I was looking to feed my geek side today on deviantart.com by looking through some of the interpretive works on some of my favorite comic characters. When I was looking through the Superman pictures, I noticed that hardcore fans of the character have a hard time letting go of their favorites. Now, it’s not so much the character of Superman whose legacy I want to talk about as it is Christopher Reeve’s embodiment of the character that has left a lasting impression on our culture.
There are countless iterations of Superman with the likeness of Reeves. Why is that? Superman has already returned to the big screen with Brandon Routh taking his shot at the icon. How did he not stack up to a movie and special effects that were decades in the past? Why is it, that every Superman that comes after wards will have to be compared to the original big screen Supes? It is more than the ability to act the part, to show the powers, and to be the secret identity. It is a high expectation that were shown. This icon was cemented into culture, because when watching the movie, we forgot about Reeves, and were watching Superman. Superman Returns was a disappointment because we found ourselves in the theaters watching a soap opera actor try, and fail to become the character. The legacy of Superman has become tarnished because the bar was set so high, and we as fans will not tolerate a mediocre showing when we know what is possible.
What does this have to do with manhood or fatherhood? That’s a good question, and I’ll talk about it on two issues. First of all, I have somewhat alluded to my own examples of fatherhood growing up. Well, I have the pleasure of being married to a woman whose father was a Christopher Reeves, and I’m Brandon Routh trying to fill shoes I don’t fully understand. My wife is a missionary’s kids, her dad is now the associate pastor at the church. When you talk about a man being a spiritual head of a house, he IS it. There are things she became accustomed to growing up that I don’t even know how to do for her. The bar for being the man of the house was set very high for me, and I’m still trying to reach it. Her dad has created a legacy and an example of what she expects that makes me continue to strive to be a better and better husband and father.
On the second issue… Superman is a perfect analogy of Manhood vs. Dadhood. What is it that Superman did for the citizens of Earth? He provided security, stability, enforcement, and the respect and awe that no matter what, he would be there for us. Superman is the Dadhood side! In apparent opposition is Clark Kent, his humanity, the frailty of his relationships, his childhood, his past, his attachments… his Manhood. These two sides of the character are both parts of the whole, and both necessary for creating a complete person. Without one, the other is unnecessary.
So now, the question for me is not what happened to my examples of Superman and Clark Kent? Where is the legacy that I’m supposed to look to? Instead, I’m asking myself how to be Supes and Clark for my kids. How I will show them strength and vulnerability. How I will show them how to fail and try again, and be that stable security they need. How to enforce the rules, and break them with them on occasion. I love my kids… and it only takes one lifetime to build a legacy!