I don’t have as strong ties to Superman through television and film as I do for someone like Batman or even Spider-Man, for that matter. However, I’ve still seen moments which tell you everything you’ve ever needed to know about the character. I’ve picked seven of my favourite Superman moments and will give my thoughts about them below. I know I didn’t include any of the Christopher Reeves films but when making this list, I went with which moments came to mind right away. We all have our favourite moments; there are no right or wrong choices.
For the Man Who Has Everything
“You are everything I’ve ever wanted in a son. This…this is everything I ever wanted in a life but I got responsibilities Van…I have to go now.”
Is it a surprise that one of the greatest Superman stories ever written by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons would make for one the best episodes of Justice League Unlimited? The story poses a question: what would you get Superman for his birthday? The villain Mongul decides to give Superman a plant called the Black Mercy. It puts Superman into a coma where he is living out his heart’s desire.
What is Superman’s heart desire? World peace? A world where he rules over us? Nope. His true heart’s desire is a place where Superman is never needed and doesn’t exist. He is a farmer on Krypton, where he is married and has a family. His troubles are everyday ones, like teaching his son about the responsibilities of taking care of a dog and keeping promises. He has to warn his wife that he doesn’t want a surprise birthday party.
However, even living in his perfect world, he senses something isn’t right. Superman breaks free from the Black Mercy. However, before he does, he tells his son that he knows that he isn’t real – none of this world is before saying goodbye. He gives up his perfect life so the world can have a chance at theirs.
“I…I guess I’m saying I like being a hero. A symbol…and that’s why I’m quitting the Justice League. You don’t act like heroes anymore.”
The Cadmus story arc in Justice League Unlimited feels like a rich and satisfying meal. However, if watched or eaten it too often, you get sick of it because you dislike the way you feel after. Mainly drained, tired, and ready for a nap.
It’s nice once in awhile to have our heroes dragged through corruption, mistrust, and the negative propaganda machine. Especially when it leads to two heroes fighting. The basic gist of the fight is: Captain Marvel is the Justice League’s newest member who happens to be little kid, but when he says, “SHAZAM!” he’s transformed into Captain Marvel. He mistakenly says on National TV that he supports Lex Luthor‘s campaign for presidency. A big no-no for the Justice League’s PR. Lex builds a new city with a mysterious power source under it. Superman believes that it is a bomb set to explode underneath the city. Lex explains that it’s an experimental power source. Superman doesn’t believe him and wants to shut it down. Captain Marvel wants to give Lex the benefit of the doubt. Superman doesn’t listen and the two heroes come to blows.
The fight ends with Superman beating Captain Marvel and destroying the mystery power source, which is exactly what Lex said it was. This is what happens when Superman does whatever he wants. He loses what makes him Super, leaving just the man. It’s him failing to see the goodness and light in others and choosing to be blinded by his own ego. It shows Superman isn’t above the same problems and emotions we feel and face. In the end Captain Marvel quits the Justice League because his own heroes let him down, leaving Superman and the rest of the Justice League to see the difference between what is necessary and what it means to be a hero.
Divided We Fall
“The world needs the Justice League and the Justice League needs you Superman.”
The last episode of the Cadmus arc ends with the Justice League saving the world once again. However, with all the mistrust and a fragile public image, Superman decides it’s best to disband the Justice League, so that they aren’t seen as a superhuman army and a threat.
It takes a hero with no superpowers (Green Arrow) to talk some sense into Superman and the rest of the founding members. Yes, they may have lost their way at some points but they never stopped fighting, and at the end of the day, they still made the right choices and came out on top.
Life goes on whether you want to or not. Superman is a character about action since his debut. It’s his job to always keep moving. He and the Justice League were faced with one of their greatest threats during their most trying and tumultuous times but they never quit.
“I’m gonna punch a hole in your head.”
“We don’t do that to our enemies.”
“Speak for yourself.”
“I’m trying to speak for Superman.”
Superman is the standard by which all of the other DC heroes are measured by. So what happens when that standard is taken away? We see how large of a void is left without him. The heroes can no longer count on him to be there; all they have left is his example. It’s not as simple as replacing him with another character who is invulnerable, has super strength, speed, stamina, and flight. Powers, costumes, and catchphrases don’t define a hero. None of that matters to Superman, the only thing that does is action.
“I feel like I live in a world made of cardboard. Always taking constant care not to break something or break someone. Never allowing myself to lose control. Even for a moment, someone could die.”
The main reason why this moment is in this post: it’s one of Superman’s most bad ass moments. Imagine living in a world made of cardboard. How much control would you have over everything you did? How scared would you be to not break anything? At the same time imagine how invincible you’d feel – you’d be in a state of calm and relaxation over your well being and constant stress over everyone else.
Superman lets it all hang out in this fight against Darkseid. This is Superman unleashed. He doesn’t get the chance to let loose often, so just enjoy it.
All-Star Superman Animated Film
“The clockwork doesn’t care. It’s like – like it’s all just us, in here together. We’re all we’ve got.”
All-Star Superman is my favourite Superman story. So you’d assume I’d be excited about an animated movie based on it right? I wouldn’t go so far as excited. I didn’t mind that I’ve never watched it until a couple weeks ago. The spirit of the story is there, and it would have been impossible to fit everything Morrison and Quitely wrote in the animated movie, but can’t resist the feeling of disappointment.
The one thing that was cool to see on screen was the epiphany Lex Luthor has near the end of the movie. Lex has made a formula which gives him Superman’s powers for a day. Since Superman is near death, he uses this time to take over the world or, in his mind, save it. He’s trying to save the world from the menace of Superman. He believes that the key to humanity’s greatness must come from a human and not an alien. He wonders how a mere mortal could live up to Superman’s example. Lex believes Superman is really too good to be true. Superman is a dream, Lex offers reality.
I love the clip above because Lex finally lets go of his ego, his prejudices, and opens his mind. For the first and only time in life he sees the world the way Superman does. The moment overwhelms him. Lex only has this vision of the world for less than five minutes. His world view is forever changed by it. What would happen if we were granted the same opportunity? Five minutes isn’t much but would it be enough?
“What took you so long?”
Everything about this scene is perfect. From Lois hinting that she knows his secret, to Clark explaining his greatest fears and doubts, and it culminates in Lois’ response. Nothing needs to be said – instead she knocks him over, symbolic of Clark finally letting go and becoming vulnerable.
Lois and Clark are my favourite comic book couple and it’s not even a close race. Lois is such a fantastic character in her own right. She keeps Superman grounded. She’s his security blanket. She’ll always be there for him no matter what. Except her character isn’t dependent on Superman. She’s a fireball of snark, fearlessness, and fairness. She doesn’t let Clark get away with anything, even if he is the man that can do everything.
Superman is such a powerful character, so much so that I feel most people feel like he’s never not in control. However, being in love is making yourself vulnerable; it’s the only way a relationship can work. You can’t be afraid to be yourself, you can’t always be invincible, you have to be able to let your guard down. Yet, Clark struggles with the decision of revealing his secret and he isn’t able to do so on his own. And it’s not only the fear of losing Lois which drives him, it’s Lois telling Clark that she’s wiling to take the risk. It’s not just his relationship, it’s hers too.
It’s Like I Have ESPN or Something – Nicole
Real honesty: I never knew Superman was a TV show. For real.
So, Superman School today is only me and the 7 videos you perused above (or scrolled over. We forgive you and accept your speed reading tendencies). These 7 moments sound intriguing, showing me the depth of the Superman character. These clips are diverse, teaching me the breadth of Superman stories. These highlights are charming, illustrating for me Superman’s genuine presence and adorable wit. Irving’s favourite moments all hold elements of real world experience, reminding me that Superman was a man too, and his stories can all ring true to our everyday messy stuff.
I totally earn an A+ for that. And a sparkly sticker.