Fear. Outcast. These are words that feature quite significantly in the trailer for Man Of Steel, the new Superman movie coming out this summer. As a lifelong fan of the big guy, I worried something like this might happen for the wrong reason. Christopher Nolan's success with The Dark Knight Trilogy might have given the studio execs the idea that their Superman reboot should be given the 'Dark' treatment. After the debut of the first full trailer for Man of Steel, I realize I should have trusted the fillmmakers. This brings me to my ulterior motives for writing this blog post, my first in a while. I am certainly the guy to write at length about movies, comic book characters or movies about comic book characters. However, those who know me, know that Superman is the character I return to time and time again to make some sense out of my life. You may smirk at the need to seek comfort and understanding in the world of fantasy and fiction. When this world starts making sense, you let me know all about it.
Let's return to the word 'fear'. In the case of this new portrayal of Superman, Pa Kent believes that the world will ultimately fear and reject Superman for his unique nature. Let me skip over the many years of doing my very best to stay on the right side of that world. How about right now for a start? After plenty of wrestling with the concepts of self and duality, where has it gotten me? In my ceaseless quest to understand the roles both my 'Clark Kent' and 'Superman' sides play in my life, I HAVE NEGLECTED THOSE THAT CARE FOR ME AND LOVE ME. I am not as good a person as I thought I was.
Christopher Nolan's interpretation of Batman added a third aspect to the character. There was still billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and his nocturnal counterpart but there was also a Bruce Wayne Prime, if you will. Christian Bale's versatility as an actor allowed us to see the composite, the one real human being at the center of his rather complex life. For all my gusto in bellowing to all who would listen, about my hero's journey, I have lost sight of the one real human being, John Wilkey.
John Wilkey is the son of JoAnn and Charles Wilkey. Charles and JoAnn adopted me from a Catholic orphanage. Before they could even take me home, they were carefully reviewed and interviewed. They had to swear before a judge to raise me in the Catholic faith. My father worked multiple jobs and went to school at night so he could become an accountant and be able to provide for his family. He did this for over thirty years. My mother? Typing with tears is never fun. She just gave me her whole life. Her heart. Her health. Her sanity. And just about any peace she might have had. I have not been grateful enough.
Growing up, my best friend and I were outcasts. My ability to laugh and feel like I had a brother were his doing. Our friendship was the standard on which I based most of my understanding of myself and my life. I betrayed his trust. Wherever he is, I would want him to know that I still love him and wish him happiness.
In college, I found two more surrogate brothers to add to the 'family'. These were my halcyon days, before that betrayl that remains my greatest regret. I had made my decision to attend Rutgers while I was in the hospital, at the end of my senior year of high school. For nearly four years, I showed no sign of the tension between the 'real world' and life as an outcast. I may have even ceased being one. How could I be? I had three brothers and we had formed a band. It was all I thought of. One of those brothers will tell you how good a friend I was then. That same brother is who made me realize what has happened to me after all these years.
So what has happened to me after all these years? Where do my alter egos stand at the moment? I am unemployed so I would say that 'Clark' is back in Smallville with Ma and Pa. Superman? Well, Superman feels his best when he is doing what he is supposed to be doing. In his case, it is saving people, mostly strangers. I also tend to do great with strangers. Though, I wonder if Superman's loved ones feel neglected.
It would seem that all of the above falls to Clark Prime. Because I am also an adopted son, I do not consider Kal-El to be a part of his identity. This flies in the face of a lot of Superman afficionadoes but this is my theory and it suits my purpose for writing this. See, it could be argued that Kal-El is the third aspect to the character. Here's how I see it, from my own experience. Clark may have been born on Krypton and given the name Kal-El but he was adopted and raised by the salt of the earth, Ma and Pa Kent. I know far less about my origins than Clark does about his but it doesn't matter. Clark Prime was raised to be a good person. His work as a superhero is certainly important but if he were to neglect his loved ones, the Kents would certainly be disappointed and his life as both Clark and Superman would be affected as well.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of Superman's first appearance. I am sure there will be plenty of discussion of his enduring appeal. The most prevalent assertion is that he represents our aspiration to be better people. That sounds about right to me. Up, up and away.