masked superman

When Superman: Man of Steel came out people were saying that the film was too gritty and cynical and it was that cynicism that destroyed the Superman we have always know and loved.

That it was that very cynicism that had Superman break his cardinal rule of do not kill and had him that very thing, kill.

As the reviews come out about Batman vs Superman and the bleakness and cynicism of that film I posit that the reason Superman has killed and the reason he is so unrecognizable as the hero we grew up with and the hero we loved and looked up to is because every essence of his Jewishness has been meticulously and calculatingly been scrubbed out.

Superman was written by two Jewish teens in the early 30′s and they imprinted onto Superman a Jewish identity.

Superman is in Diaspora. His homeland gone, his language, his culture, and his heritage both alien and foreign to were he lives. Living day to day with a part of himself hidden so as to be live a somewhat unmolested life.

He must struggle with what it means to be a member of his people while not having his people or culture around him and while having the outside culture imposed upon him and expected to assimilate to this outside force.

A great example of this can be seen oddly enough in Man of Steel when Lois Lane asks Superman what the S on his chest stands for. He tells it means hope in his people’s language and Lois responds by saying that here it is a S.

Superman is expected to accept this new reality and to let go of his culture and understand that he must rather assimilate instead. That he must let go of what it means in his language and culture and understand that it is now a S.

It is the internal struggle of the Jew. To survive in Diaspora. To endure and still maintain a sense of self and one’s roots. To keep your people’s language, customs, and culture alive especially surrounded by a world where you are the alien. You are the foreign being and you must assimilate and then be grateful that you were allowed to be forced to assimilate in the first place.

Superman has two masks. The mask of Superman and the mask of Clark Kent. Kal-el, is the face of Superman and not the mask. Kal-el is the struggle to survive when you are the alien.

Superman in the films and especially Man of Steel and even more so in Batman vs Superman is meant to be a jesus figure. A Messiah.

But that is not what he really is. He is rather the personification of Tikkun Olam.

Tikkun Olam is that each and every person is obligated to fix the world. To leave it a better place that when it was when you got there. To work towards justice, peace, and truth, the three pillars of Judaism.

Superman is meant to reflect what each of us can be. What we should be and should do. That when given the opportunity to good we should take it with both hands. That is whatever way we can with whatever our own abilities and powers are we should help others when given the chance. That is Tikkun Olam and that is Superman.

The new Superman does not fail because it is cynical. The new Superman fails because he is not Jewish.

10

                five days of SV Clark characters; day five: Mild Mannered Clark Kent  
                    —  “The Blur is not the disguise, Lois. Clark Kent will be the mask.”

hellyeahtitans67  asked:

Age old comic questions to ask: in the old debate regarding "which side of Superman is the real person whole other one is the fake identity", I consider Clark Kent the real person and Kal El/Superman his mask. What's your opinion?

In spite of being such a profoundly significant aspect of him - arguably THE significant aspect of him - I actually have two pretty irreconcilable answers to this one. In part it’s a matter of a multitude of fundamentally incompatible takes on him being presented over the years, and to narrow it down to a single vision in terms of legitimacy is impossible after 1940 or so. But if we’re being really honest, it also has to do with my mood at a given time, and my frustration with how he as a character is often treated.

The first answer, what I’d call the proper answer for a modern mainline take on him, is both of them are real. Or, depending on your standards, neither of them. He doesn’t just turn off who he is, or spend half his life pretending. When he’s slouching in a bad suit and pretending to be near-sighted he can still count and mentally sort by size every dust mite in his field of vision in a picosecond, he’s still listening into police band frequencies, he’s still fighting for truth and justice. He’s still being Superman. And when he’s wearing a leotard and holding up collapsing bridges, he’s thinking about hitting deadline and feeling bad about bumping into that one guy from accounting and remembering how to make the recipe he tried on a recent time-travel trip that he’s sure Lois would like. He’s still being Clark. And at the same time he can’t be angry or bold as Clark, or scared or awkward as Superman, same as you might have Work You and With Your Friends You and With Your Family You, and they’re all real but not whole. The ‘truest’ guy such as he is would probably think of himself as Clark, but that’s the guy who knows how to drive a tractor and has been tinkering with a one-man Multiversal transportation unit in the Fortress and is wondering if he’ll ever write another novel, not exactly fitting with either of the above. And you could count on your fingers all the people in the universe who interact with that side of him on anything like a regular basis. Ultimately, they’re both meaningful and valid expressions of who he is, Clark the part of him that feels awkward and alien but determined to do the right thing in spite of the limits even he possesses, and Superman the very nice godling raised by the Kents to help people because he can.

…but there’s another answer too. If you’re enforcing a more rigidly-defined take on the identity binary, if you’re focusing on one side as being a ‘truer’ expression of himself even if neither encompass all of it, if you’re picking between the Silver Age Superman or the Byrne Superman as a more valid expression since they both decide on one, or if I’m just particularly frustrated with DC’s treatment of him on a given day and feel they need to flip the script - if one way or another, you’re being forced to pick one. In that case, my answer is definitely, unquestionably that he has to be Superman who sometimes pretends to be Clark Kent, not the other way around.

I know that goes against 30 years of conventional wisdom - especially since Kill Bill/Quentin Tarantino’s argument to that effect left a sour taste in a lot of mouths - but like the old narrator says, he’s SUPERMAN, DISGUISED AS MILD-MANNERED REPORTER CLARK KENT. That’s how Siegel and Shuster made him, that’s how the majority of his most critically-acclaimed stories portray him, that’s how he was for 48 years until John Byrne kinda-sorta-maybe broke everything forever, and of all the things he changed for the worse, Clark as the unambiguously true character of the two might have been the most destructive. ‘Power levels’ can be adjusted, he can start fighting bigger and stranger or smaller and more intimate threats, Krypton and the presence or lack thereof of Ma & Pa Kent in the present can be retconned, but that’s a fundamental change to the innermost core foundation of who he is, and while it arguably led to the more well-rounded “they’re both real” take down the line - though I’d argue it was headed that way anyway and Byrne actually significantly delayed it - at the time, it absolutely, catastrophically cut the character out at the knees. I would sincerely say that DC accepting it as the True Canon take on the character has been one of the biggest reasons he’s struggled to regain a foothold in the public imagination.

For one thing, if Clark’s the ‘real’ guy, he’s probably not going to be that different from Superman. He has to be brave and charismatic and unwilling to let injustices go unaddressed no matter the cost, because those are all clearly fundamental aspects of who he is, and Superman has to be capable of all those things too. The problem of course being that that makes him a Superman who isn’t doing cool Superman stuff, and unless you really zero in on the office drama or reporter intrigue as equally relevant and exciting parts of the story - which most don’t - that makes a Clark who’s real ironically a distraction from the real event of him being Superman, a set of interstitial scenes to break up the robot-punching. And it takes away the drama of him having a secret identity if they’re both the same: of course he spends half of his life as the guy he truly is when he’s not being a superhero, for the same reason Peter Parker doesn’t just take an Avengers paycheck and spend all his time as Spider-Man. Him willingly spending his time acting klutzy and insecure when he’s actually Superman is a fascinating insight into his character. If nothing else, it hits on the primal motherlode of relatability that is “to be normal and accepted he has to pretend to be someone he’s not”; there’s no overstating what a long way that goes in making a borderline god someone who you can sincerely empathize with, and everyone on Earth can do that with that experience. Handsome Hero Reporter Clark Kent fighting crime on the other hand is an obvious thing that character does if he has superpowers, and nothing more. It cuts him down from having an interesting motivation for each identity to one for both, and undoes a lot of potential complexity in the process.

American Alien is the one story to come down entirely on the side of Clark Kent being the real one that I know of to really, powerfully work, and it rewrites a ton of how he functions to make that fit. In spite of some of what I said above still applying - the story is about how he becomes Clark Kent, superhero, his decision to put on the suit being an ancillary aspect of that, rather than him going down two parallel tracks that converge in interesting ways - it actually turns out well; it’s arguably the best Superman story since All-Star even if I’ve personally preferred a couple others, and in the isolated context of that story, it works incredibly well. As a Superman who’s meant above all else to address the specific themes and aspects of who he is that this story wants to go into, it goes perfectly: he’s a Clark who can still believably do Superman stuff, but because he’s really Clark that image ends up cracking, yet when the chips are down Clark is still tough enough in and of himself to get the job done. It’s absolutely a fair-game reimagining for the sake of what the creators are trying to do.

But just the same, while it fits for that one story and any possible sequels, I don’t think it fits with the broader portrayal of Superman as an icon, for a very important reason: one of the big things at the heart of his story is the idea that it’s our best selves that are our truest selves, at least in his eyes. Jor-El isn’t just the guy who failed to save Krypton, he’s the man who gave us Superman. Jimmy Olsen may be a dope who wanders into danger so often he needs a signal watch to summon the most powerful man on Earth to regularly save him, but he’s also a quick-witted crusading action reporter who’s decent enough that the best guy on Earth considers his best pal. Perry can be a dick boss, but he’s he’s a crusading journalist of integrity who wants to bring the best out of the people he works with, and because of that Clark looks up to him. Lex has done horrific damage, but Superman above all thinks of him in terms of the kernel of goodness inside him being squandered, and all the wonderful things he could do for the world. In Superman’s world it’s the best in us that’s the most essential part of who we are; he…screw it, Morrison put it better the way he always does:

In the end, I saw Superman not as a superhero or even a science fiction character, but as a story of Everyman. We’re all Superman in our own adventures. We have our own Fortresses of Solitude we retreat to, with our own special collections of valued stuff, our own super–pets, our own ‘Bottle Cities’ that we feel guilty for neglecting. We have our own peers and rivals and bizarre emotional or moral tangles to deal with.

I felt I’d really grasped the concept when I saw him as Everyman, or rather as the dreamself of Everyman. That ‘S’ is the radiant emblem of divinity we reveal when we rip off our stuffy shirts, our social masks, our neuroses, our constructed selves, and become who we truly are.

The essential truth of his story is that inside every Clark Kent - the person our fears and vulnerabilities make all of us be, even him - when the time is right and you tear your shirt open there’s a Superman who will emerge as your highest, truest self to make things better. Not that behind every seemingly-magnificent Superman there’s the moments where he has to calm down and stop rocking the boat and go back to being scared, vulnerable, mild-mannered Clark Kent. You can rectify that by presenting Clark as a profoundly appealing figure in and of himself - Superman’s really just like you too! (though isn’t he just Spider-Man at that point?) - but like I said earlier, while Clark should be admirable, past a certain point that runs into some major problems of its own, and Lois is supposed to be the one to show how a normal person can be super anyway. Again, I think the best path forward is for both of them to be true. But if you’re making a decision, Clark may play his part…

i never really thought before about how probably a big part of what protects clark from everyone realizing he’s superman is that it doesn’t occur to most people that superman has a secret identity at all. he’s literally godlike. he can fly anywhere in the world. they probably think he lives in a secret fortress in antarctica (which…..not far off really). it’s not just ridiculous that superman could be the guy across from you - it’s ridiculous that superman is anybody. the idea that superman needs to pay rent? buy food? call his mom? that he takes off the cape and just continues to be a normal person? i think it’d take people a long time to even start considering that. 

4

If we believe there’s even a one percent chance that he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty. We have to destroy him.

​Identities in BvS

For Clark, he sees himself as Clark Kent wearing the Superman mask. For Bats, he sees himself as Batman wearing the Bruce Wayne mask. Both of them subconsciously apply their own circumstances onto the other.

The result is Clark genuinely believed that Bats can be Bruce Wayne simply by abandoning his Batman identity, so Clark has no qualms about saying something as cruel as “The Bat is dead. Bury it.” It never occurred to Clark then that from Bats’ perspective, it was probably not so different from a living god effectively telling a mortal human to go bury himself.

Vice versa, Bats truly thought that Clark believed himself to be the god-symbol Superman. Thus in turn accused “You’re not a god. You’re not even a man.” …… one who has no humanity and does not deserve to exist.