Superman is one of Earth’s mightiest defenders. With his grab-bag of superpowers and strong moral code, he’s arguably the greatest superhero on the planet. Since his first appearance in 1938’s Action Comics #1 (by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel), Superman has been held up as being the best and brightest, the perfect man in mind and body. He’s an icon of strength and morality. So, what’s the problem? Well, he’s kind of a douchebag. There… we finally said it.
Don’t get us wrong. Here at CBR, we LOVE Superman, which is why we spend a lot of time talking about his movies, TV shows and (especially his new Rebirth) comic books. We’re all looking forward to his future appearances, including in 2017’s Justice League movie. At the same time, we’ve been following him for years, and have noticed a few things about the Last Son of Krypton that drive us crazy. Whether it’s his powers or his secrecy or his personality, CBR felt it’s time to make the case that Superman isn’t the most fun guy to be around, and not all he’s cracked up to be (which, when you think about it, makes him a more compelling character). Here are 15 reasons why the Man of Steel is the world’s biggest jerk.
15. CLARK KENT
Clark Kent is the identity Superman adopted to pass as human; a nerdy persona hiding his true inner strength. Isn’t it? What if Clark Kent isn’t just a disguise? What if he’s an insult to all of us?
A scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 2 in 2004 spelled out the theory, which starts with the fact that Superman isn’t a disguise. Clark Kent is his disguise to blend in with us, but Clark is weak, clumsy and insecure. Why? Imagine if Batman tried to disguise himself as a Chinese businessman, so he put on huge glasses, buckteeth and wore a Coolie hat. We’d call him a racist for trying to fit that stereotype. Well, Clark Kent is that racial stereotype. He’s an insult to the whole human race.
14. SUPERMAN PREACHES
It seems like every time Superman faces a monstrous supervillain or an amoral criminal, he has to stop to try and talk it out. He’s always giving speeches on how people should be good to each other, respect each other and forgive each other.
The problem is that Superman isn’t some kind of genius philosopher or guru or psychologist. He’s just spouting what he learned from his parents while living on a farm in the Midwest; it’s the same thing you’d find on a motivational poster hanging in your boss’ office. The fact that he’s trying to lecture other people about how they should behave is messed up. He’s trying to impose his values on others. Papa don’t preach? More like “Superman, shouldn’t preach.”
13. SAVING THE WORLD
Superman has the power to save the world, but he doesn’t, any more than a firefighter pouring water on a burning building is stopping all houses from burning down ever. Superman should be bringing food to the starving countries of the world, stopping armies from fighting on battlefields and bringing an end to disease.
At the same time, we’ve seen when Superman tries to stop social problems in alternate universes, and it always ends badly. For example, in 1996’s Kingdom Come (Mark Waid, Alex Ross), Superman tried to use his power to stop superheroes who were running amok. In the process, he created a gulag and trampled on human rights. Whether he helps or not, Superman can’t do anything right.
12. LEX LUTHOR SHOULD DIE
Lex Luthor’s brilliant mind and quest of taking over the world has led him to kill millions in pursuit of his goals. So why is Luthor still around? Superman is the only one on Earth who can take down Luthor, yet he doesn’t.
Sure, you might be saying that Superman doesn’t kill. We’ll get to that in a minute, but let’s just say Superman didn’t kill Luthor. He could put Luthor in the inescapable prison of the Phantom Zone or he could abandon Luthor on a distant planet with no means of escape. Letting Luthor run around free is just a disaster waiting to happen. After the “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” Luthor wore a kryptonite ring so Superman couldn’t get anywhere near him, but Superman doesn’t have that excuse anymore.
11. LUTHOR IS RIGHT
Lex Luthor has a special place in his heart for his hatred of Superman. His reasons vary, including that he’s just jealous of Superman’s fame and power, and that he’s also insane. He’s also kind of right.
Luthor has said that Earth has gotten soft with Superman around, depending on him to stop hurricanes or fight Darkseid. When Superman was killed in 1992’s “Death of Superman,” the world fell into chaos, proving Luthor right. Luthor also believes that Superman can’t be trusted, because he’s so powerful he could destroy the planet if he lost control. That goes back to how Superman always enslaves the world when he goes bad. Batman feels the same way, so it’s not that crazy an idea. These are all good points, and when the most evil man in the world has a good point, that’s something to think about.
10. SUPERMAN KILLS (A BUNCH)
The idea that Superman doesn’t kill is what makes Superman seem like such a noble character. In fact, he often seems reluctant to resort to violence at all. For someone as powerful as Superman, who could rip the heads of supervillains with a flick of his wrist, it seems downright noble.
The only problem is Superman has killed plenty of people throughout his long history. You go back to his Golden Age appearances like 1939’s Superman #2 (Siegel, Shuster) where he allowed a war profiteer to choke to death on poison gas while he just watched. You can also use 2013’s Man of Steel as an example, wherein he ended a conflict by killing the rogue Kryptonian General Zod, snapping his damn neck. As for violence, Superman isn’t afraid to punch his way out of any situation. He’s a hypocrite.
9. SUPERMAN’S THE JOKER
We’re going back all the way back to the Silver Age on this one. The Joker is known for his sadistic practical jokes, but he’s got nothing on Superman. During the era, Superman was always pulling weird pranks on people. Granted, this was mainly because DC kept running bizarre covers with crazy scenarios to get people to buy comics, but it still counts.
For example, in 1958’s Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane #1 (Leo Dorfman, Kurt Schaffenberger), Superman used his heat vision to ruin all Lois’ cooking at a restaurant. In 1956’s Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #13 (Otto Binder, Kurt Swan), when Jimmy saw Clark changing into Superman, Superman tried to convince Olsen he was seeing things by making illusions like turning a house upside down. The only thing worse than a practical joker is a super-practical joker.
8. SUPERMAN RESPECTS AUTHORITY (TOO MUCH)
Superman has great respect for authority, and always follows the government and its laws. In the mainstream DC universe, Superman fights for truth, justice and the American Way, which works out to be good for everyone (in America). That’s not always the case, though. When Superman is in a more sinister government, things always take a turn for the worse.
In 2003’s Superman: Red Son (Dave Johnson, Kilian Plunkett, Mark Millar), Superman’s ship crash-landed in the Soviet Union instead of the United States. What followed was a dystopian nightmare where Superman almost succeeded in imposing communism onto the entire world. In 1986’s The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller), Superman became a puppet and weapon of mass destruction for an American government that turned fascist. That’s what happens when you don’t question authority.
7. THE JUSTICE LAZY
One of the most important organizations in the DC universe is the Justice League. It’s often made up of the most powerful heroes on Earth, including Martian Manhunter, Firestorm and Superman. With such powerful members, it’s no wonder the JL often tackles the threats no one else could handle, right? Well, there is a big question that lies at the heart of the Justice League: why do they need anyone at all except Superman?
Superman has strength, speed, flight, x-ray vision and is invulnerable. He can move planets. Why does he need other heroes at all? For that matter, what are Batman or Green Arrow going to do that Superman can’t? Is he patronizing the other members of the Justice League or just being lazy? Either way, that’s wasting everyone’s time and his own talents.
6. HE’S A WOMANIZER
There are three major romances in Superman’s life: Lana Lang (his childhood sweetheart), Wonder Woman (his superpowered crush, a relationship with whom was recently just written out of existence) and Lois Lane (his rival at the Daily Planet, longtime love and wife). He’s had a complicated relationship with all of them for decades, and that’s the problem.
When it comes to Lana, Superman should have kicked her to the curb a long time ago. She knows his secret identity and he liked her in high school, but that’s not a reason to pine over her decades later. As for Wonder Woman, he never had the guts to do anything about it until the New 52, and that’s over with. He’s been stringing Lois Lane along for years, and finally got together with her before the New 52 reboot. You could say that he finally got everything together, even having a child with Lois, but it took the end of the world to actually make it happen! Superman’s not afraid of much, but it seems that commitment is another one of his weaknesses.
5. HE’S TWO-FACED
As much as Superman likes to talk to others about values, he has been lying to his closest friends for decades, and that’s not right. We know you’re probably thinking he has to hide his identity to protect his loved ones, but who is he protecting? He should just move Lois Lane and his parents to the Fortress of Solitude where no one could get to them. And besides, we’ve seen other heroes come out with their secrets and they and their families are fine! If anyone could make it work, it’s Superman, right??
That all notwithstanding, his secret identity isn’t what we’re talking about, though. Even when Superman reveals his secret identity, he still lies. For instance, he lied to Lois Lane about his terminal illness in 2005’s All-Star Superman (Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely). He lied countless times in the Silver Age with those silly pranks. Keeping secrets is his status quo, and that’s kind of a dick move.
4. THAT FORTRESS
Superman’s Fortress of Solitude is another big problem we have with the Man of Steel. It’s his sanctuary, and also his storehouse. It’s where he keeps trophies from his many adventures, a zoo of exotic animals, technology from Krypton and other worlds, and a science lab where he uses his super-intelligence to carry out his own research. So why doesn’t he share it?
For instance, Superman has traditionally kept an army of life-like artificially intelligent robot duplicates of himself at the Fortress. His robots could change the fields of robotics, engineering and computer programming instead of just walking around and getting him coffee. Likewise, his trophies include advanced weapons that could be adapted to creating new technology. Superman’s bogarting that stuff. He needs to share it with the world.
Clark Kent works at the Daily Planet as an intrepid reporter, a career choice that’s kind of a dick move. Yes, it allows him to stay on the front lines to find out what crimes and disasters are going on, but it’s more than that. As an investigative journalist, Clark has reported endlessly on Superman to the point where he’s used it as an advantage. He’s even won a Pulitzer Prize for writing about his own adventures.
Clark is kind of like Spider-Man in that regard, profiting from his superhero exploits, but Parker admits that he’s doing it for the money. Being a reporter isn’t even the best option for a superhero. He could have become a firefighter or a police officer, or even held public office, to help people in his off-time instead of typing on a computer.
2. SUPERMAN ONLY SAVES FRIENDS
Superman is loyal to his friends, but you could say he’s really loyal to a fault. Superman will drop everything and sacrifice the lives of others so he can focus on his friends like Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, while countless others suffer around the world. Superman even gave Jimmy a signal watch so he could call for help any time. Why doesn’t anyone else get one?
In the 1978 Superman movie, we saw Superman race around California stopping damage from earthquakes, leaving Lois to die in her car. Superman reversed time to stop Lois from dying. What the movie didn’t dwell on is that he changed history so he never stopped all the other disasters he had stopped the first time. Every time Superman is out saving Lois or Jimmy, other people aren’t being saved.
1. COLLATERAL DAMAGE
Superman is also pretty casual about destroying property and endangering innocent people. He’ll often smash through walls, rip apart cars and even occasionally move planets. What usually isn’t talked about is what havoc that’s causing to others. How many buildings have collapsed, killing innocent people trapped inside? What effect does moving the Earth’s moon have on tides and the Earth’s crust?
Lots of superheroes cause collateral damage, of course, but few of them have as many options. When the Hulk smashes a building, he can’t do much to put it back together. When Superman smashes a building, he could use super-speed and heat vision to reinforce or hold it together. Better yet, he could grab and fly his enemies to isolated areas or into deep space to keep the damage to a minimum. And yet, he doesn’t. What a douche!
Do you think Superman is underrated or overrated? Let us know in the comments!