A few days ago I partook in an online survey in which the question was asked "Who is your childhood hero?"
And my answer is and has been for the last three decades, Superman.
But... Not all Supermen are created equal.
The Golden Age tough man who tossed thugs around, the Silver Age god who sneezed apart galaxies, and the New 52 "tough god" who tossed thugs and sneezed apart galaxies left a bad taste in my mouth. Either they demonstrated a lack of respect for humanity, were so overpowered and without flaws that they were unrelatable, or they were shoehorned into half thought out storylines that left too much to the imagination or told too much at once.
I'm speaking of the glorious Modern Age, or what the comic reader elite refers to as Post-Crisis.
This Superman wasn't just super, he was flawed, he had fears and anxieties, he panicked, and most importantly, he failed.
He failed time and again.
He was a man, as well.
He couldn't save his father's life. He accidentally created the villain Cyborg Superman (Hank Henshaw) and the anti-hero Eradicator. He was so fearful of losing control he tasked his best friend with the job of killing him if he ever went rogue.
He killed three alternate universe Kryptonians and suffered PTSD and a disassociative personality disorder.
Let that sink in: A person who can crush diamonds between his fingers, move faster than the human eye can detect, and can hear a whisper from the other side of the planet had a complete and total breakdown.
And, it wouldn't be the only time.
He left Earth and went in search of solitude, haunted by his memories, and would eventually fall into the path of Mongul, ruler of the planet-sized battle fortress, War World. During him time there he made new allies and new lifelong enemies, all of which would culminate years later in the destruction of Hal Jordan's hometown, Coast City, and the deaths of millions.
At this point, the question becomes, "Does the world need Superman?"
And the answer is yes.
In his lifetime, he inspired others to take up his mantle, be they long lost cousins, his cloned and adopted children, former Department of Defense contractors, former enemies, down on their luck bar owners, and even the first squire of the Dark Knight of Gotham.
He would learn that in the far flung future an entire society of extraterrestrial, extradimensional, and paranormal beings would gather together, wearing his symbol and colors, to fight for truth and justice across all of reality.
He would save the Universe and Multiverse, ofttimes on his own to no acclaim. He would be known across the cosmos as a hero. And that his symbol did not stand for "Super", but truly stood for "Hope".
He did this as their hero.
He did this as our hero.
He did this as a hero.
My favorite real world Superman story occurred in the 1940s, when journalist Stetson Kennedy spent a year infiltrating the domestic terror group, the Ku Klux Klan, learning their secrets, and then, rather than writing an article that might have been ignored or downplayed, gave the information to the writers and producers of the Superman radio show, and in less than a year the entire organization collapsed as members left and today exists as a shadow of its former glory.
It's one thing to justify to yourself that you're right, but it's harder to justify to your child that Superman is wrong.
He became the bedrock of morality and social consciousness.
He became who we needed him to be.
And he's just super, man.