I used to collect Superman comics when I was a kid. My mom would take me to the comic book store every Saturday and I would pick out my favorites. Two that I still have in mint condition are the Death and Return of Superman. In Superman #75 an epic battle takes place between Doomsday and the Last Son of Krypton. The comic is filled with blood, tears, and death as both Doomsday and Superman kill one another. Lois Lane cries over the stained and torn cape of her hero. It is a dark comic that captured a lot of attention during the 90’s. It opened up the door to “death” you can say for DC comics as many other superheroes began journeying towards a death and resurrection story-line after Superman did. Audiences want to see a superhero’s dark side. Whether that darkness is portrayed in their opposing villain or whether it comes from the painful depths of their own soul, we enjoy watching a hero struggle with pain.

The new Superman film, Man of Steel, explores the dark side of Superman just as the Dark Knight explored the darker side of Batman. The story veers away from some of the traditional Superman plots, creating a new sense of intrigue. We get to spend a lot of time in a dying Krypton with Avatar-like creatures rescuing Jor-El (Superman’s father) from war. We learn that Kal-El (Superman AKA Clark Kent) is actually Krypton’s first natural birth in years, making him unique in his own planet as well as Earth. Lois Lane actually meets Superman and discovers his identity long before he disguises himself as a reporter. We discover a new detail in the death of Jonathan Kent, Clark’s foster father. Superman himself is not merely the light-hearted character we have seen in the past, but a troubled outcast trying to identify with humanity. All of these new sub plots make Man of Steel worth watching without destroying the essence of the Superman franchise.

While the movie has many problems, including its shaky Chronicle style cinematography, the script makes up for them. We are presented with a superhero who is forced to make a choice between good and evil despite his powers. Superman in this film is the opposite of Dr. Manhattan in director Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. Dr. Manhattan chose to abandon humanity because he no longer relates to them. Clark Kent chooses to protect humanity even though he does not need them. Knowing that Superman doesn't need humans, but protects them anyway is comforting. It awakens something spiritual when watching the film. Superman is often seen as a Christ figure. As the last son of Krypton he is sent by his father to protect the people of earth. He spends thirty three years hiding his true self. In an instant the whole world turns on him and hands him over to General Zod (another Kryptonian who killed Jor-El). Clark goes willingly to his doom like a sheep before the shearers. Superman’s relation to Jesus is obvious. Man of Steel focuses on the true substance of a hero, not only self-sacrifice, but the willingness to bear the burden of the world for eternity. The film sheds a light on the sacrifice of Jesus, showing us the darkness that one must swallow in order to bring back the light. We are reminded of the existence of evil and are challenged to confront it in our own lives.


Without darkness there seems to be no need for a hero. I wonder if that’s true in reality. I’ve often asked myself as a Catholic, would we have needed a savior if there was never Original Sin? Was sin necessary to bring us a savior? “O Happy Fault of Adam that won for us so great a redeemer” – St. Augustine. What would our lives look like if there was no pain, suffering, cruelty, or sin? How would that change the balance of everything we know, the parameters of good and evil? A hero is measured by the evil he vanquishes. Are there any hero’s in a sinless world? While I enjoy giving myself a headache over such questions, the truth is that we will never truly know. The chasm between good and evil is infused in humanity, a piece of our genetic makeup. I believe that evil must have existed from the beginning because love existed from the beginning. With perfect love comes the freedom to choose evil. Therefore evil is an issue of choice.

Superman’s enemy is not General Zod, but evil itself. Zod, in his clueless nature, was not a bad person. He thought his mission was for the greater good of his people. In this film Superman does not battle Kryptonite, but the demons in himself. The entire film is reminiscent of Jesus’ 40 day temptation in the desert. Kal-El is promised glory, status, and power if he joins General Zod in recreating a new Krypton from Earth’s foundation just as Jesus is promised all the kingdoms of earth if he chooses to serve Satan. Like Christ, Superman chooses to fight for those who turned him over to his betrayer.

“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” - Mt 10:34

A true hero will create division, en-flaming the inner conflict in every human being to choose good over evil. "Man of Steel" is refreshing reminder that choosing goodness always contains an element of sacrifice.
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