OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Time is right for the return of Superman

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-04-21T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Time is right for the return of SupermanBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Even though the new $225 million budget Superman film by Warner Bros. doesn't fly across the big screen until June 14, there's already plenty of buzz.

All-around good guy Greg Karras, a fellow graduate of Valparaiso University, is the owner of Galactic Greg's comic book shop in Valparaiso. He's been in business since 1990. I remember interviewing him in 1993 when DC published a comic storyline that included the death of Superman.

Not only is Superman alive and well, but the new movie, called "Man of Steel," is anticipated to be a summer blockbuster and stars Henry Cavill in the redesigned red cape in the title role, playing opposite Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Russell Crowe as his father Jor-El and Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as his Earthly adoptive parents.

Karras shared with me his thoughts about why Superman is more important than ever in today's world of worry and disturbing news headlines:

"His life began in the most humble fashion--a curious character hoisting a car above his head on the cover of a 10-cent comic book. He soon exploded into other media, conquering radio, television and film. Over the course of 75 years, Superman has sold millions of comic books and generated billions of dollars from merchandising. He is, along with Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan, one of the world's most recognized fictional characters, which begs the question: Why doesn’t Superman get more respect?

Sure, Batman may be cooler and Spiderman far more relatable. Even so, I've heard a disproportionate amount of criticism leveled at the world’s first superhero over the past 23 years at my comic shop. His critics say he's old, irrelevant and just plain bland. They call him a 'cookie-cutter' hero, indistinct from the pack. These observations are true--or at least they were--40 years ago.

A funny thing happened in the '60s, though. After dominating the newsstand for almost 30 years, Superman's luster began to fade. The changing cultural tides gave birth to the Silver Age of superheroes, characters that were born from cataclysmic events and, having suffered great personal tragedy, were complicated and conflicted. This darker, angst-driven breed, whether by design or not, distinguished themselves by moving further and further away from Superman's classic heroic model. Thus, three decades later, Superman became unique all over again. He doesn’t fight crime to avenge a murdered parent, uncle or spouse. He does it because it's the right thing to do, because he cherishes his adoptive parents’ Middle American values.

Oddly, it's this quality - Superman's inherent goodness - that most offends his detractors. He's vilified for being a 'goody-goody,' a 'boy scout' whose ethics don't allow him to kill. One should find comfort, though, knowing that a being with unlimited power, capable of killing indiscriminately without fear of incarceration, would act with restraint born from a higher ideology. Moreover, Superman battles injustice, often at great risk to himself, without ever seeking fame or personal gain. In a Youtube, Facebook, Twitter era, where everyone seeks attention, where 'reality stars' stretch their fame far beyond 15 minutes and professional athletes demand seven figure bonuses regardless of performance, Superman becomes an even greater symbol. He’s selfless, humble and compassionate--qualities as timeless and relevant as Superman himself."

 

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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