Captain America vs. Superman: Who Would Win as a Role Model for my Daughters?

Featured Image: Superman crying, DC Comics

I’ve never been a fan of Superman, but it has not been until recently that I bothered to understand why. I thought I could simply blame my dislike for characters that are too goody goody, but a few interesting reads have made me realize that my dislike of the man of steel goes far deeper.

Meanwhile, I had never been a fan of Captain America because I assumed he was just another America-centric boy scout like Superman. The recent Captain America movies have not only relieved me of my ignorance, they have made it clear to me which character I am proud to share with my daughters, aged eight and five.

Fair warning, I have not seen Man of Steel and I am in no rush to do so. My thoughts on the film spawn from public opinion and the Honest Movie Trailer, both of which have filled me in on all I need to know about the latest incarnation of DC’s number one hero. And I most definitely am not in a rush to let my daughters see it because I just don’t feel the message it delivers is one I want to share with them at so young an age.

red sonOne of my favourite Superman stories is Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar, a “what if” story where Kal’El’s rocket lands in the Soviet Union and the little alien is taken under Stalin’s wing instead of Ma and Pa Kent. Millar reveals a being who does not do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, but because of his uncontrollable need to be in control. His desire for order. While he truly believes that he is helping humanity, what he is truly doing is taking away our freedom. Initially, Superman refuses to succeed Stalin, not wanting anything to do with politics. But when he sees the starving masses, he decides he must save them, by bringing order, first to the Soviet Union, and then the world. Only the United States, led by Lex Luthor, adamantly refuses to fall under the iron fist of Superman’s brand of “freedom.”

IMG_20140131_185621This is a theme that is also expressed wonderfully in Brian Azzarello’s Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, a book where I gained further insight into my dislike for Superman and greater appreciation for his rival, Lex Luthor. Lex despises Superman because what he sees is a dangerous alien who does not truly understand humanity. Without tempering forces in his life, such as friends and family, the Superman we know could easily become the tyrant we see in Red Son or Man of Steel who disregards civilian safety and kills an enemy in cold blood.

In the comic book world, Superman removes humanity’s need to protect themselves. Why bother if Superman will do it for you? Why aspire to be more, if Superman is already at the top to take care of everything?

steve-rogersBut Captain America? I can’t wait to show my daughters The Winter Soldier, and was so proud to watch The First Avenger and Avengers with them. I loved the way the first Captain America film emphasized where Steve Rogers came from and spent so much time showing us who he was long before he was ever administered the body enhancing serum and donned the iconic suit. This skinny, asthmatic boy defined the words determination, courage, loyalty, and so much more as he stood up to bullies, tried again and again to serve his country by enlisting, and, finally, threw himself on a what he thought was a live grenade. My husband and I spent a lot of time pausing the movie during scenes like these to express why Steve Rogers is truly a good personnot because he’s a superhero, but because that is who he is.

For me, I realized that he isn’t the arrogant, “America **** Yeah!” soldier I assumed he was. He is a man who will do whatever it takes to protect everyone who needs protection from the evils of the world. He uses his gifts to achieve this, but he also empowers people and encourages them to defend themselves and to stand up for what they believe in. He is a man who will always do the right thing. And as I watch the movies and read a little bit more about him, even in books such as Hawkeye Volume 1: My Life as a Weapon, where Captain America rarely appears, I’ve come to understand how he inspires others to do the same:

“Y’wanna know the best part about being an Avenger?”

Hawkeye and others might follow Captain America’s lead and do the right thing out of guilt at first, or out of a desire to impress him, but his modesty, honesty, loyalty, trust, and encouragement results in people who come to recognize the value of such actions themselves, and take pride in performing them.

Because it is the right thing to do. No matter the cost.

I know there are more uplifting stories in Superman’s long existence, and I am not opposed to my daughters enjoying them, but if you were to ask me which of these two superheroes’ ideals and moral codes I’d encourage my children to aspire to? I wouldn’t hesitate to proudly tell you that it would be Captain America, till the end of the line.

[ETA January 2015: Thank you for all the comments and discussion below and on Twitter, as well as the recommendations for further Superman reading. I’ve taken your advice and checked out a few more … here are my updated thoughts on Superman.]

Wendy Browne

Wendy Browne

Publisher, mother, geek, executive assistant sith, gamer, writer, lazy succubus, blogger, bibliophile. Not necessarily in that order.

28 thoughts on “Captain America vs. Superman: Who Would Win as a Role Model for my Daughters?

  1. I stumbled onto this article searching for pictures of emaciated Steve Rogers. What a great find! I completely agree.

    To elaborate, I’d like to point out such examples as the ways in the First Avenger film that Cap is more concerned about fighting with humanity than instead of them. The moment when the Hydra spy throws that kid in the water, and he’s about to dive into the harbor after the kid, but the kid goes, “It’s okay, I can swim! Get him!” I could see Superman robotically protesting that it’s nonsense that you could save yourself and going in after him anyway.

    Or on that note, when he’s ready to plunge back into Nazi Germany, he’s no Iron Man who decided to fly to the middle east and do everything himself – he assembles a trusted team to help, because he knows they’re worth helping, it’s the right thing to do, and he knows he’s not some perfect all powerful being.

    In 1993-4, Marvel ran a crossover through the Spider-man brands called Maximum Carnage. You’re probably familiar with that little arc. The entire story is a glimpse into light, dark, and shades of gray, and the moment Cap shows up, clarity shines through every corner of every person, but the most inspiring moment is when a mob of citizens are being influenced to break the law and cause havoc by Shriek’s mind powers, and various heroes have to try to talk them down. Iron Fist has to break out his karate taoist stuff, Deathlok helps some nerd nerd out over a computer, Spiderman pleads with a disgruntled mother about family love, but Cap just stands there and faces this man holding a brick, and you see his face change, and he realizes everything, feels shame, and just stops.

    1. Glad you stumbled by, and thanks for the comment. 🙂

      Cap is definitely an interesting and inspiring character. I’m enjoying reading about him. I’ve expanded my Superman repertoire since writing this, but unfortunately, I am not finding what I need to make that character work for me.

  2. I was following along with the discussion of this article on twitter. It seems like rabid Superman fans are putting the onus on the writer of this article to like the character rather than on those responsible for making Superman comics and films, WHERE IT BELONGS. Wendy isn’t obliged to read 40 years of Superman comics to sift through the dreck to get to the good stories in order to form an opinion on the character and write about why she personally doesn’t like him and prefers Captain America. If I read 37 Superman comics and those comics fail to sell me on the character then DC and the writers have failed. And if one chooses to write an article about how they have failed and why that failure shepherds the reader to another hero that they find more interesting, well, that’s not a crime. That person is not required to be an expert on the characters 70 some years of history let alone judged and condescended to because DC and the shockingly violent Man Of Steel film failed to make their case. The critics of the article are the same people who crop up whenever an article on Superman isn’t written to their satisfaction. A fan who is new to a character and their history and is basing their opinion on what comics they have read, their opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s, comic book historian or not. Wendy was not writing the article from the perspective of a Superman historian and it’s sad that people writing comments here feel the need to come down on her for just having an opinion based on what she PERSONALLY thinks about the character.
    Now, that said, both Captain America and Superman have suffered from writers who don’t understand the character. Frankly, Superman has always been less interesting in comics than in television and film. I personally agree with Wendy and find Captain America a more interesting character or at least a character with more relatable potential. As I saw one person write on twitter, Steve can relate to and identify with the soldier, with War, with hunger. In spite of Superman’s upbringing, he’s never had to suffer the effects of the depression like Steve has. Superman can sympathize, but he can not ever relate. Superman can inspire but it’s the sort of general, nondescript hope and inspiration that comes from religion. Captain America inspires hope in mankind, in the individual. The thing that has always been the deal breaker for me with Superman is that the notion that he’s so powerful yet would rather serve humanity than dominate it isn’t a rousing endorsement for me.
    As for Man Of Steel, it’s not about the pornographic levels of 911 imagery and violence, it’s not about how Superman killed Zod. It’s not even about the inexplicable need to make the first third of the film look like one of the lesser entries in the Star Wars franchise. The problem is that you couldn’t take a little kid to see a Superman movie! That was the primary overwhelming failure of the film and DC/Warners. The film just had a terribly angry tone to it that felt like a 3 hour bludgeoning. If the film had been about a character other than Superman, I probably would have enjoyed it in a sort of Day The Earth Stood Still sort of way. But looking at the film as advertising for the Superman character, it was a failure to me and did nothing but propagate the Frank Miller theory of Superman as elitist.
    Not everyone is a comic book historian and, unlike me, not everyone has been reading comics for almost 4 decades. But that shouldn’t preclude someone from writing about their opinion on a comic book character nor should it inspire people who know more to make comments such as how editing never should have run the article. That is just a mean spirited and elitist thing to say no matter how you slice it and I expect more from the women saying it because that’s not “challenging” the writers point of view, that’s intimidating them to not write about something they want to write about. There’s nothing to challenge as it wasn’t written by a Superman historian but rather by a mother who had, much to the chagrin of Superman zealots, a differing opinion on Superman. Not every article on Superman has to be about the history of Superman, written from the perspective of a Superman expert. I actually enjoy the perspective from someone who is just an average reader because it’s more representative of today’s comics reading audience rather than old guard fandom. But hey, that’s just my opinion.

    1. No one is asking Wendy to be an expert on anything. But I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a site that specializes on keeping comics inclusive and welcoming for diverse people is a bit more careful before publishing such a piece. And, frankly, there is a lot of room between “expert” and “I watched the honest trailer.” No one expects her to be an expert. But, it would have helped if she had seen the film she was reviewing for starters.

      I wish Wendy nothing but good things as a woman and as a mother. But she published an article on a public forum and people have the right to challenge her words.

      Calling fans who challenge her ” rabid ” is nasty and dismissive and does absolutely zero to keep the comics community open and inclusive to all people. That’s the kind of thing I expect to find on a place like CBR. It’s not the kind of dismissive behavior I expect on a place like this.

      As for taking a little kid to see Man of Steel, the movie was rated PG-13 so no, you wouldn’t take a little kid. I wouldn’t take a 5 year old to the Nolan Batman franchise either and, after hearing details about Amazing Spider-Man 2, I wouldn’t take a little kid to that movie either. These aren’t movies for little kids. Now, I totally agree that we need more all-ages DC properties. No argument there! But that does not, in and of itself, mean the character is a bad role model for children anymore than it means that Batman is.

      1. The character is a bad role model if the parent decides they’re a bad role model. That’s not your decision to make or to judge. Get it?

        1. Several of the women posting here are mothers. No one is judging Wendy’s ability to decide what is right for her own children. I’m sure she’s a wonderful mother and I have zero doubt that she, like all mothers, simply want give her children the best. What is being challenged is the accuracy of her facts which have nothing to do with her role as a mother.

    2. Nobody is asking her to be an expert. i agree that nobody should be asked to justify why they do not like a character. However the problem I have with this piece is making comparisons when one has not even watched the movie and with very limited knowledge of one of the characters involved in said comparison. The reasoning has flaws. However this is very different than explaining from what one has read they do not like the character. That makes total sense to me.

    3. Thank you for this, LizRiata. I appreciate your comment very much. That said, I do understand where my detractors are coming from. My choice to city the Honest Movie Trailer seems to be a major sticking point, along with the fact that I have not seen MoS and therefore should not be judging it. That is an entirely fair concern, and while I meant it to be a tongue in cheek, as I generally don’t judge something without partaking in it, I can understand where I have offended with the choice to do so here.

      I have read some of the other Superman books recommended and still don’t quite relate to him, for many of the reasons you state, but the books I cited offered me what I felt were more interesting looks at the things that I disliked about the character.

      Alternatively, while I don’t believe Cap and Superman are directly relate-able, as I said above, the reason why I put them together like this is because I incorrectly thought they were very similar. I’ve since learned otherwise and have come to both appreciate Cap as a character, and I really like his moral code.

      1. No need to thank me, Wendy. I don’t think you have anything to apologize for frankly and I don’t like bullying disguised as “challenging”. It’s not any less distasteful when it’s done by women. For what it’s worth, I was with you on the tongue in cheek humor of it even if that was lost on your detractors who seemed to angry to “get it”. Take care! 😉

        1. Implying that the people who didn’t agree with her and are correcting her facts “didn’t get the joke” because they were “too angry” is a class A form of derailment. That’s something that men usually do to women to shut them up. You are derailing the conversation.

          That’s not the kind of behavior I expect at a place like WWAC.

          1. It’s interesting trying to reconcile what you say here compared to what you said on twitter on May 1st with this comment…

            “I’m sick of people, here a WOMAN, writing about Superman when they have no fucking idea who Superman is. The site should have caught it. That’s what editors are for.”

            …are hardly the words of someone being respectfully “challenging”, as you claim to be. Those are the words of someone who didn’t like an opinion and wanted it quashed. And why is “woman” capitalized? As though this woman should have known better than to have the opinion she dared to have that went against yours? There’s no derailing going on here. It’s just you not respecting an opinion. That’s all it is and I’m kind of ashamed of you.

            I don’t like bullies and that’s my last word on it.

    4. Wendy has every right to her opinion, and if she reads one Superman comic or a thousand and declares that she doesn’t like him, that’s cool! I’ve got no beef with that at all. But her description of him as a character is patently, factually wrong, and based on three sources carefully chosen to show Superman at his OOC worst. She doesn’t need to be an expert to feel however she wants to feel about Superman or to pick what she wants to show her kids (I agree, Man of Steel is definitely not kid-friendly!) but I have no idea why WWAC chose to run an article where the writer hadn’t even seen the movie she was discussing. That’s not asking for expertise, it’s asking for the sheer minimum of journalistic effort.

      Also, a handful of people politely saying “Hey, maybe try Birthright” isn’t bullying. The majority of commenters disagreeing with the article isn’t bullying. If you and Wendy have the right to your opinions – and you do – so does everyone else.

  3. So. I need to speak for Superman because I don’t think this piece does him justice at all. In my opinion judging a character after reading just a handful of stories when said character has a 75 year legacy isn’t fair.

    For whatever it is worth, I’m coming to this from 45 years of reading comic books. My first comic book (still have it) was Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane back in 1969, I was 5 years old. I also have my brother’s “I am curious Black” Lois book which is collected in the 75 year compilation which made a *huge* impact on me because it dealt with not just racism but interracial relationships. Lois, as a black woman, asks Superman if he would love her with black skin and Superman was appalled. He asked her how she could ask such a thing because he was the ultimate outsider. The alien. Lesson being the superficial race is meaningless. I can’t tell you how I felt reading that as a little girl with a Kindergarten teacher who used to call me “Little brown girl” instead of bothering to learn my name.

    Some Elseworlds (Red Son and others) have explored what it would be like if Clark was found by Soviets, by Wolves, by Victorian people. Yet so many stories, albeit with a detour in the 1950s during the silver age when nobody came out looking good, offer some incredible stores of what it is like to be super powerful yet mindful of not imposing your will on others. Including and especially during the bronze age which of course I have bias toward because this is when I cut my comic book teeth.

    The best stories in my opinion show him living as Clark Kent and dealing with the world of the every man. Back in the mid to late 1970s, when I was a teen, there were shorts that were part of the Superman Family Book which explored the private life of Clark Kent (that book also included Earth 2 Mr & Mrs Superman shorts). The book had some of my favorite stories because more often than not they showed why Superman isn’t a tyrant even with all his powers.

    I am personally appalled with what the New 52 has done with the character. I think the recommendation of the digital first Adventures of Superman is a good one, it has been the closest to the Superman I grew up with since Flashpoint. I’m very sorry it has been cancelled. I also think Birthright by Waid is another really excellent book. If you can find Busiek’s run, which I personally love because he managed to blend my childhood bronze age with the modern age, in particular Superman 654 which is about how Superman tries to balance his life as a Superhero, Clark Kent and husband.

    I always felt an affinity with Superman because he was trying to fit in to a world he grew up in yet always knew he was “othered”. That especially resonated with me with the recent Man of Steel movie.

    That said? I also love Captain America.

  4. There are a lot of great recommendations here but I’d also suggest dipping into the recent Adventures of Superman. It’s short, standalone stories that tend to explore Superman as an icon and what he means to his supporting cast and the world at large, which seems to be the question here.

    I’d also note that a lot of Superman stories have dealt with the struggle between trying to be everywhere at once to protect humanity from themselves, and letting humans live their lives. The conclusion is ALWAYS that the first is untenable and not who Clark is. Claiming it’s a flaw in Superman’s character when it’s canonically something he has rejected over and over again is simply inaccurate, and positing what-ifs like “If everything about Superman was different, he would be a tyrant!” isn’t really a fair argument to make against the character. I mean, what if Steve Rogers was born in Nazi Germany? It goes both ways.

  5. Sounds like you have the same problem with Superman you had earlier with Cap. Assuming he’s a dull, stereotypical goody-goody. Most of my favorites for Superman in comics are character studies. What you need is something like Winter Soldier for Superman, a good plot that grips you.

    My personal favorites include Superman for All Seasons, Superman/Green Lantern: Legend of the Green Flame, Superman: Up Up and Away! and the Death of Superman which is light on the man himself, but the saga gives us him making a heroic stand and then offers us several contrasting styles of character before bringing him back and showing how he behaves at the end.

    Still, I’m not sure any of them have quite the plot advantage that Winter Soldier, which is easily one of the all-time greatest story ideas, has over most comics.

    Superman, however, has a ton of adaptations. Superman the Animated Series (from the 90s, same team that did the Batman one), Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Sueprman, and Smallville Seasons 8-10 are some places you can find some great stories with the character.

    And I would sincerely suggest watching Man of Steel rather than going by a parody written by an obviously bitter fanboy, because it is an intense dark story where Superman is forced to face moral difficulties and angst over it. I personally feel he succeeds in keeping his moral high ground and that his actions during the movie are light years form simple cold-blooded murder. It also has a positive in that Superman is not the only moral and heroic character in the world, he’s surrounded by ordinary humans who are helping each other, fighting the villains, and doing everything possible to prevent Zod from prevailing. (There are a few moments in WS where they kill a large number of law enforcement personnel and I was disappointed, because in MoS, those people would have lived and helped with the fight.) You may not like it, but the reaction to the movie was split down the middle in my circle and I have no way to determine who’s upset by the ending and who isn’t.

    1. I do plan to watch it and I may very well change my opinion when I do. But at the moment, from what I’m hearing from parents as well, it’s not something I’m comfortable letting my daughters see just yet, while I’m eager to share Winter Soldier with them.

      Thanks for the recommendations, though 🙂 Superman seems to be high on the list.

      1. Man of Steel is rated PG-13. If your children are young, I would agree that it’s not an appropriate film for them but not because it teaches poor lessons. The film wasn’t made for small children and some of the themes within the film are, frankly, even over the heads of some young adults. It’s a film with mature, difficult themes. That does not, however, mean that SUPERMAN as a character is not a good role model for your children. On the contrary, I would argue that he’s one of the few white, male heroes in the genre that has a strong and consistent message of feminism. He is an extremely, extremely special character who influenced me deeply as a little girl.

        Superman’s first appearance in comics shows him going after a wife beater. His first words in Action #1 in 1938 to Lois Lane are “You needn’t be afraid of me. I won’t harm you.” For decades, he was consistently portrayed as a gentle, kind, emotionally complex man who chose to use his words instead of his fists and ONLY used his fists when he truly HAD to. (And I would actually argue that Man of Steel is one of those instances within the context of the film.) This does not mean he was “too good” or boring. On the contrary, he was deeply complex often struggling between cultural assimilation and feeling like an outsider. He had a mother that he loved and cherished who was ALIVE for many years on the page and in media.

        For 75 years, he was MADLY in love with the same woman—not a supermodel. Not a male gaze babe. A career woman. A pushy, assertive, career woman who was really, really good at her job. In a genre where love interests are often revolving doors and disposable and easily replaced….Superman was in love with an imperfect human woman who was really good at her job. Holy crap. When does that EVER happen? The strongest man in the world on his knees in front of a woman who was the absolute best at her job and struggled to make the better place without physical privilege. That’s incredible.

        When I was 6 years old, I discovered Christopher Reeve as Superman and I was so taken in by this incredibly gentle man that wanted to keep the world safe. As a little girl, the idea of Superman made me feel safe and the idea of Lois Lane made me believe it was ok to be good at my job. It wouldn’t cost me love. When I was 11, I watched “Lois and Clark”: The New Adventures of Superman and my obsession with Superman intensified. Again, here was this guy who just tried so hard to help. And he was achingly human. Desperately human. And there was Lois—amazing at her job. And Clark LOVED her for it. As a little girl, it taught me so much about love and what I wanted for my own relationship and own marriage. I wanted a man who would love me even if I was the smartest one in the room.

        There isn’t a white male character in existence that means more to me than Clark Kent. He is everything. Lois and Clark are everything. Superman is everything. He is the one man I knew that I could believe in no matter what—the one man that would never let me down.

        He’s also the one man that Lois Lane knew would never let her down and she doesn’t give her trust easily. Superman (and Clark Kent) are the only men on the planet that live up to Lois Lane’s scrutiny. That’s why she loves him so. Because she long believed the world could be a better place and yet, everywhere she turned she was surrounded by powerful men who abused their power. Corruption. Superman does not abuse his power.

        1. A little off topic but Winter Soldier is also rated PG-13. There are some violent scenes and one in particular with Robert Redford and his housekeeper.

  6. Oh, also, Trinity by Matt Wagner! It’s a goofy story in a lot of ways, but does a great job compariing and contrasting Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman! Also, Superman’s adorably Midwestern in it.

  7. Okay! So my recs are as follows, with reasons provided:

    1) All-Star Superman. Superman as inspiration is a tough nut to crack, given that he CAN do anything for us. But Morrison provides a great window into why belief in a pure good can be helpful and reflect on our better natures. Plus, it’s a fun book, with Lois getting super powers for a day and generally being awesome.

    2) Superman: Secret Identity. Superman ages and matures in a real world context. Beautiful art, and again, great interplay between Clark and Lois.

    3) Superman For All Seasons. Superman learns he can’t save everyone, but chooses to help anyway. Amazing art and a great stand-alone. Plus, some rad Lana Lang narration!

    4) Superman: Kryptonite! Superman is scared of everything, until he discovers what can actually hurt him. A thoughtful meditation on vulnerability and invulnerability, and Superman learning that vulnerability helps him relate better to his family and Lois.

    5) Superman: Up, Up, And Away! Superman regains his powers after a stint without them, and he must examine his life both with and without powers. One of my all-time favorite Lois moments happens in this story.

    6) Superman: Unconventional Warfare/Superman: That Healing Touch/Superman: Ruin Revealed. Clark without his Daily Planet job, balancing his career with his heroism, and having serious discussions with Lois about sacrifice and whether or not they can/should have children. Contains my FAVORITE Lois moment ever, which involves her rescuing someone, AND ONE OF MY FAVORITE LOIS LINES EVER: “We live in hope.”

    These are all trades, but I hope some of this is helpful in seeing Superman is a less brutish light.

  8. I think there are better material to read a good Superman. Birthright, Superman for all seasons, All Star Superman. Superman: Secret identity. Red Son or Lex Luthor aren’t the best way to understand Superman

  9. Here are the recs I got when I asked my good friend what to read that would make me love Supes the way she does:

    Superman: Birthright
    Superman: Secret Identity
    Superman For All Seasons
    All-Star Superman
    Superman: Up, Up, And Away!
    Superman: Kryptonite!

    I’ll say that All-Star Superman is still one of my all time favorite comic books. You really see him as Clark throughout, and the art gives him that square-jawed, slightly doughy farmboy look.

    Here’s the thing about equating MCU Cap with comic book Cap and movie Supes with comic book Supes: movie Cap has a LOT more compassion and vulnerability than comic Cap does. Comic book Cap is hard and tough and he’s a lot less likely to pull any punches. Unlike MCU’s Steve Rogers, Cap in the comics was trained for months before he went into action. He knew Bucky was going to be carrying out black ops and assassinations. He’s a soldier, first and foremost, and his own man second. Yes, he does stand for Truth Justice and the American Way, but his motivations in the comics aren’t always so high-browed or idealistic. Don’t get me wrong: I love Cap, but his portrayal in the MCU exemplifies all his best qualities and virtually erases the less palatable ones.

    Man of Steel came under fire from fans for the precise reason you dislike it: it’s a violent, dark story that goes completely against Superman as a character. Supes would never demolish his home city (or any city) and then straight-up murder a bunch of criminals. The entire point of a “gritty reboot” is anathema to his basic makeup, and though the movie made money, it failed as a “Superman movie.”

    I would strongly advise checking out these books. You get Clark, the mild-mannered, good-natured Joe Normal, Superman who is as close to a heroic ideal as is really possible to create, and Kal, who struggles trying to find his place in a human society.

    Not to mention Lois, who is far and away one of the greatest female characters ever created.

    1. I’ve read MCU Cap as well and I feel the movies did show some of his ruthlessness, specifically when dealing with enemies, including those he once considered allies. But I feel the movie captured the core element of him, which is the do the right thing at all costs and inspire others to do the same kind of guy. There is idealism in his beliefs, but I also practicality, which is all part of being a soldier and leader who has to make those tough calls.

      I have read other Superman books, including Birthright, and am happy to read others. I’m specifically looking for an understanding of his motivations and what makes him an inspirational hero.

      1. Do you truly not understand his motivations after reading Birthright? I’m genuinely asking because that kind of baffles me. I think Birthright does a fairly wonderful job of illustrating that Clark Kent wants to help. His greatest fear is that people will fear him and turn away—view him as a freak. That’s why he’s so moved and excited when Lois tells him that she’s “not afraid” and trusts him. He travels the world in the first half of the book because he’s desperate to find a place where he belongs and to learn about who he is. In choosing to protect the world, he learns that people are in need of someone to believe in and that he can be that person. Superman’s story is rooted in love. His biological parents saved him with love, his adopted parents saved him with love, and he is ultimately saved by Lois’s love whilst saving the entire world. His entire story is a circle of love.

  10. I think you and I have a different definition of cold blood re: the killing at the end of Man of Steel. That movie certainly had its overly-violent flaws, but so does pretty much every superhero and/or action movie these days (I find it weird that The Avengers gets away with killing [at least] thousands of New Yorkers). And in the context of the story, that killing not only made a lot of sense but was a good character beat. YMMV, but at least watch the movie before gauging it. As for disregarding civilian safety (something that happens a lot in the comics; the first example I can think of off the top of my head is the battle with Doomsday that eventually killed Clark back in ’92, and that’s just Superman books, not all the other comics out there), I’m absolutely with you on that and I hope they make Clark pay for it (narratively) in the next movie. I have a feeling we’ll get a lot of furrowed brows from Henry Cavill out of that one.

    But all of this aside, I don’t really get the purpose of comparing them in the first place. If Superman doesn’t work for you as a role model for your kids, okay, but what’s that have to do with Cap working for you? They’re not similar characters at all, they don’t have similar places in the American mythology, they don’t even have similar backstories. They both have… movies? Why not also add Iron Man and Batman to this mix (characters who are way more similar to each other than Supes and Cap).

    And all of that said, regardless of the fact that I think you’re missing out on some great Superman stories, you get to make those decisions for your kids. Hopefully one day when they grow up they’ll discover them on their own.

    1. The similarity between the two character is in the fact that I thought they were similar (i.e. the whole “boys scout” thing.) I assumed Captain America was very much like Superman, but the two recent movies and a few other things have shown me where Cap differs. Superman in his inhumanity (even as he tries to understand humans), and the character of Cap, whom I see as a genuinely good man, are what I am comparing. As a result, I prefer Cap’s inspirational and empowering approach.

      I am absolutely certain there are great Superman stories out there, but, in comparison to what I know now about Cap, I’d be more interested in reading about him than Superman. That said, I am by no means preventing my daughters from enjoying Superman stories and if you have some recommendations, I’d welcome them.

      Regarding the death of innocents: It most definitely happens all over the place, but I think the important difference, from what I understand, is that in Avengers, for example, there was clear effort by the Avengers to try to protect them. I also thought it was interesting that in Winter Soldier, the hovercarriers were all brought down over water. So while I don’t disagree that there were probably a lot of innocent victims – and frankly, when there’s a battle of that magnitude, I would expect it — how the heroes dealt with that was very important to me. In Avengers, my husband and I were able to point that out to our daughters.

      Thanks for reading and I appreciate your insight. 🙂

      1. I’m confused though by you referring to Clark’s “inhumanity’ and “trying to understand humans.” Now, I’m going to put aside the DC New 52 for a minute because I do think there has been some missteps in characterization for Clark in the new 52. But I wouldn’t say any of that has really been present in any of the media adaptatations and that even includes MOS.

        Clark Kent is “inhuman” only in his blood. At heart, he is one of us. He longs to be one of us and he wants to walk among us. He is an immigrant to our world but he’s a fully assimilated immigrant. He was raised as a human. He grew up with human parents and attended school. For 75 years, he was madly in love with a human woman who completed his heart. And that love was reciprocated. Lois and Clark were married several times throughout the years. They were married at the end of the Golden Age on Earth 2 in the 70’s. They ended the Silver Age married. And then they were engaged/married for over 20 years in the modern era. They were engaged/married on two different TV shows. Lois didn’t view Clark as “inhuman.” She loved him and he loved her. Their differences in terms of DNA didn’t prevent them from sharing passion for each other because it was what was on the inside that counted and not physical privilege or a physical body.

        Now, I’ll grant you that there has been an (unfortunate imo) trend since DC rebooted their comics line to portray Superman as an alienated figure who feels disconnected with humanity but that’s an exception to the rule. That’s not the “normal” way that Superman has been portrayed for quite a long time now. He is achingly human. He doesn’t need “understand” humanity because he is one of us at heart. He walks among us.

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