No Dark Past for Superman

Yesterday (May 24, 2015), Charles Moss wrote this article claiming that Superman had a “dark past” and that “Man of Steel” and the upcoming “Superman v. Batman” were simply brining him back to his roots.

Here is my response to that premise:

Mr. Moss, you’re article is based on incomplete and incorrect information. As such, it is completely misleading to people who have only a casual acuaintance of the Caped Kryptonian. The purpose of this post is to rebut your assertion that Superman has a dark past and that a darker depiction of Superman would be a return to his roots. This is utterly wrong.

To further your premise, you state that “…in the very early stages of the character’s development, he wasn’t a hero at all, but a villain. And even after Superman became an enforcer of good in his earlier years, his brand of justice was as gray, morally speaking…”. Your assertion presents incomplete information. I feel that it’s my duty to explain what’s missing for reader to get a more clear picture.

Your premise is based on the fact that the very first conception, by teenagers Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, of a character called “Superman” was of a villain that is far removed from the character that would eventually been seen in print. This excerpt from the Superman article on Wikipedia explains it fairly well:

“Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, then students at Cleveland’s Glenville High School, first conceived Superman as a bald telepathic villain bent on world domination.[5][6] The character first appeared in “The Reign of the Superman”, a short story from Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization #3, a fanzine published by Siegel in 1933.[6] Siegel re-envisioned the character later that year as a hero bearing no resemblance to his villainous namesake, with Shuster visually modeling Superman on Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his bespectacled alter ego, Clark Kent, on a combination of Harold Lloyd[13][14] and Shuster himself…”

It’s important to note that the original conception of Superman never was published! By the time Siegel and Schuster published the first Superman story, they had completely reworked the concept. The only elements to remain from the original concept was the name of the character. the “bald villain bent on word domination” was later realized by the creation of a character called the Ultra-Humanite and then later by Lex Luthor. So to insinuate that Superman was originally a villain, is a totally misleading statement.

You also state that Superman’s brand of justice was “gray, morally speaking” is based on examples from early stories where Superman was rougher with perpetrators than what we saw in later years.

In his first story, Superman…
saves an innocent woman about to be executed while delivering the real murderess, bound and gagged, and leaving her on the lawn of the state Governor’s mansion after breaking through the door into his house with a signed confession
comes to the aid of a woman being beaten up by her husband, who faints when his knife shatters on Superman’s skin
rescues Lois Lane from a gangster who abducted her after she rebuffed him at a nightclub
goes to Washington, D.C., instead of South America, to “stir up news” as his editor wants, to investigate a Senator that he suspects is corrupt, and prompting a confession by leaping around high buildings with the terrified man, which leads into the next issue.

Yes, Superman does take the law into his own hands in the early stories. These kinds of actions might be the reason you call his brand of justice “gray”. If his brand of justice is gray, his motivations are not! He saves an innocent woman from being executed, keeps a woman from being beaten by her louse of a spouse, rescues a reporter from a gangster and helps expose a corrupt politician.

So, your premise that Superman started as a dark character is a stretch at best and a total misrepresentation at worst. These are the facts as I know them. Superman does not deserve this kind of treatment from Zack Snyder or you.

Michael A. Moore