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Wednesday, October 30, 2019 

Superman being turned evil is a decidedly bad, overused gimmick

Screen Rant wrote about the history of past stories where the Man of Steel has been turned evil, which even includes one of their most recent crossovers. An article that's got some potential inaccuracies, and at least a little bit of the expected illogic in terms of how we view fiction:
While he may be viewed as a beacon of hope, Superman has a serious tendency for going off the deep end into darkness and villainy. Viewing morality in black and white can be a slippery slope, especially in comic books, which often forces Superman to become the very thing he hates. For a hero so against murder, how is it that Superman always turns evil?
A better question is why they don't seriously complain and argue DC's got to cut it out? I think the "event" they cited is The Batman Who Laughs, and Billy Batson/Shazam was another victim of something that's long taken on a very sensationalistic tone.
Supes is criticized by many comic book fans for being a 'boring' boy scout, but while he totes truth and justice, he proves time and time again that he teeters on the edge of darkness just as much as the rest of his superhero cohorts (even if he doesn't flaunt it like Batman). While morality is Superman's most highly regarded trait, he is also shown to stray from his morals more than the average DC superhero. So let's take a closer look at all the ways the Man of Steel has been brought to Lex Luthor levels of deception.
Assuming these are really "fans", which I'm seriously beginning to doubt at this point (and wouldn't be shocked if they don't read Superman regardless of what they think), they sure have set a remarkably poor example that's tarnished real fandom for years to come, one that guaranteed ruination for comicdom. Anybody who can't take issue with the story merit has no business in our circles, period. These are just fake fans, far as I'm concerned.
While Superman is weakened by Green Kryptonite, it's not the only version of the rock that messes with the Man of Steel. Kryptonite is sometimes viewed as a lazy, predictable plot device, but even if it's a simple idea it lends itself to a series of plotlines, opening up doors for exploring a myriad of social and ethical issues. In the original Action Comics, Red Kryptonite is created by Batman as a fail-safe to be used if Superman ever turns full 'dark side.' Unsurprisingly, in multiple iterations, it's intercepted by villains to strip Superman of his powers--or overload them to the point of physical and emotional collapse.
Well, aside from the skepticism I feel about the notion Batman came up with Red K in the Golden Age, if that's what they're alluding to, I shake my head in disbelief at how they omit magic energies from Superman's history of stories, or even gigantic robots, plasma beams from spaceships and goodness know what else the Big Blue Boy Scout faced in decades past. In any case, most writers dealing with characters like Supes knew he had to face something to serve as a physical weakness, so whoever's dismissing Green K's radiation clearly isn't willing to recognize that in the Golden Age, with tight schedules and books that could house 4-5 different stories at just 12 pages or so, they had to think of something, and quite possibly fast, recalling a history piece I read where Jack Kirby said he had to think of quick ideas and elements for stories and characters, and that one idea for a villain's temper drew subconsciously from his uncle.

Speaking of which, I get the additionally annoyed feeling these fake fans didn't even read the Golden Age Captain America and Sub-Mariner tales, and maybe not even the Sandman tales Kirby/Simon developed when they moved over to DC for a time. So what's their point?

They also bring up a possible Elseworlds tale published in 1998, tying Kal-El's origins to Darkseid:
Within the comics themselves, 1998's Superman: The Dark Side plays out a dark origin story, changing the course of Clark Kent's life and humanity. Instead of his rocket crashing on Earth, Kal-El crashes on the subtly-named planet, Apokolips. Darkseid, the planet's ruler, is one of DC Comics' most notoriously brutal villains. Being raised in his hellscape would be enough to turn anyone dark. Clark is raised as a cog in Darkseid's villainous machine where he commits large-scale acts of violence like destroying the peaceful planet, New Genesis.

Superman does eventually find his way to Earth, and as a result, regains a bit of his humanity. The arc of finding who you were meant to be is an interesting one that isn't always explored in comics when characters are given "Elseworld" origin stories. That's not to say that Superman isn't affected by his brutal origin story. Gone is his staunch morality we've come to know, replaced by wavering morals and fierce brutality — even when he's trying to do the right thing.
This story must've been written as contempt for the idea Superman's flagship adventures were usually meant to be family-friendly, if not kid-friendly. Even if it was out-of-canon, it still sounds frustrating, like an excuse to turn Superman into something close to the Punisher. They even cite another now notorious example, the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us:
Tightly wound characters like Superman are prone to snapping by pushing the right buttons. In most cases, it's loved ones. In Injustice: Gods Among Us, the Joker tricks Superman into killing Lois and their unborn child. Superman twists into a dark, demented version of himself when he realizes what he's done. Tossing away his aversion to killing, he avenges his family when he puts his entire fist through the Joker, effectively killing him. Instead of saving humanity, he seeks to rule it after he decides that he's been far too nice to criminals.

Superman commits a laundry list of horrific acts in Gods Among Us. Some of the highlights include lighting Martian Manhunter on fire with his heat vision, killing Green Arrow with his fists of steel, taking out Alfred, revealing Bruce Wayne's identity, and breaking Batman's spine. Superman would undoubtedly be kicked out of the boy scouts for this behavior. It's the job of a good villain to infect a superhero with their evil by picking apart their humanity and destroying what they hold dear. For characters ruled by morality, their loved ones are usually at the forefront of their humanity. When those people are taken away, the compass loses its bearings and along with it, the characters lose everything that tethered them to their "goodness." With a character like Superman, whose humanity is so heavily ingrained by those around him, this is an eventuality he faces more often than not — and one that puts him on the path of darkness so frequently.
And all this in a game made by, IIRC, some of the producers of the Mortal Kombat series. Who recently demonstrated additional hypocrisy by toning down sexual elements in the game...but not the most graphic violence and gore. Seems there's quite a few SJWs who're yammering about sex. But jarring violence is allowed. You can't make this stuff up. It's one thing if he executes villains like the Joker, but game or not, we seem to have here a case of Superman basically murdering superheroes. And that's where logic grinds to a screeching halt, and revulsion begins.

Now here's something where they either veered into inaccuracy, or, it was just badly edited and never proofread:
Like Batman, the Superman symbol didn't mean hope when the hero was first introduced. In the Silver Age, Superman was a LOT more violent than he's depicted these days. Now, there usually has to be a reason for Superman to descend into the darker visages of his personality. Back then, his personality was dark. It's not like he was full-on villainous, but he bent the laws of his morality a lot more than he does today. He's especially cruel to Lois Lane on numerous occasions (which could be chalked up to social norms around the '50s if you want to take the easy way out). Not only does he show a much more muddled sense of right and wrong, he seems to get a small sense of enjoyment over others' pain. He can be seen laughing frequently at the misfortune of other heroes and civilians, even when he causes their suffering himself.
Umm, did they forget the time when Supes was under Max Lord mind control in 2005, and really bashed up Wonder Woman before she went pretty nasty herself by snapping Lord's neck, in a story written by Greg Rucka? Oh, but of course they did, or more precisely, they never bothered to research! That's the kind of clowns these unintentionally comedic sites hire nowadays. Ones who even have the gall to imply Superman was truly more violent during the Silver Age, at a time when publishers usually avoided the kind of jarring violence I assume they're implying. If they'd said the Golden Age, I could probably buy that, even though most publishers, while not devoid of questionable elements at the time, avoided truly graphic violence even then, because it wasn't something the general audience wanted in their comics when WW2 had enough of that already.

And why do they say the Super-emblem didn't stand for hope? If anything, I thought the Big Blue Boy Scout as a character creation was symbolic of hope, but mainly entertainment with food for thought to accompany it whenever possible. And it's honestly insulting how they imply Superman was genuinely cruel to Lois and other heroes. It's not every Silver Age story I've read, but I don't think he ever acted repellently towards his lady fairs and hero colleagues, even as I am aware there were absurd stories at the time that weren't devoid of questionable elements in themselves, any more than the Golden Age material. And yes, I realize some of those stories could've been very crummy from an artistic perspective, if it matters.
People view Superman as turning evil so frequently because fans (and critics) have a tendency to put his best traits on a silver platter and forget that his darker parts exist. Superman is a beacon of hope in the darkest times because he's not perfect, not because he is perfect. Sups has dark urges (that he sometimes follows through on) just like everyone else — but what he does with them defines him. He usually finds his way back to himself.
Wrong. Superman turning evil is because of writers and editors either listening to fake fans (and critics) who'd have you believe they think it'd make for an inherently wonderful plotline if Supes turned evil, something I don't think has happened to Batman on such frequency, or because they want to deliberately express spite for the real fans, a very sad staple since Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas really built it up at the turn of the century. And I think it's very sad how and when so-called writers obsess themselves with darkness, to the point where it's all they can think of, and all they know. I'm not saying stories where heroes are brainwashed by crooks are a bad idea in themselves, although I do think that when heroes are depicted as more effective combatants when they're turned evil and assaulting other heroes, that's when it really becomes repulsive.

I figure the fascination we see with turning heroes evil in entertainment springs from the same mentality that's obsessed with violent imagery. And it's something that, alas, won't dissolve overnight. For now, the best way to send a message of disapproval over obsessions with evil turns and violence is to avoid the products where the emphasis is at its worst. If there's anything consumers would do well to avoid, that'd have to be it.

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Well, to be fair, Superman was in fact originally written as a bad guy in his debut story The Reign of The Superman, predating even Action Comics #001 (of course, then again, in that story, Superman wasn't even an alien, he if anything was closer to the Red Skull from Captain America movies or Kefka Palazzo in Final Fantasy VI, being an artificially enhanced human in other words, where he was originally some dullard named William Dunn who was going through bread lines during the Great Depression and was picked out literally at random by a high-end scientist who obviously didn't have any concern for the impoverished to go through an experiment. Not entirely sure what the experiment was, either it was exposing him to a meteorite or otherwise injecting him with a superserum, but regardless, thanks to the experiment, he gains telekinetic powers, and eventually shaves his head a'la Lex Luthor and starts influencing various countries into starting World War II so he could take it over. His "creator" then fights with him, obviously because he wanted Superman's powers. Superman kills said creator, but it came at the cost of him destroying the source of his power, he loses his power, and he's right back at being at the breadlines. Yeah, a far cry from our Blue Boy Scout we all know and love. In fact, that story was written specifically to condemn Friedrich Nietzsche's Ubermensch concept. In a way, Superman as he is currently STILL condemns the Ubermensch concept because despite wielding a significant amount of power as a Kryptonian, he explicitly doesn't adhere to Nietzschean principles and adheres to a strict moral code, and not one of his own making either.).

But yeah, I agree. Turning Superman evil tends to be very tasteless, and we have at least three or four storylines that deal with it being like that (Injustice, some DCAU arcs including the Justice Lords bit, and the whole Darkseid bit. Note that I'm not counting stuff like Red Son in this because the story in question explicitly treats the USSR as the good guys [even though I personally think the USSR was just disgusting].). I also wasn't fond of Screenrant's statement of how viewing morality in a black and white fashion as being dangerous and a slippery slope. Actually, if anything's dangerous and a slippery slope, it's gray morality, aka, relativistic morality, where morality isn't a constant.

Don't know what that writer meant by "the original Action Comics," but the idea that Batman invented Red Kryptonite as a fail safe (in case Superman went rogue) was NOT in any Golden Age comics. It was used in the 2000 JLA Tower of Babel arc. In that story, it was revealed that Batman had drawn up contingency plans for the possibility that any or all of the Justice League could turn evil (or could fall victim to a villain's mind control).

Kryptonite first appeared on the radio show in 1943 (although a similar concept was used by Jerry Siegel in a 1940 comic strip story that was never published). It was first used in the comics in Superman #61 (1949).

Red K first appeared in Adventure Comics #255 in 1958. The mad scientist Luthor learned to synthesize it, and in the Silver Age, variants were introduced. Green Kryptonite could kill Kryptonians (Superman/Superboy, Supergirl) by a gradual weakening process, red K affected them unpredictably, gold k could make them lose their super powers, white k only affected plants, and blue k affected Bizarros.

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