How Sports & Primetime Television Shows Can Revitalize Superman
As the ultimate good guy, Superman gets a real bad rap. When you're the OG of super heroism, you're going to have your peaks and valleys of popularity and criticisms, and I will say for the most part, it just ain't right. What do people want this guy to do?
First off, you have several powers that are way too super: super strength, super speed, super resilience. Along with that you can fly, see through walls, freeze shit with your breath, melt shit with your eyes and get away with the weakest veiled alter ego known to comic books. Where do you go from there? You're on top of the world (sometimes literally) and the only thing you have to worry about is some kryptonite getting you sick AF.
Next - who is your biggest villain? Lex Luthor? Some bald dude with a lot of money, a leisure suit and evil intentions? Just punch Daddy Warbuck's head off, and kablamo. Problem solved.
On top of that, being who you are, you're so out of touch with society. Like LeBron James, like Tom Brady it's hard for you to assimilate into the everyday world. So what do the GOATs of their own respective sports do? LeBron gets passive-aggressive and posts an unnecessary amount of Instagram stories while TB wraps himself in kale. I'd like to think Supes wouldn't get caught up in such shenanigans, but you really can't rule it out.
So how do you fix somebody that's not broken? I argue that you've gotta break him. What's been a better medium for flawed protagonists more than the idiot box known as television? Only thing is that the idiot box hasn't been so idiotic - from sports to sitcoms to dramas, we've gotten some real good entertainment over the past, oh, several decades or so.
However, before I start down this fanboy deathtrap cavern, let me preface by saying I'm only an "on-the-cusp” DC fan, meaning I very casually follow comic storylines, but I'm not somebody who is completely woke on all of Superman's history or current state in comics. So these takes I'm sure have either already been done or attempted multiple times, but I'm stating these ideas for the everyday person, not someone who knows what color Aquaman's toothbrush is. If you'd want to put numbers behind it, say I'm coming from a 15% comic book fan perspective, and 85% clueless idiot perspective.
Now that my intentions are somewhat clear, let’s proceed, but first, let’s remind ourselves how Superman can be humanized with this somewhat catchy yet very cheesy sentimental Five For Fighting song from the year 2000. (Side note: I cannot totally place who the lead singer of Five For Fighting resembles, but Chavo Guerrero Jr. is a strong candidate).
Now see? Don't you feel some sympathy for this dashingly handsome alien who instead of choosing to crush your squash Mountain to Viper style decides to save your stupid cat from a tree? I know I do. Thanks, Five For Fighting.
1. Get them powers turned down from an “11” to a “5” (Taken from watching any aging, legendary sports figure)
Obviously, Superman couldn’t be super without all his superness, but let’s find a way to take it down a couple notches considering the fact that he’s nearly invincible. Instead of Jordan on the Bulls, we want to have a Jordan somewhere in between the Wizards and the Birmingham Barons. The man’s clearly got above-level talent, but it’s not something that trumps say, three tanks converging on you. He’s gotta be hardy, yet still physically vulnerable.
Possible Solution: Can he be permanently weakened by an unhealthy amount of Kryptonian molecules floating in earth’s atmosphere? Get some shit-heel dictator or a paranoia-fueled Tweeting president to fire off a Kryptonite-made missile into the sky . Or maybe he’s has fly to another planet, eats some bad food that messes with his immune system and he comes back punch-drunk and a little less powerless. Considering it’s comic books, this is easily solvable.
2. Make his biggest villain be his mental state (taken from HBO’s The Sopranos)
Part of Superman’s persona is that he’s confident in his abilities, and for the most part, his personal life is pretty squeaky clean with his special lady, Lois Lane. Someone with that much power and social disconnect hanging over him you’d think he has some cobwebs to clear.
Possible Solution: Being a Jersey tycoon of “waste management”, Tony Soprano was the head honcho of his goomba crew, and being the alpha male of alpha males, he had a lot of mental demons floating around in that noggin that gave him a nice bundle of panic attacks, nightmares and personal problems. Like Tony, let’s get Superman to a therapist. The guy’s gotta have a solid case of social anxiety or OCD he’s been bottling up, let’s see that blow up into his crime-fighting face.
3. Get him the hell out of Metropolis (taken from FX’s Justified)
There’s absolutely nothing appealing about Metropolis. Complete with corporate cleanliness and creepy costumed people, it’s like if current day Times Square was turned into an entire city. What Superman needs is a new, relatable locale that isn’t the basic bitch of fictional cities.
Possible Solution: In Justified, U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens gets relocated from Miami to his rural hometown in Kentucky after fatally shooting a criminal. What if, because of his diminished abilities, Clark temporarily moves back in with Ma & Pa Kent in Kansas to gather his bearings, then after a few heart-to-hearts with the fam, decides to finds solace in a more modest city? Detroit, perhaps? Pittsburgh, possibly? Or what if he has to look after the entire state of Florida which is just chock-full of meth-heads and serial killers? Make his new digs as big as the character himself. If it worked for Raylan, it'll work for Superman.
4. One familiar face with whole new cast of characters (taken from NBC’s Frasier - or any successful TV spin-off)
That plain jane Lois Lane is too focused on breaking news than breaking Clark’s heart. Plus, how sick are we of seeing Jimmy Olsen’s dumb dorky face around the Daily Planet? Or the fantastical likes of Brainiac, Darkseid, Doomsday or General Zod? All a bunch of intergalactic meatheads if you ask me. With a new locale should come a new group of friends and foes.
Solution: Dr. Frasier Crane was a regular at Cheers Bar, rubbing elbows with Sam, Norm, Cliff and the gang, until he ditched Maris (or she ditched him) to move back to Seattle with his dad, his dad’s adorable dog and his “smittened by the housekeeper” brother. With that came a whole new world of opportunities and conundrums. Think of the relatable villains and relationships that could open up for Superman if he’s scooting around a different landscape.
What it boils down to, is you have to make the Man of Steel malleable. If DC's been willing enough to reset it's universe one too many times (and screw up their movie franchises), then removing a few of Clark Kent's classic crutches will have his character going faster than a speeding bullet once more.