Rejoice He is Risen! The Easter Season is a time of joy. Jesus defeated death and promises us the hope of resurrection. During the current pandemic we need as much hope as possible.
Saint Pope John Paul II proclaimed, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” Hope is confidence in the uncertain. Uncertainty definitely has prevailed over the past several months. Or at least that is the appearance. Despair, confusion, and doubt are the weapons of our Enemy.
Jesus is a model for the perfect human. God became man. He shows us the way to free us from sins. Literature is filled with heroic figures. But nearly all contain a fatal character flaw. Hubris. Greed. Anger. Lust. Or envy. While no characters, especially comic book characters, can be matched perfectly with Jesus there is one superhero most commonly associated Christ— Superman.
The Man of Steel embodies everything you want in a hero: strength, a great origin story, and virtuous character. Some may argue Kal-El is too perfect. Unrelatable even. But I think most can agree that Superman is a symbol of hope for Metropolis and Earth.
Nearly 30 years ago, DC featured a game-changing storyline—The Death of Superman. In an epic fight against Doomsday, Superman fought this villain to the death. This shocked the comic book world when it first debuted. The Man of Tomorrow died. What happened next in The Return of Superman Volume was mysterious. Reading it reminded me of the mystery surrounding the identity of Jesus after his Resurrection.
Who Do You Say that I am?
Before Superman returned several claimants to his mantle appeared. In the Reign of Supermen, four “heroes” arrive on the scene: The Man of Steel (Steel), The Man of Tomorrow (later referred to as Cyborg Superman), Metropolis Kid (Superboy), and The Last Son of Krypton (later revealed as the Eradicator). All four wear the symbol of Superman, but it quickly becomes clear to the reader that neither Steel nor Superboy are actually a version of Superman.
Cyborg Superman and the Eradicator initially convince some people in Metropolis that they are the “resurrected” Superman. In Born Again, Lois Lane encounters the new visored Superman and thinks, “He looks like Clark but he sounds so cold, hollow.” The following exchange between the Last Son of Kypton (Eradicator) and Lois foreshadows the false claim to Superman:
Eradicator: “I am Superman… I am not playing any game.”
Lois: “Superman never hid his face! and he didn’t wear black like an executioner!”
Eradicator: “No, not before, but I have been through so much…I have changed.”
He provided specific facts about Lois’ life to convince her, at first, that he was Superman. But facts alone don’t prove that a person rises from the dead.
Likewise, Cyborg Superman addresses Lois in similar fashion in the issue Alive. Lois questions the Cyborg, but he claims that most of his memory is lost. To the reader, the story gets more complicated as to the identity of the real Superman when Cyborg has his DNA tested against a sample from Kal-El. It was revealed that the DNA matched perfectly. Professor Hamilton tells Lois, “I’m telling you that all my tests and data have me thoroughly convinced. I would say say with great probability–that this man is Superman come back to life!
Actions Speak Louder than Words
While mystery pervades the majority of The Return of Superman volume, over time the actions of the claimants to Superman’s name show more sinister motives. Lies cannot last forever. The actions of Cyborg Superman and the Eradicator did not line up with the ideals of the true Last Son of Krypton.
In the issue Lies and Revelations, a cult of followers worship Cyborg Superman. A cult member exclaimed, “Look not upon our Savior’s face with fear! For though he bears the marks of his righteous battle against the terrible beast Doomsday–by his deeds you shall know the truth! And his noble and merciful deeds reveal in him the one true Superman!” He goes on to tell the crowd that the “visored Superman” (the Eradicator) is the false one because of his tortuous and violent acts.
At this point in the story arc, the reader knows fairly certain that the Eradicator is not the real Superman. However, the verdict is still out for Cyborg Superman. Later in the issue it is revealed that Cyborg Superman has enlisted the villain Mongul.
In the episode Return of Superman, Cyborg Superman’s plot to destroy Metropolis is revealed in addition to the fact that he is actually the consciousness of Hank Henshaw transferred into a cyborg body with the DNA splicing of Superman. At the end of the issue the true Superman returns in a black Kryptonian armor suit. “Don’t let the outfit fool you. I’m Superman and I’m back.”
Connections with Christ
Superman’s return has a few connections with the true Resurrection of Jesus. First of all, both Superman and Jesus were initially unrecognizable. According to John 20:15, Mary Magdalene did not realize the man speaking to her was Jesus.
Another similarity between Kal-El and Christ involves the battle over evil. Jesus defeated sin with his Death on the Cross. Superman killed Doomsday, a horrific foe, who represents
pure brutality and rage. In a sense—sin incarnate. Now a compelling reason why Cyborg Superman was at first convincing was that he bore the wounds of death and battle. Jesus’ resurrected body also bore the marks of the Crucifixion. The major difference between the two is that Cyborg Superman was part machine. Artificial. Christ’s resurrected body was true flesh. Still fully human while being fully divine.
A final connection I found between Jesus and Superman’s resurrections is that love led to their closest friends recognizing the truth. The Apostle’s recalled Jesus’ teachings and through the power of the Holy Spirit had faith that their teacher and friend truly returned from the dead. Analogously, Superman’s encounter with Lois displayed the power of love too. He appealed to Lois’ marriage with Clark Kent, his alter ego. Superman told his wife that Clark’s favorite movie is To Kill a Mockingbird. This intimate detail proved his claim. Lois recognized the dark clad man as the true Superman/Clark Kent. Love and truth always go together.
Rejoice He is Risen! Truly this is Good News. More accurately it is Great News! We live in stressful times. Satan is always on the prowl. God loves us and wants us to enjoy his presence. Reading is proven way to relax. The Return of Superman was an enjoyable, page-turning story. Add the fact it had resurrection and new life themes and it makes an excellent read (or re-read) anytime.
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Philip Kosloski is a prolific Catholic writer for Aleteia and he started Voyage Comics in 2018.
I write for his blog monthly but I am not paid to market his work. I simply want to share creative Catholic work because I hope others find value in it. And yes, I am a big comic book nerd so I love talking about them whenever I can. 😊
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