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JLApostles: Superman

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 11, 2009 by Simon

This is part one of a sixteen part discussion of the Justice League of America and discipleship.  The initial explanation may be found here.  An omnibus of articles may be found here.

Not from this world, he was sent by his Father to Earth, and because of this, humanity was saved time and time again.  Raised in humble surroundings by loving parents, he was taught the values of justice, honesty, and community, and made them the foundation of everything he would do in his life.  Reaching maturity, he began his mission, fighting for the oppressed, seeking cure for the sick, assisting the poor, releasing those unjustly captured, stopping those who would misuse their influence, and teaching all people that there was a great power in themselves, and a greater power on their side.  With a band of like-minded (though not nearly as extraordinary) companions, he continued his work, even as powerful agents conspired against him and sought his destruction.  He made the ultimate sacrifice and gave his life saving both innocent and guilty alike from Doomsday, only to rise again.



Or, wait… it is.

Superman is absolutely and without a doubt a Christ figure.  There has been controversy in the past (and there will undoubtedly be in the future) around Superman originally as the Jewish Messiah.

Consider just a few facts on this:
1.  Superman is dark-haired and olive-skinned, especially in his first appearances, which could point to a Southern European or Semitic descent.
2.  Superman is an immigrant, a literal alien in the United States, similar to plenty of Jews who came to Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century.
3.  Superman’s Kryptonian name is Kal-El.  He is from the House of El.  El is one of the names of God in Hebrew.
4.  Kal-El is not a word in Hebrew, but the closest equivalent, kalal, means perfected.

Of course, if we Christianize Superman, we have the parallels presented above in the ambiguous narration.  We also make cultural connections—consider, just one example, from Superman Returns.  We see Superman floating over the earth, watching over everyone, floating, lifeless with his arms outstretched.  The bloated, posthumous voice of his father, Jor-El (Marlon Brando), says, “I send them you, my only son…”

Bonus!  Someone remixed the overture from Jesus Christ Superstar with clips from the original Superman.

Christ called the disciples.  Superman inspired all other superheroes.  Christ developed a huge following, Superman too.  Consider The Death of Superman storyline from the 90s—the first to catch major attention outside of fandom for its potential in killing a major icon.  Yes, Superman rose from the dead (surprise, he’s a Christ figure!) but no comic book death after that’s mattered*.  Not even Steve Rogers.  No imitations, I suppose.

So within the model proposed—the Justice League of Apostles, so to speak—we see Superman as the central figure representing the greatest truths of reality, in this case, truth and justice.  We must also see that those called by the example of Superman may not always function within the limits nor understand the true message presented.  But that’s a common thing.

*  Except Ted Kord, but just to me.