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Death of Superman/DC Animation

Superman is no Jesus and he doesn't have to be

Contributed by
May 1, 2019

Jesus Christ is pretty much a biblical superhero. He was said to be a morally upright, sinless, amazing teacher, selfless, generous, caring, prophetic, and all around great man, basically the prototype for a perfect human being. He made the ultimate sacrifice by giving his life for sins so that humanity might be saved and have everlasting life. It's already impossible for mere humans to even think of coming close to someone like Jesus — but even for a fictional super-powered being from another planet, the task is still a tall order. Superheroes, even the alien ones, are still flawed in one way or another. It does the character more of a disservice when they are thought of as, or very similar to, Jesus in one way or another. 

It's hard to not find commonalities between Jesus and superheroes in comics. Sometimes these shared traits seem to be more easily comparable than others for certain characters. Superman is one of them. Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, Superman was not created with the intent to be the second coming to Jesus Christ, but the similarities are still present and also it speaks to how mainstream the story of Jesus is to draw such parallels even when they are not intentionally there. Superman, Kal-El, is the last son of Krypton sent by his family to Earth, where he is taken in by a couple as their own son. The Kents raise him to the best man he could be as an alien with exceptional abilities. Thankfully for everyone on Earth he chooses to use his powers for the good of mankind instead of considering himself a god among mere mortals.

Death of Superman

Credit: DC Entertainment

Superman has saved the Earth and mankind multiple times, even making the ultimate sacrifice of giving his life and then resurrecting shortly after. So, yeah, there are definitely some similarities to Jesus in there. The story of Superman dying to save humanity from Doomsday before resurrecting doesn’t feel quite as biblical in the comic version; however, the recent DC Animation retellings of this story feel very heavy-handed in their religious allegory. Both the Death of Superman and The Reign of the Supermen animated movies are great examples of how a character drawing parallels to Jesus or being regarded as Christ-like does them a disservice, even for someone as amazing as Superman.

The DC Animated version of Death of Superman has strong and at times blatant similarities between Superman and Jesus. In fact, at one point a scripture is given by way of narration by Bibbo Bibbowski, a faithful supporter of Superman. Bibbo speaks of him as though he is a messianic figure, that Superman is always there in someone’s time of need and that he is just overall a really extraordinary compassionate being. Then there's astronaut Hank Henshaw, who believes in Superman in the same way Bibbo does and counts on our big blue Boy Scout to save himself, his wife, and crew from taking direct impact from a hurtling Doomsday before it crashes into earth. Superman doesn’t save them, because Superman simply is not perfect. Superman is very much as human as those for whom he sacrifices his life, and the movie does a great job showcasing his struggles as a Kryptonian raised on Earth by two humans. Superman is an amazing being who decided to he wanted to do good with his abilities and even though he is Kryptonian, he is more man at heart thanks to the Kents. In the movie, Superman musters up what's left of his strength to save Lois from getting killed by Doomsday — more to save his great love than to keep the rest of humanity safe, which isn’t particularly Jesus-like.

And that's fine. Superman is complex in his own way. While he is compassionate and wants to do right by mankind, he is no god.

Superman_Lois _Lane_Death_of_Superman

Death of Superman/DC Animation

In the sequel to Death of Superman, Reign of the Supermen, the similarities to Jesus are still there but so are the consequences of those who regard Superman as such. A positive response to Superman’s death is shown by those who were inspired by him. Bibo rallies other everyday ordinary people to fight and fend off Darkseid’s army of cyborgs by reminding everyone of how selfless and courageous Superman was, while Hank Henshaw is manipulated by Darkseid to become Cyborg Superman. Hank may have regarded Superman in a god-like way, but Superman is no savior, not in the way Hank hoped. A savior-like expectation of our heroes is impossible because they will fail.

Maybe the intentions of making both these animated retellings of Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen were meant to show how unreasonable it is for one to think of Superman or any superhero as Christ-like, even though they may share a few or many similar qualities and origin. All Superman can do is try to be the best he can be. For himself, the Justice League, Lois Lane, Metropolis, and beyond, that is plenty good enough.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.

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