Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice opens this Friday! Batman v. Superman isn’t technically a sequel to 2013’s Superman film Man of Steel and the way it is being marketed makes it seem like a very Batman centric project. The marketing focus probably has a lot to do with the fascination the public has with Batman and the ‘meh’ attitude most have in regards to Superman.
Superman is credited as being the very first superhero and so much of his mythology informed all the comic book characters that followed. He is undoubtedly the most recognizable of all the superheroes. While he may be the most recognizable, he is definitely not the most popular at the moment. Batman is arguably the most beloved hero in our culture right now and Marvel characters like Spider-Man and Iron Man are also probably higher than Supes on the popularity chart. Superman’s long history has allowed his iconography to become a vital part of our popular culture. Everyone knows his powers and mythology—but Superman is currently not as well embraced as other super powered heroes.
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman together and much of the character’s legacy and story seems connected to the two creators. They were both children of Jewish immigrants and that fact probably helped to shape the origin of their heroic invention. Superman’s parents sent him to earth because their home of Krypton was destroyed. Superman finds refuge on earth much like Siegel’s and Shuster’s parents found a home in America. Superman made his comic book debut in 1938 inside Action Comics #1.
The world right now is obviously much different than it was in 1938 when Superman was created. America and its way of life isn’t thought of in the same way it was when Siegel and Shuster invented their hero’s mythology. Superman was a symbol of hope and today that message seems a bit corny to the mass public. In many ways Superman’s current standing in our culture is sort of a sad commentary on our culture as a whole—we can no longer relate to a hero that is as purely good as Superman is. Batman is far darker and complex of a character than Superman. The Dark Knight fits better into our more morally complex world today.
Superman had a huge impact on the world of comics and he also helped to shape the way comic book characters would be portrayed on the big screen. The film version of Superman was released in 1978 and it was the first time a comic book received a respectful and large budgeted film. Christopher Reeve’s performance as the Last Son of Krypton was respectful of the source material and it helped to show all of Hollywood that a film based on a comic book could be done genuinely.
Superman helped to pave the way for other heroes in both comic books and movies. Without Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s contributions to pop culture we probably wouldn’t have the Batman character and it goes without saying that we definitely wouldn’t have all the comic book film adaptations we all love today. Superman may not be the “coolest” superhero anymore but he is still the most important one.