I’ve read a lot of comments on various forums in the wake of the latest trailer for Man of Steel, and a lot of them had the same thing to say: “Why are they doing his origin story again!?” At first, I wanted to echo the sentiment. Come on, Superman is arguably the most popular character that was created in the 20th century. EVERYONE knows who Superman is and where he came from, right?
Then, I decided to do a quick survey of my non-comic-book-reading friends and family. I simply asked them to tell me what they knew of Superman’s origin story. Some people got it exactly right. Most got it partially right. A few people got it completely wrong.
So, there’s part one of my argument for another origin story. New people are getting introduced to the Superman character all the time. A lot of people will buy tickets to watch Man of Steel simply because “The Director of The Dark Knight” is attached to every trailer and movie poster. We who have seen a Superman cartoon, read a Superman comic, or even seen a Superman movie are in the minority here.
We are currently living in a geek golden age, so it’s hard to not be selfish when we get movies about things we love, but movies are made for a much wider audience than just we geeks.
I would argue that Superman is one of the greatest literary characters ever written. I know that some people hate Superman because he is a “boy scout” or whatnot. But, seriously, he ushered in a new era of modern mythology. His story is pretty timeless–a special person finds out that he is special, and has to figure out what to do with his specialness. Sometimes the story is about what a god does when he is among humans. In any event, it’s interesting, thematic, and he has a cool cape.
When other great works of literature are adapted for the screen, I see very few people complaining about it. When Les Miserables was coming out in theaters, I saw a whole lot of excitement. When Pride and Prejudice gets adapted for the screen (again!) I also don’t see a lot of complaints. Retelling and re-imagining stories and characters is about as old as storytelling itself. Just because the new Man of Steel film is retelling an origin doesn’t automatically make it invalid.
Does the geek response to Superman’s origins perhaps stem from the insular nature of the geek community? You know on The Big Bang Theory (which I hate, by the way, but that’s another article for another time) when the characters looks really put out because another character doesn’t understand the love for Dungeons and Dragons or comic books? I’ve seen that happen in real life. I’ve known people who have gotten mocked because they really wanted to get into comic book but didn’t know where to start. There was the big controversy about people denouncing “fake geek girls” because they didn’t know every detail about your favorite superhero. Or, how about people who want to start playing Dungeons and Dragons, but the jerk DM acts like the new player has to know every obscure rule in the core rulebook before they can play?
Geeks can be jerks. Plain and simple. A lot of geeks of my generation and older got openly mocked for enjoying comic books or Dungeons and Dragons. But, it’s the cool to like those things now. The Avengers was a huge movie hit. Batman movies have done really well. And now that geeks are on top, we’re starting to get selective as to who can be “one of us.”
And it needs to stop. You may have been picked on by other people for what you liked at one time or another, but that doesn’t give you the moral high ground in every situation going forward. If you are bullying people for not knowing a whole lot about your chosen hobby, you need to stop. You’re being a jerk. I don’t care if you had your head dunked in toilets. I don’t care if your towel was stolen while you were in the gym shower. Or any number of awful things happened to you simply because you liked something that other people didn’t. I’m sorry those things happened to you. I really am. It still doesn’t mean that you get to awful to other people.
Here’s a thought; know some potential geeklings that want to get into something you’re really knowledgeable about? Are you a master DM that knows a person that wants to try some RPGs? Got a friend that doesn’t know where to start with reading comic books? Mentor them. Be their dork Jedi Master. Show them around. Introduce them to your friends. Defend them if they get mocked. Just be a generally awesome person.
So what does my rant have to do with Superman’s origin story? There have been many times when after a friend saw a superhero movie, I was asked to help them find good comics to read. Now, I could’ve mocked them for not knowing what to read, and thereby felt like an alpha geek; instead, I helped them find some good comics, and now they are a part of a hobby I love. I have a feeling that a lot of people are going to see Man of Steel. And if you’re a comic book geek and reading this, maybe you can introduce someone you love to graphic storytelling.
How is that not better for the hobby? We need to move our hobby from being so geekily inbred. We desperately need new blood. New fans can equal great things in the future. They might go on to develop new hobbies that you love. But, only if you’ve not slammed the door in their face before they reached for the knob.
In other words, Golden Rule time, everyone. Be kind. You’ll never know where you simple act of not being a jerk will get you. And, for goodness’ sake, enjoy the fact that so many geeky properties are getting so much attention. It won’t last forever.