|Posted on April 22, 2009 at 7:36 AM|
It began innocently enough. As a child and preteen, I used to have a paper route in a small Oklahoma town, and a few miles outside of town as well. Before I pedaled out to go home, I would stop at a local grocery store and buy a comic book to read. Thus I became familiar with the likes of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, the Justice League, and many other personages with superpowers. My favorites were Superboy and Supergirl, for somehow I identified with him and imagined myself dating her. Never mind she was billed as his Kryptonian cousin.
The encroaching years have failed to dim my love for superheroes of many kinds. I even liked a few less popular ones. Aquaman, the Fantastic 4, the Green Lantern, the Incredible Hulk. Whether in comics, on TV, or in movies, it seems I can’t get enough of them. Thanks to CGI technology, we now have three great Spider-Man movies, two Fantastic 4 movies with a third one on the way, and several of Superman and Batman.
I’ve noticed some of these men’s supervillains and allies have fallen by the wayside over time. Brainiac 5, for instance, a green-skinned alien scientist with weird headphone-like attachments over his skull. The Bizarros, a society of whitish and brutish Superman clones who acted exactly the opposite. Krypto, the superdog. Lois Lane’s sister Lucy and her rival Lana Lang rarely get attention anymore; same with Mxyzptlk, the mischievous little creature from the third dimension. Also, where did Batgirl fly off to? I liked her.
All of the superheroes I’ve named acquired their powers through some natural means. Superman/boy/girl came from Krypton, where the gravity is heavier. That’s why the Man of Steel was originally said to “leap tall buildings with a single bound,” soon to evolve into actual flying. Spider-Man was bitten by a radioactive spider, Batman became a great detective with powerful acrobatic skills, and the Fantastic 4 encountered a space cloud that changed their molecular structure.
Then came the superheroes who got that way through technology. Steve Austin’s bionic legs caused him to run up to 60 miles per hour without breaking a sweat. His bionic right arm could bend steel like Superman on his worst days. His bionic eye could see infrared traces of someone’s trail, and in one episode involving aliens, could even spot their diversionary tactic of running in a different direction. When Jaime Somers entered the picture as his partner and love interest, the powers became twice as interesting to me because she could hardly be called “the weaker sex.” Unlike common provincial wisdom, I like seeing women get into the thick of things and take care of themselves.
In fact, I find the typical “damsel in distress” scenario cheesy, and disrespectful of the gender. Some women may be that way, but so are some men. Jaime Somers, Lois Lane, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman all defy the image. I loved the part in the movie Enchanted when Giselle had to rescue Jack from the dragon-witch’s grasp. Naomi Watts, playing Ann Darrow in King Kong, got to do a lot more toward trying to save herself than Fay Wray ever did. Wimpy girls tied to the railroad tracks? Forget it!
But no superhero has gone through more changes than the one who started it all, Superman. In the comics, green kryptonite was always lethal, while red kryptonite sapped his powers. Superman II, the one with supervillains from Krypton, maintained its classic function, but in the TV series Lois and Clark, it took on unconventional properties. Either it made Superman not care whether crooks were caught or not, or it transferred his powers to someone else.
On the other hand, the show did bring Mxyzptlk and Lucy back, and Lana Lang (with blonde hair instead of the traditional red), but they didn’t have the Fortress of Solitude. Several Superman movies took up that slack. Lois and Clark also had them get married during the final season, something the comics and movies only speculated on.
These discrepancies are understandable, since Superman is, after all, fiction. But there are darker directions various writers have taken, too. I was shocked when one comic book I saw proclaimed his death, another clad him in black rather than the traditional red and blue. Then came the latest movie, Superman Returns, which I eagerly anticipated seeing; but of all his incarnations, this was the most disappointing.
Superman came back to Earth after a long absence, reportedly after spending some time “on Krypton”—that is, around Krypton’s remains. He never really explained why he went or what he was doing there. Apparently, he had a son with Lois out of wedlock—a particularly distressing development—and the boy exhibited super strength by, for instance, lifting a grand piano by one leg and tossing it across the room.
Meanwhile, rather than his usual clever plots, Lex Luthor remarkably lacked logical thought. He conspired to grow a new continent off the eastern coast of the United States, eventually destroying more than two-thirds of the country before it was done. His motive? Just because he could do it, apparently. To prevent Superman from interfering, Luthor used a kryptonite crystal as the catalyst, which placed bits of green kryptonite in the rock. But Superman dove beneath the island and lifted it out of the water anyway, tossing it into space.
The position of his arms as he lifted suggested Jesus on the Cross, and it looked as though he died after throwing the island away. However, inexplicably he came back to life and the world was safe once again. One is tempted to read the redemption story into this scenario, but let’s think this through for a minute.
1) Jesus was sinless (Hebrews 4:15); Superman had a child outside of marriage, according to the movie. 2) Jesus’ death was predicted for thousands of years; Superman’s happened in a moment, no predictions aside from Luthor’s plot. 3) Jesus came from Heaven, which always existed; Superman hailed from a destroyed planet. 4) Jesus was murdered by power-hungry religious leaders; Superman was murdered by only one power-hungry man, a wannabe leader. Most importantly, 5) Superman is fiction. Jesus is real, His doctrine is real, and so is His Sacrifice.
Isaiah 53:10 says it was God’s pleasure to sacrifice Jesus for our sins. Nowhere in the movie is God mentioned, let alone forgiveness of sin being a motive. In fact, it has Jor-El’s recorded voice telling his son Kal the populace of Earth is “good people,” they just need his guidance. Yet Psalms 14:3; 53:3; and Romans 3:12 all end with exactly the same words: “There is no one who does good, not even one.” Three or more repetitions in the Bible means it’s an extremely important doctrine to remember.
So the comparison between Superman’s feat and Jesus’ defeat of sin is extremely weak. When it comes to superheroes, there is only One worth following with all your heart, mind, and soul. He didn’t fly, He didn’t leap tall buildings—and I don’t care what anyone says, He didn’t have a romantic love interest, either. He lifted no objects heavier than a wooden plank, both as a Carpenter and as a Savior en route to His own execution. What He did do is greater than all those things put together.
He voluntarily gave up His life, taking the penalty for our sins on His shoulders. He suffered temporary abandonment from God, as well as the natural torturous stresses of a Cross. And He rose from the dead about three days later, promising us victory over death as well. Jesus did all the hard work to achieve our salvation. The only thing we have to do is confess our sins and accept Him as our Savior (Romans 10:9-10).