What’s Wrong with Superman? In Defense of Lex Luthor: Libertarian…


I recently spent some time thinking about some of my favorite heroes.  With the resurgence of my childhood heroes (Marvel Cinematic, Voltron on Netflix, etc. etc.) I have been thinking about the heroes I liked as a kid and now as an adult and how that’s changed.

I came to the hero of heroes… Superman.

As a kid I didn’t really like Superman but as an adult I did.

Why was that?  For me, when you are a kid you don’t really know pain.  You think you do but you don’t.  You don’t know paying the rent.  Disappointing someone you love.  You don’t know the first time you have a major medical scare and realize you won’t BE forever.  That’s pain.

When you are a kid you don’t need Superman.  Superman is the guy that wins.  He’s always so powerful and so good that he can’t lose (Even when he died he won!).

The mind rejects the idea of Superman losing.  Superman shows up and cleans everything up and the good guys win.  When you are a kid you reject that story because you foolishly ache to grow up so you reject the Superman that fixes it all.

When you are an adult you want the Superman to come back.  You struggle with your own mortality and your daily mounting problems.  You want to believe in the idea that an all-powerful guy is going come down and help you.

And that is why Superman is wrong, bad for us, and needs to be stopped (Or at least we need to stop depending on Superman or the Superman figures we’ve built for ourselves in real life).

So it turns out Lex Luthor was right.

Lex Luthor’s gripe against Superman has taken different forms through the years but it essentially comes down to this: Lex Luthor is a humanist.  He believes in potential of humanity, mostly because he feels he exemplifies it.  He thinks he is the real Superman.

He makes the argument that Superman holds people, humanity as a whole, back.  He is the all-powerful nanny that keeps us from growing up.  The crutch that the human race will never get off.

(Insert your big government political metaphors here!  They fit quite nicely!  I mean the guy with all the power gets make the decisions right…  And if we give anything in life all that power they’ll be just like Superman right… that’s how it’s worked out right?)

People look at Luthor as the villain but he is just playing the long game.  He believes that long term humanity needs to struggles to advance.

He is not wrong.

It’s easy to hate Luthor.  He’s not like Superman who has born with all the power and cannot fail (Like say a massive social structure that is powerful by its nature and only gets stronger).  He’s just a really smart guy who is comparatively frail, weak, let’s be honest just like us.  We want to believe in the illusion of Superman being so much better than us that Luthor becomes the dumping ground for what hate.

He’s the evil corporation (though he makes jobs, provides health care, and advancement for thousands), with his evil technology (though he must be selling something people want… L-Phones or something), and he is just wants people to suffer (by making them reach their true potential through hard work and shit).

Compare Luthor to other comic villains.  Other villains will go after other heroes, Luthor is fixated only on Superman.  He only has issues with other heroes when they get in his way of going after Superman.

Why is that?

I think he sees other humans gaining power as a good thing.

He looks at Batman and thinks “Way to go!  Wished you agreed with me on the alien holding us back.” (Which he sometimes does)

He looks at Cyborg and thinks “Alright, progress!  Shiny!”

He looks at Flash and thinks “Well that’s good, but such a waste!”  He doesn’t have the hatred for him even though he can be argued to be more powerful than Superman (I mean time travel at will… come on!)

So what’s the point?

Maybe it’s time we all grew up a bit and looked for heroes that bring out the best in us not fix our problems.  Maybe it’s time we decided to do more than we think we think we can.  Maybe it’s time we stopped waiting for Superman (Or some other all-powerful overarching nanny figure… -cough- -cough- government) to come in and…

Figure out what we should eat…

Figure out what we need to spend our money on…

Figure out who we should help in our daily lives…

Maybe it’s time we took back the power to save ourselves.