Superman flying through the cosmos

There's something I feel I should admit up front about myself – I really dislike Superman. I mean, the guy's superpower is basically that he can do anything – and usually better than any other superhero too. Oh sure, you might point out this issue or that episode of whatever best supports your case that Superman is not some freak demigod hopped up on some kind of alien steroids. You might even say "dude, Superman gets killed." Yup, he does. And then he comes back. The guy is the new Jesus Christ™ *.

Before I get too deep into my frothing incoherence on the topic, I'm going to mention that I grew up reading the Superman comics. One of the first comic books I owned was an issue of Superman in which Pa Kent, suffering from a serious case of imminent death, is having all kinds of flashbacks (read: PTS) about his fun adventures in the war (Korean?). There's a lot of swearing, white lights, and general mopiness. Yet despite this, I was still very much interested in what I was reading and found myself engaged in a story I was effectively starting midway through. I wish I could remember it better, but I only had that crisp, plastic-wrapped narrative for a few hours before my dad flipped through it a bit and decided it wasn't “appropriate” for my age.

Still, I wanted more, and I eventually built up a significant collection of comics, all carefully selected and hidden so as to avoid the censoring eye of the over-concerned parent. I had a bit of everything – from the fairly timid (Duck Tales, Star Wars, Johnny Quest) to the more serious, "real" (as I considered them at the time) comics (X-men, Spider-man, Punisher, Hulk, Daredevil, Batman). Nearly everything I owned consisted of single, isolated, non-consecutive issues of different chronologies, with few of them even being canon. I read them and reread them until I knew all the dialogue by heart. And then I read them again.

Among my collection were a scant few Superman comics (and a Vinyl record, but I'll save that for another time). As time went by, I found myself reading those less and less while devoting more time to my favorite heroes, Spider-man and the X-men. I had stopped reading my superman comics altogether when I stumbled upon a hefty book at my local library. Inside was a collection of the original Superman comics, from an era very much removed from my own. This Superman was different – he was more cartoony and animated. The villains he fought were more simplistic both in their design and their motives. I found these comics much more readable and quickly finished the first volume. I'm not sure how many decades I ultimately traversed through those collections, but the more I read, the more I noticed a Superman emerging that I was more familiar with. Sure, the adventures with Bizarro and Superdog were fun, and Supes long-haired/nailed encounter with red Kryptonite was amusing, but now I began to find myself growing bored with the series again, and I eventually gave it up in favor of other books (comic and non-comic alike).

At the same time, I had been reading here and there (though with less frequency than Superman) other DC comics, with similar results. To me, the heroes just seemed flat somehow. To be fair, this may have been my mind playing tricks on me. While I had never really differentiated between the DC and Marvel universes when I was younger, I was now beginning to realize that they were two competing giants (the Amalgam comics helped sort this out for me a great deal) both vying for my cash. For me, this paradigm was further spurred by the bitter Nintendo/Sega console wars that were happening at the time. Because of this, I had, for whatever reason, convinced myself that I needed to choose a side. While choosing between a plumber with super powers or a speedy anthropomorphic hedgehog had been a very difficult decision for me, the same could not be said of my comics. On one hand, were all my favorite heroes including The Hulk, X-men, Spider-man, The Fantastic Four, etc. On the other hand was Batman, the one and only DC hero I still loved and read. Having watched (too) many reruns of the 60s television show the decision was made even easier and I bid a half-hearted farewell to the Dark Knight.

I've since come to my senses and found plenty in the DC universe to keep me happy, but the Superman series remains the last bastion of my childhood discontent.

Addendum: I found a great resource for the old Superman comic strips syndicated in the newspapers. They don't have every comic, but they have the information on them and even a few complete story-arcs. Definitely worth a peek if not a full-on read.

* Any resemblance of character: "Superman" to persons, living or dead, named and/or of the likeness of character: "Jesus Christ" are purely and entirely coincidental.