights to my favorite characters. What I do care about is that the characters stay true to their origins as they transition from the comic book to the big screen.
You see your honor I am at a crossroads as a Superman fan. I believe that there have been some great stories told within the pages of Superman, Action Comics, and other Superman-related titles; however, the current movies regarding the Big Blue haven't reflected a true adaptation of the source material. I believe that Superman has not been treated fairly on the big screen since at least Superman Returns, which was released back in 2006 when it was cool to solve the world's problems by wearing multi-colored wristbands. If still cool today, I'd be wearing red, yellow, and blue wristbands proclaiming "Make Superman Movies Super Again." Unfortunately they are not, and I have a ton of boxes filled with these wristbands in my basement.
Regardless of my overzealousness for Superman and multi-colored wristbands, the fact remains that Superman in the comics is better than Superman on the big screen. How can this be? It's mind-boggling if you think about it. In fact, I feel like I'm living in some kind of Bizarro world where it makes sense to have directors who don't understand Superman, direct Superman movies.
Three years ago DC Comics celebrated the 75th Anniversary of Superman. I'm no mathematician, but that means there are 75 years worth of Superman stories to pull inspiration from to piece together a good two-and-a-half hour movie. Instead, we get a deadbeat dad, peeping tom Superman in Superman Returns, a joyless, brooding, murdering Superman in Man of Steel, and a lifeless, gloomy, speechless Superman in Batman v Superman. Warner Bros. keeps betting on black (and gritty) when red is clearly the winner.
I'd like to submit to you, honorable judge and jurors, the following three exhibits to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Superman — who fights for truth, justice, and the American way in the comics — is better than the current Man of Steel on the big screen.
Exhibit A: Kal-El's Adoptive Parents
"Superman For All Seasons," and other Superman stories like it, cemented the good-natured relationship that Kal-El developed with humanity by having Ma and Pa Kent as his adoptive parents. Kal-El's morals and personality were shaped by two kind and simple farmers. It's true, the Kents are farmers, but to be more specific, they are humanitarians. Their lives revolve around providing for others through farming. They help people and they even chose to help an alien, a being not of their world. Let that sink in for a moment. I assure you, if an alien crash-landed on my yard, I'd be on the phone with the Pentagon after blowing it away. The Kents, unlike me, are the epitome of people who want to lend a helping hand to those who are in need, no matter the consequences.
Kal-El becomes a super-MAN because he was raised as one. Kal-El chose to disguise himself as a man, or should I say become a man (as much as he could), because he witnessed through his adoptive parents the good that is in humanity. Following in the footsteps of his adoptive parents, Kal-El chose to help humanity as Superman.
In Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, the Kents are portrayed as scared individuals who are suspicious of everyone. They have no respect for human life. They would rather hide in fear than make a difference. They are selfish, and they view Kal-El's abilities as a curse rather than a blessing to be shared. All they taught Kal-El to do was bury his head in the sand. It's no wonder that the Clark Kent persona in the Zack Snyder movies is a lost soul wandering the Earth aimlessly. It's because he wasn't given any direction by the Kents. In fact, the Kents had nothing to do with Kal-El becoming Superman in Man of Steel. Instead, the idea was presented by Kal-El's biological father, Jor-El.
I believe that in order to have a true representation of Superman, it starts with the relationship he developed with his adoptive parents. In my opinion, the movies screwed that relationship up royally — and on purpose — so that Kal-El would have a confusing, gritty childhood because Snyder and company thought that would make Supes more relatable. By removing the importance that the Kents had on Kal-El, it actually made Big Blue less relatable.
Exhibit B: Clark Kent's Relationship With Lois Lane
Remember that scene in Superman Returns when Superman used his x-ray vision to spy on Lois' family? Every time I see that scene my skin starts to crawl. It's cringe-worthy, it's something a peeping tom would do, and it’s definitely not "super." After seeing that scene, I half expected Supes to take an up-skirt pic of Lois and send it to Jimmy. It wasn't only that scene that I had a problem with though. I had a problem with the idea of Big Blue knocking up Lois and then leaving her to go find his blown-up homeland. It's blown up, dude. Nothing's there. Marlon Brando told you that way back in the first movie.
To me, Superman Returns came across as a "What If" story, like what if Christopher Reeve's Superman became a deadbeat dad, left Lois and their kid, and decided to peek into windows instead of fight crime? All joking aside, the overall film seemed weird and off-putting because we were given a Superman who was uncomfortable being a father, and had an unhealthy relationship with Lois. It just didn't have any relationship beats that were consistent with the comics.
The current on-going Superman comics are knocking it out of the park in terms of making Superman relatable again, thanks to writers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. Superman and Lois now have a son that has super abilities, and instead of being an absent father, Superman spends time nurturing his son, Jonathan (named after Pa Kent), to help him overcome all the hardships of being young with powers. Lois is right there too, supporting her son through his trials and tribulations. Not only that, but Lois has a strong, loving relationship with Superman. It's really amazing stuff, and as a father, I can tell you it's very relatable. Check out my review of the current Superman comics if you're interested — I promise you wont be disappointed.
In the comics, before Lois found out that Clark was Superman, a fun and interesting love triangle was explored between Clark, Superman, and Lois. These stories made for some entertaining and maybe too relatable reads for me. I'm no Romeo, so I could definitely relate to Clark getting rejected by the girl of his dreams. In Man of Steel, there was no love triangle. The Clark Kent persona wasn’t even introduced until the end of the film, and by then, Lois knew who Clark was. By removing the love triangle aspect, a relatable uniqueness that's been a part of the Superman comic book lore for so long, was lost.
I get why they did it, they didn't want Lois to look like a piss-poor reporter, but the relationship chemistry between Clark and Lois disappeared. We never see why Superman developed any romantic interest in Lois. When they kissed towards the end of the film while half of Metropolis laid in rubble I was confused as to why. The video below is a perfect example as to why that scene is one of the most messed up "romantic" moments in Man of Steel if it actually happened in reality.
Exhibit C: Superman Is A Boy Scout
There is no getting around it: Superman is a boy scout. To be perfectly honest, I like Superman because he is the ultimate boy scout: He wants to help people; he wants to do what is right; he want good to triumph over evil. How can these qualities be so bad in the eyes of Warner Bros.?
Earlier this week, some comments were published in Forbes made by Deborah Snyder, Zack's wife and producer of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, regarding their version of Superman. Here is a link to what she had to say. Basically, Deborah said that her and her husband's version of Superman was more relatable than any other versions because their version made "mistakes" and isn't a boy scout.
Deborah, you made Superman out to be a god in your last movie, how is that relatable? Furthermore, by "mistake," do you mean Superman letting thousands of people die while putting the moves on Lois? By "mistake," do you mean Superman murdering Zod instead of simply throwing him into the Phantom Zone? By "mistake," do you mean Superman telling Lois that he might have to kill Batman in order to save Martha Kent? By "mistake," do you mean Superman standing in a burning down Senate building looking mopey instead of helping anyone? Your idea of a mistake is a little bit different than mine.
To those who doubt that the boy scout routine is relatable or something that the audience wants, I would have to respectfully disagree. Look at the Captain American movies and how well the audience responded to those films. Captain America is as much of a boy scout as Superman, and when Captain America was portrayed as such on the big screen, it worked. Warner Bros., I beg you, stay true to the Superman character that has given us so much in the last 78 years. You won't be disappointed, and neither will we.
Watch the climactic battle between Superman and Zod in the clip from Man of Steel below: