Superman is the greatest superhero.
Batman and Spider-Man may be at times more popular. But all of them find their foundation in Superman.
There have been so many superheroes that have made it to the page and the screen, but Superman endures. To anyone who understands the genre, he is the icon, the archetype of heroism.
When he was first published, Superman grabbed attention with his flashy, colorful costume and his fantastical powers. In him the public, especially children, vicariously lived out their power fantasies to be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and to leap tall buildings in a single bound. As the Golden Age of comics moved into the Silver Age, Superman's adventures became more bizarre and fantastic, along with a whole new array of incredible powers from heat vision to super breath and even super ventriloquism (don't ask).
But one of the great innovations of the Marvel line was that it focused on the personal lives of the heroes as well as their grand adventures. No matter how amazing the power set or how crazy the crisis they faced, if we did not connect to them on a personal level, the stories found less success. Spider-Man could easily be destroyed by the Beyonder, but no one really cares about the Beyonder anymore.
This brings us back to Superman. If the powers are not what make a super hero so great, then is Superman still the greatest?
Even in those early days of flash and spectacle, there was always the core to his character. He was someone lived up to an ideal. He embodied our country's best spirit, fighting for "truth, justice, and the American way!" And even as those ideals seemed old fashioned and out of date, Superman still stood by them like the Man of Steel that he is. Sure, some writers have tried to drag him down into the dirt with us, but he always seems to rise above it and return to his soaring heights.
Superman has the power to do almost anything. And yet he does not set himself up as a king above us. In the early 2000's there were lots of "heroes" who chose to impose their will on the human race because they knew better. Superman probably does have more wisdom than most, but he trusts us. His job is not to impose, but persuade. And he persuades by example. He says by his actions "When you have the power to help, do not use it for your own gain. Look to the good of your fellow man." They say that power corrupts, so why isn't Superman corrupted.
It is because of his father.
I do not mean here Jor-El, his Kryptonian father who put him in the rocket and saved his life. From him, he received his powers and it made him super.
But it was Jonathan Kent who made him into a man.
This is not to neglect the importance of mothers. Martha's love and affection have as profound and impact on him as on any child of a loving mother. But there is some things that only can be given by a father. The most important of which is the example of manhood. A wonderful mother can teach a son all about the virtuous masculine qualities. But a father must live them.
Jonathan Kent was a farmer. That meant that his life was hard. Working the land is not easy work. But it keeps you humble as you till the soil and wait for the weather to be right. It teaches you patience as you can't microwave your crops into growing. It teaches you resilience through bad harvests. It teaches you appreciation as you can have a personal connection to the food that is put onto your plate.
All of these things, young Clark would have seen. And like those seeds in the ground, he would have absorbed all of the necessary things into his soul that formed him into a man. I'm sure Jonathan Kent was not perfect. But seeing how much power his son had, he knew that he was shaping someone who could shape the world. He knew he had to become a model for the great role model.
In other words, he made the man of Superman.
Even if Clark lost all of his powers, he would still be someone to admire, because he is his father's son. And with his powers, he is what his father would be if had the same gifts.
You who are fathers, you may be limited by your circumstances. Maybe you had to give up your own dreams and ambitions to provide for your family. Maybe you lacked some opportunity or education that you are no providing for your children. But you know that it is worth it so that your children have the ability to soar. And if you have sons, they will one day become the men who run the world.
But no matter the opportunities they have, they will never be the men they are truly meant to be unless you show them what it is to be a man.
As difficult as my relationship was with my father growing up, I nevertheless learned all the while how to model manhood. My father worked for his family, providing for others generously, always giving no matter the ingratitude returned to him, and he put his family first. I hope to stand even half as tall as him one day. To this day he gives me someone to look up to and admire and he someone against whom I still hold up to see how I measure as a man.
Jonathan Kent was the man he wanted his son to be.
Every father who strives to this will be their child's favorite super hero.
Happy Father's Day!