Man of Steel, Man of Faith?- Part 1

I was never that kid.

I was never that kid that wore Superman pajamas to bed or a big red cape draped over his shoulders when he went with his mom to the grocery store.

I never jumped off the top bunk in an effort to fly, never tried punching my brother so hard that he’d land in the laundry basket, or tried looking through a sliver of an opening so small as to pretend I had x-ray vision. Come to think of it, I don’t even recall ever owning a Superman action figure or any Superman merchandise during those impressionable years.

I knew who the Big Guy was, of course. I had seen him in cartoons, in live action movies centered around the iconic image of a flying Christopher Reeve, or the iconic image of a black and white George Reeves on Nick at Nite, or even (iconic?) Dean Cain in Lois and Clark. But I was never that kid.

Christopher Reeve as Superman from “Superman: The Movie,” 1978.

And yet…

Fast forward twenty-five years, after seminary, a wedding, and two ordinations, and I find that I have indeed become that kid. A married, ordained, Greek Orthodox priest living in the San Francisco Bay Area, age 32, and yes, a huge Superman fan. I’m not exactly sure when it happened.

It may have been during my early 20s, a time when psychologists tell us the last stages of brain development are occurring, and sociologists tell us the time that human beings ask themselves the key question of What do I want to do for the rest of my life? I was a freshman in college when I felt a calling to the priesthood, and some time later that I actually embraced the reality of the call and answered it. Maybe it was around the time that I realized that God can use anyone, anywhere to help make the world a better place (whether they are those who celebrate the sacraments or not).

Or maybe it was just when I began dreaming about how much good can be done in this country and in this world, that I started realizing that I am an idealist, and that my soul craves what is good (as do all souls, whether we know it or not). Most importantly, I realized how much good can be done when any human being endeavors to live the best life they can live, and “simply” be a good person. I am convinced that, in doing so, the impact to others around us is immeasurable, and far more profound than we realize.

PeaceOnEarth0005

A page from “Superman: Peace on Earth” by Paul Dini and Alex Ross

I am inspired by Superman.

Allow me to ask a question which may shed some light on this realization- “What is Superman’s greatest power?”

Flight?

Super strength?

Super speed?

Heat vision?

We could go on naming powers and debating their merit (as we geeks inevitably do), but I’ll instead use an answer that superstar writer and DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns (producer/writer of hit shows Smallville, Arrow, and The Flash) used in a recent interview:

“Superman’s greatest power is that he always does the right thing.”

He has the power to conquer a country. Instead, he chooses to be its servant.

He has the opportunity to flaunt his achievements for all to see. Instead, he hides behind a pair of glasses.

A fictional example of humility? Benevolence? Yes, and more.

Golden Age Superman by Steve Rude

Golden Age Superman by Steve Rude

He is a metaphor for Moses, the aspiration of two Jewish teenagers from Cleveland who created him, and the star of a multi-billion dollar movie franchise with seven entries in the series, and an eighth, “Superman vs. Batman,” coming in 2016.

In the coming weeks, I intend to analyze, dissect, and celebrate this hero. I hope to adequately describe what he, and what other heroes depicted in, and created for, the art form known as the graphic novel, have meant to me, and what I have learned from them. You can join me, if you’d like.

I am inspired by the character of Superman.

You bet I’m that kid.

action-comics1

An iconic panel from Action Comics #1, June 1938.

”And what does the Lord require of you? But to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

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