What Would Superman Do?

Action Comics #1, the first instance of Superman being a dick.Italicized text is quoted from Action Comics #1.

He wakes up with a headache. He winces as his hand touches the soft spot on the side of his head. His alarm clock is Mom yelling, “Cory, get your ass down to the breakfast table!” Climbing out of bed, he notices that the sleeve of his Superman pajamas is torn.

SUPERMAN! Champion of the oppressed, the physical marvel who has sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need!

2008 was Clark Kent’s 70th birthday, and he felt like he should have died back in the 40s. Every day saw a trip around the world, saving people from everything from muggers to alien invasions. Not that it really mattered. For every damsel in distress that he saved, his super hearing picked up the dying screams of ten others dying of starvation halfway across the world. It would be okay if he could remain ignorant in his ineffectiveness like everyone else. Instead he got to be an omniscient four-color god.

“Gentlemen, I still can’t believe my senses! HE’S NOT HUMAN!”

“You’re not human, boy…no human could be this stupid.” Cory shies away from his teacher and blushes. Mrs. Evelyn is the oldest person that he’s ever seen, and she’s so skinny that he sometimes thinks that he can see through her. She has a long flat nose like a triangle (Not nearly like a witch’s nose should be, he thinks) and a constant frown that hides what Cory swears is a mouth full of pointed teeth. She’s almost 70, people say, and she doesn’t seem to like children anymore. Especially not Cory.

“You’re almost in the 4th grade now, this has to stop.” Cory stands at the door, head hanging low as the class laughs at him and his wet pants. When Mrs. Evelyn is satisfied that he’s taken enough embarrassment, she speaks again in a voice that sounds like a shovel grating against blacktop. “I’ll call your father and we’ll get you a new change of clothes.”

“Thank heaven he’s apparently on the side of law and order!”

He’s flying through a whirlwind in Oklahoma, trying to stop it from razing a trailer park when he hears a cry for help half a country away. It’s Jimmy Olson, the plucky friend who used to be Superman’s kid sidekick. He and his are in some sort of trouble, an earthquake or some crap like that. Superman’s super brain does a bit of arithmetic and realizes that there are millions of people in Metropolis and only a couple dozen in the trailer park. He’s off at the speed of sound, pretending that he knows what he is doing and that he can save the world.

“Hurry Kent – A phone tip…wife beating at 211 Court Ave!”

Kelly is someone special, Cory knows, because she is the only kid who plays with him at recess. They alternate between their activities so each one gets to do what they want. Mondays and Wednesdays they play in the sandbox, digging for gold, and Tuesdays and Thursdays catch them pretending to be Care Bears. On Fridays they like to just take a walk on the edge of the playground, usually talking about how easy it would be to escape from school. Today is a Friday. She wears blue plastic-framed glasses and trousers, and Cory wears his corduroys that Dad brought from work, a stream of bad words on his breath all the way. She smiles with her buck teeth and talks about how Cory’s dimples remind her of a doll, and he blushes in a good way this time. But he still gets scared when Robert Greer pushes her to the ground, his crowd of 5th-grade friends behind him.

When she tries to get up, Robert sits on her, his weight keeping her pressed against the ground as he pushes her face into the mud. Cory doesn’t understand why they do this; he just knows that they can do it because they’re bigger. One of the bullies steals her glasses and threatens to break them, which would get Kelly in trouble with her parents. Cory looks down at a fist that he learned how to make from watching Dad and sees that he’s shaking all over. He bites his lower lip as he gives Robert a hard push.

The three bigger kids look at each other and smile, turning their attention away from Kelly for the moment. Cory tires to keep himself from running away by remembering when Superman stopped that wife beater. “You’re not fighting a woman now,” he says, his voice shaky with fear.

“Tough is putting mildly the treatment you’re going to get! YOU’RE NOT FIGHTING A WOMAN, NOW!”

He’s fought off aliens in Metropolis, stopped a terrorist from blowing up a subway car in Tokyo, blown out a fire in Boston with his super lungs, and he still has a date with Lois Lane tonight. While he got rid of the aliens, a pair of families was gunned down by UN troops on a peace-keeping mission in Bosnia. The terrorist gave up easily, but while he was being turned over to the authorities a woman was being raped in New York. While he was receiving congratulations from the people that he saved in Boston, a driver talking into his cell phone in Los Angeles plowed into an ambulance, killing an overdose patient and two paramedics. He wants to lash out, to use his Kryptonian strength to smash the moon of some desolate planet that no one would notice. But instead he has to visit some local high school, smiling and telling kids not to use drugs.

He could sure use a joint right now.

And so begins the startling adventures of the most sensational strip character of all time: SUPERMAN!

“You got into a fight? After all the other trouble you caused today?” Dad sits in the Trouble Chair, the seat that he traditionally reserves for yelling at Cory. Cory freezes as he tries to decide on a course of action. He could explain himself, he could just run, or he could take it like a man the way Dad always tells him to. He tries to take action, but he freezes. Anything that he does will only make Dad madder, and that will only make things worse. Dad is his Kryptonite.

A physical marvel, a mental wonder, SUPERMAN is destined to reshape the destiny of a world!

His final prize at the end of the day is a date with Lois Lane, and it goes surprisingly smoothly for Clark Kent, without a nearby robbery or a far-off war to disturb it. He sticks a forkful of lasagna into his mouth, taking painstaking care to keep up appearances and not bite the silverware in half. He takes a quick look at a nearby phone booth as he hears a little boy’s cry out in pain, but the booth is being used by an old lady with an oddly shaped nose.

“What’s that you were saying, Lois?”

“I said that Superman sometimes seems too good to be true.”

Clark manages a weak smile. The father tells the boy to stop crying. Clark shrugs and takes another bite of lasagna.


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