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Superman, Batman, and Me

I always wanted to be a superhero. The idea of stopping crime, corruption, and being a beacon of goodness in a world gone wrong appealed to me at the youngest age, and in many ways, still appeals to me now.

I’ve written a bit on this before, but I lacked (and still lack) strong male role models in my life. My family is rather small and addiction issues have troubled pretty much every male in my family. I’ve spent my life trying to squeeze bits of wisdom and life advice out of fictional good men, because honestly, that’s all I got.

It’s difficult, because as I grow and change, so does my outlook. My experience makes me wiser and my feelings about life and society evolve. Sometimes as often as day-to-day. Now, as I find myself having more mental space, after moving apartments (and getting better sleep), I feel like I’m back on a path for betterment. Earlier, this week I wrote a little something about The Flash, and it reminded me how much I’ve used superheroes as something to be better over the years.

I used to run a small blog called Brandon’s Batcave. I used this blog as sort of my guidance when attempting to lose some weight and get into shape. I was going through a divorce, and I was dealing with a lot of things all at once. I needed strength and well… I turned to Batman. I found comfort in his brooding and inspiration in his ability not to let the state of the world destroy his goodness. His strength to do what was right, up until the very end, inspired me to keep going and keep getting better.

Having been born in the early 80’s, the 1989 Batman movie played pivotal role in my childhood. I always say the three franchises that made up my childhood were: Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Batman.

Thanks to the success of the film, I was able to grow up with the incredible Batman The Animated Series, several movies of varying quality, video games, and comics. Having witnessed his ability to utilize his post traumatic growth and make himself an equal among aliens and meta-humans has always been a tremendous story to experience.

I think Batman is appealing, especially in today’s world, because things do feel hopeless a lot of the time. The world feels isolating and it’s easy to relate to just one person trying to do good (I’ve never cared for the Batfamily stories.) But I’m a little tired of hiding in the shadows and brooding in the darkness. I feel like I’ve spent a good portion of my life doing so and well… I think it’s time to find a new superhero to try and aspire to be like.

Batman has always been cooler than Superman. Superman felt outdated even in the 80’s, but I tend not to give Superman and his impact on my childhood enough credit.

I spent a lot of time watching the Christopher Reeve movies as well as this VHS.

I’m pretty sure every time I walked into a video store between the age of four and seven, I rented a Superman movie.

My favorite toy, the one figure that stood out above all the rest, was this 1989 DC Comics Supeheroes figure with a Kyptonite Ring. I loved this entire toy line and had many of the figures, but Superman and his removal cape really stole the show. I loved it so much I think I’ll be finding a new on eBay here shortly.

Then of course, the epic Superman death comics are what brought me to reading comics. Released in 1992, when I was nine years old, I was at the perfect age to experience this epic comic book story and its aftermath. I’ll never forget walking into a cigar store that also sold comics and picking up the issues as they were released. It was an epic event and I’m so thankful I got to experience it.

Outside of the occasional comic or video game, I didn’t experience much else with Superman until Smallville came out. My friend Alex suggested I give it a shot, and while I never finished the show, I did really enjoy it. I was at the perfect age for the Superman teen melodrama, and I found myself listening to the soundtrack this morning on Spotify and wow, what a great playlist that is.

Superman Returns was a fun movie that I really enjoyed. I was bummed out when people seemed to want something new and different, I think part of the appeal was Superman being Superman and not jumping on the edgy bandwagon.

I was excited for Man of Steel in 2013, and my expectations rose even higher when one of the writers or producers mentioned it was the story that “the country (or world) needed.” Then it came out and well… I was disappointed. I loved Henry Cavill as Superman, Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, and Michael Shannon as General Zod, but the film just didn’t feel like Superman to me. It was dark, depressing, and ran too long. Then came Superman vs. Batman and well… that was even worse.

In my mind, Superman is best when he’s Superman. He’s a goofy, a Boy Scout, and a good person. He chooses humility and kindness over arrogance and bitterness. He has all the power to inflict his will over humanity, but instead chooses to shoulder and protect it. It takes expanding your mind a bit, but Superman makes just as many sacrifices as Batman albeit in different ways.

A few years ago, I had a serious bout with depression. I’ve dealt with this off and on for years, but this time it was really, REALLY bad. I’m not going to try and make some strange fate connection, but one particularly rought evening, I stumbled upon a few pages from Superman Grounded by J. Michael Straczynski. They meant a lot to me at the time, and I am really glad I was able to tell Mr .Staczynski that in person when I met him at GalaxyCon a few years ago. I’m not sure I would have made it through that night without it.

I go back and read those pages every once in a while, as a reminder that in some strange way, Superman saved my life. That Superman, in those pages, is my favorite version of Superman. He’s good, wholehearted, and compassionate.

I realized at a young age that I would never become a superhero, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try and channel some of their better attributes. As an almost forty-year-old man, Superman seems like the man I wish I could be, a bit more than Batman.

Earlier, this week James Gunn announced that DC’s first movie under his leadership would be a Superman film and from the sounds of it, Mr. Gunn’s view of Superman is a lot like mine. He wants that goofy, Clark Kent who “Aww shucks” and I do too. We need more of that in this world. I’m over the cynical, quippy superheroes. I’m ready to be inspired, once again.

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