“Somewhere in our darkest night, we made up the story of a man who will never let us down.” -Grant Morrison
In the aftermath of The Hollywood Reporter’s report of Henry Cavill’s potential departure from his role as Superman, I’ve seen many sites taking bets on who will replace him as the Man of Steel. Some sites have even gone so far as asking the question “Does the DCEU even need a Superman?” The answer to that question is simple, we will always need Superman. For many of us, myself included Superman was our first interaction with superheroes. Long before we even knew or could process what the purpose and the function of a superhero was we knew that there was a Superman. We knew that no matter the foe or the darkness that arose he would always be there, our Boy Scout standing firm and immovable ready to defend us and protect us.
“They could be a great people, Kal El. They wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good. I have sent them you. My only son” – Jor-El (Played by Marlon Brando in Superman 1978)
For many of us, Superman not only represents the idea of what a superhero is but he also represents everything we aspire to be: kind, loving, just, and unwavering in our sense of morality and justice. For many of us, we see ourselves in Superman because he’s the ultimate outsider, a literal alien who is a representation of “the other,” thrust across the cosmos to a planet and a people who were not his own because his parents dreamed of something more than annihilation for him. They dreamed that in their people’s failure they could somehow deliver a beacon of hope to others who may someday make the same mistake as Krypton. You see, when Jor-El and Lara sent their baby boy across the cosmos to us, they sent their hopes and dreams for what the universe could be. In their last act of protection for their son, Lara and Jor-El dreamed of the possibility that not only would Kal-El save us, but that we would also save him.
Our love for, admiration of, and desire to be like Superman has bled into the very fabric of our culture and society. It’s leaped from the minds of every writer and artist who has worked on the character and onto t-shirts and backpacks. Its woven into the hearts and minds of every single person who clings to the crest of the House of El for confidence, for reassurance, and a sense of safety. To find out what Superman means not just to pop culture but to those who truly love him, look no further than the respect that his very name and emblem has earned throughout the last 80 years. The ideas and concepts that Superman represents can be found wrapped around the shoulders of every child who uses a red blanket or t-shirt as a cape unknowingly paying homage to one of the greatest superheroes to ever exist.
“Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul, I swear… until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice becomes the reality we all share — I’ll never stop fighting.” -Superman (Action Comics Vol 1 #775)
When you ask the question “Do we need Superman” you’re essentially asking “Do we need love, kindness, and above all else…hope?”. You’re asking “Do we not need a shining light to guide us all back home when we’ve strayed too far or gotten a little lost?”. Superman is the warm hug that you get when it feels like the world is crashing down around you and you just need to feel like no matter how dark or dreary the circumstances that everything will be okay. As long as there is darkness, bigotry, hatred, injustice, and doubt in the world we will always need the Man of Steel. To ask “Does the DC Universe really need Superman?” is to ask whether or not the DC universe really needs a heart and soul. The answer to the question “Do we need Superman?” can be found in the comfort and solace that many find in the Man of Tomorrow, it can be found in the sense of heroism that the iconic “S” inspires within all of those who choose to fly it and show it proudly, and it can be found within the joy and happiness that Superman brings to millions around the world. Superman has been, and always will be, there for us in some of the darkest and most trying times.