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Brother Karsh's Column for LetsGoPens.com

Man and Steel

January 11, 2002

Nobody cries for Superman. Yes, people cry out for Superman all the time, "Help me, Superman," "Save me, Superman," but few people really ever shed a tear for the big guy in the blue tights.

Even fewer actually seem all that concerned about him, at least, beyond what he can do for them.

You don't often see the citizens of Metropolis offer up a cold compress when a building gets dropped on Superman's head—again—and rarely can you find those fine samaritans on hand with a timely band-aid after some uber-villain has just tried to rip Superman limb from limb once more. Just think what it must take to give this guy a deep thigh bruise, or a hip pointer, and he can't even get a gift basket.

Of course, Superman isn't a real person, but that's a large part of the point.

Superman is a concept, an image. He doesn't save the world we live in, but that's not what matters to the story. It's what he represents that's important. Clean-cut, picture perfect, a continual, foregone triumph over evil—and herein is precisely the reason the guy never gets a boat-load of sympathy from the masses. Because even in fiction, he's not really one of us.

Bullets don't bounce off our chests and we can't see through walls. We can't stop commuter trains from careening out of control with our bare hands, we don't always win, and we can't leap tall buildings in a single bound. Well, some Internet columnists can, but they're a rare exception to most rules.

In the case of Superman, though, his talent is also his curse. This talent is what separates him from the blokes at the corner bar and because he's chosen to fasten that cape around his neck and put that 'S' on his chest, Superman has volunteered for a greater responsibility than any other individual in the city. Without Superman, one could make the case that Metropolis, as we know it, wouldn't be long for this world. Thus, for all he's done and continues to do, one would think that the people would cut this superhero a little slack.

They don't.

Metropolis may not be the most blue collar town anymore, but like all major cities, it's got a healthy admiration for anybody with a strong work ethic. So when its residents see a guy hardly break a sweat as he puts the kibosh on yet another plan for global domination, it's tough to muster up a whole lot of empathy for his plight.

When somebody consistently does the unthinkable, it's a lot easier to deride them because they're different rather than laud them because they're special.

Whereas, before he found a phone booth, Clark Kent was just another face in the crowd, here now stands the savior of Metropolis and all the citizens therein thanks to little more than a wardrobe change. As if a uniform and some unique physical capabilities can somehow make someone perfect in every regard.

Who says it always has to be like this? Why should it be the repeated responsibility of one man to save a city every single time that city is at its lowest? Who's to suggest this town can't fend for itself once in a while? What about all those 'every day heroes' the media has recently found such sudden respect and admiration for, when do they step up?

At what point does somebody take it upon themselves to say, 'maybe this time it's up to us'?

In Metropolis, never.

The truth of it is that the relationship is codependent. Metropolis exists for Superman to save, just as Superman exists to save Metropolis. There are few, if any, other heroes in this town not because they don't exist, but because everybody believes that job is already taken.

Little consideration seems to be given to the responsibility which should rightly be shared by all the people in Metropolis. It's not called 'Superopolis,' the protection and betterment of this city shouldn't continually fall to one man, yet somehow it always does.

However, while Superman may be as super as super gets, he can't put out every fire and arrest every criminal for all of eternity. At some point, Superman is going to catch a cold, take a holiday, or maybe even retire. It will happen, and once that day comes the city of Metropolis better have a plan. They better plot and they better scheme, just like one of those criminal masterminds Superman thwarts time after time, because if something happens to the city and Superman is unavailable to save the day, Metropolis could very well be no more.

Today, when things are at their most bleak, when the situation seems nearly hopeless, again, Metropolis has its Superman. But nothing lasts forever.

In a related story, the Pittsburgh Penguins will get Mario Lemieux back in the lineup this Saturday.

Brother Karsh appears weekly at LGP.com and believes in superheroes. He also believes in regular heroes, the kind who can just as easily have names like Hedberg, Kasparaitis, LaCouture, Kovalev, and Moran.

Back to Karsh's Column List


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