An Emo Superman? It'll never fly


As far as comic book characters go, few would argue that Superman is the most well-known.

In fact, if you were to go up to an average Australian in the street and ask if they knew who Superman is, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a reply along the lines of “He flies”, or “He wears his underwear on the outside,” or “He has a big S on his chest.”

There’s also the old ‘Chuck Norris’ joke: Superman and Chuck Norris once fought for the title of ‘strongest man in the universe’. The loser had to wear their underwear on the outside.

This is part of the great appeal of Superman, but to comic book writers, movie makers, etc., it’s got to be frustrating.

All the ground rules have already been established; when the planet Krypton exploded, there was one survivor who had been rocketed away in the nick of time. He travelled to Earth, was raised by farmers in Kansas where he discovered he possessed super-human powers, moved to Metropolis and lives a double life as a mild mannered newspaper reporter and Superman – Earth’s resident superhero.

To comic book writers, when writing about Superman, the ritual is essentially, lather, rinse and repeat. The question becomes, how do you give a ‘fresh take’ on a character that has endured for decades?

Unfortunately, in the pursuit of a fresh take, DC Comics, which publish Superman, has made what is arguably the stupidest decision since the invention of the pencil.

Emo Superman.

Yes, this new moody, sullen, tight jeans wearing, black hoodie wearing, “nobody loves me” espousing, stereotypically alternative Superman will be hitting bookshelves soon in Australia. It’s apparently being pitched as ‘Superman for Twilight fans’.

To me, that’s the equivalent of pitching UFC to opera lovers or motocross to people that knit.

That’s because Superman and Emos are just about polar opposites.

You see, Superman stands apart from heroes like Batman, Iron Man, Aquaman etc. because he’s a ‘good’ guy. I don’t mean that he fights for good not evil. I mean that everything about him is outright ‘good’.

This is because Superman’s greatest strength (his compassion) is also his greatest weakness. He refuses to break the rules to catch villains. He’ll never, ever, kill. He’ll never take the law into his own hands. It even drives his super-heroic friends a little mad leading them to refer to him as an ‘overgrown boy scout’.

Now, what typifies an Emo? Well apart from the weird piercings, the black clothing, the heavy makeup, the low self-esteem and music that relies more on odd guitar riffs and bland drumming than a decent melody, Emos think the world is against them.

They’ll get on a soapbox and declare to the masses that nobody understands them and everyone in the world is evil. They have as much charisma as Lindsay Lohan after a big night.

Superman’s problem is the exact opposite. He looks, searches even, for the good in people. Even in the most depraved person that the public would all-too-quickly write off as someone ‘decent’ (see: Monaghan, Joel), Superman is the one person who will search for the ‘good’ in them.

Going back to Superman’s origins, according to some, they are a blend of Moses and Jesus. Moses was saved from the fate of his people when his parents put him in a raft and sailed him away to safety to be raised by another family. Superman was saved from the destruction of his planet by being sent away on a rocket ship by his parents to be raised by humans.

Jesus was sent to save humanity from their sin by God the Father. Superman was sent by his father to save humanity from its selfish and depraved state. Both those stories contain significant elements of hope. The hope of something better.

An Emo Superman is the very antithesis of what makes Superman, Superman.

An Emo Superman isn’t one that hopes. It’s one of despair and, to be blunt, lameness. Who knows, maybe his tears will have healing powers?

And that’s why Emo Superman, as a concept, just won’t fly.

This article first appeared on The Punch.

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The Man of Steel is the antithesis of Emo.

Emo superman
Superman as an emo just looks plain wrong.