While shopping in Old Navy the other day looking for the newest additions to my Superman Collection, I overheard an interesting conversation from a mom and her son looking over the t-shirt rack.

Kid: I want the Bane Shirt.

Mom: Okay, do you want Superman too?

Kid: Superman’s gay.

I’m not here to debate the merits of using the word “gay” to mean uncool – that’s not really the point of this article.  Still, the kid’s response made me realize just how uncool Superman is compared to Batman to the modern audience.

Batman is dark and brooding, angry and dressed in black.  He appeals to angry teenagers who identify with him, adults who want to be rich like Bruce Wayne, and kids who love all the cool gadgets.  Superman…is a really good person who’s actually an alien from another planet and dresses in the American flag and can punch things really hard.  No wonder he’s such a hard sell nowadays.

When Supermania hit the nation after the character first appeared, patriotism was cool, and a character who fought for truth, justice, and the American Way (the “whitebread” way of life) was sure to be a smash. Times are different now, though.  Even the recent Captain America movie downplayed the patriotism of the character (the “song and dance” show that he was stuck in) and rather emphasized the action and fighting Nazis and super villains.

Superman is known for being the ideal man – he’s kind, polite, and generally good hearted.  Whereas Batman is known for being badass, Superman is known for being…good.

Now don’t read me wrong … is being good a bad thing?  Not at all.  Superman is inspirational and important because of the hope he brings.  However, the public perception of the character is that he’s boring and infallible, neither of which is particularly true.

In fact, one of my favorite interpretations of the character is the Timmverse animated one, which showed that not only could Superman be kind and good, he could also kick some butt and get angry when it demanded.  He wasn’t an anti-hero, but he could definitely lose his temper (particularly with Darkseid).    He was, for lack of a better term, cool.

It took YEARS for Batman to get over the public opinion of him gained from the Adam West-starring Batman series.  Now seen as parody on the character, for a while that interpretation was seen as Batman.  I think folks nowadays still see Superman as his Super Friends counterpart and, sadly, the most recent movie appearance of the character did nothing to turn around this opinion.

Of course, the current Superman comics are making him even more of a loner than Batman, taking away his humanity, his parents, wife, friends, and family (whereas Batman is practically surrounded by his makeshift family).  Unfortunately, it’s like they assumed what made Batman cool was that he was sad and angsty and applied it to Superman in all the wrong ways.

Superman is loved by his fans, and deservedly so.  His roots as someone who fights injustice and corruption inspired an entire generation, and he continues to inspire.  The Superman “S” shield is still seen as a sign of hope.

But what can make Superman cool?  Talkback below!

This week’s addition to the Superman collection is a DC DIRECT SUPERMAN #14 STATUE, based on the original art by Fred Ray and sculpted by James Shoop.  Click either image to enlarge!

3 thoughts on “In Search of Superman: Is Superman Uncool?

  1. I’ve been a fan of Superman my whole life and I have to agree that the general opinion of Big Blue is that he’s not cool. As you pointed out, Supes and Captain America are both regarded as being rather hokey for their patriotism and generally good manners.

    Cap has gained a cool factor from becoming edgier through the Ultimates and Brubaker’s run but that isn’t something I would want to see from Superman. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the pre-new 52 Superman, I just think that values he stands for are sadly outdated. That bothers me because it says something about society and I don’t want Superman to have to conform to that.

    I think Superman is suffering from not having a good story arc in the comics. The latest movie outing didn’t help with his public perception as well. The upcoming movie has a chance to show people that Superman can be cool and that he can be a bad-ass without sacrificing his core concepts.

    I guess all of this is me really saying that I don’t think Superman needs to change to be cool. Personally I think the new 52 incarnation is a mistake.

  2. I’ve actually been thinking about this for a while aswell, my friends and I at university are all pretty big comic fans and we regularly have arguments over who is the best superhero, (for me personally it’s Green Lantern (any of them) and Captain America). Everytime I tell people that, I get pretty much the same response as that kid gave his mom, Cap is GAY (GL is cool because of the ring), but Cap is gay because he doesn’t have any powers and has a shield that he throws around. Sure he doesn’t have a cool suit with a talking persona, or awesome gadgets and a billionaire alter ego, but he does have something that in my opinion only superman can replicate. He is a true hero and leader, he stands as a testament to the best man/woman can be. Standing up for what is right and righting the wrongs that evil doers spread. He fights crime not because he has an urge to be a hero or avenge anything, he does it because he feels that it’s his responsibility, as a man and hero to do so, that for me is why I admire him (sorry about using Cap as my explanation but I reckon that him and Supes are pretty much identical in their reasoning of the world).

    Its a pity that nowadays people would rather idolize a hero that is known for sleeping around, drinking his liver till it regenerates or tears people apart, and not a hero who has manners, respects and treats everyone equally. I’m not saying that any hero with the former traits is not cool, but I’m just saying that heroes of Superman and Cap’s calibre shouldn’t discarded as uncool just because they are from a bygone era where our world’s values were a lot more civilized and sincere.

    Oh well that’s that 🙂
    P.S. I have absolutely no problem with other heroes, they’re all cool, but let’s just say that if I had to be any hero, well, from my response, you’d know who I’d be 🙂

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