On Superman

A History of Violence

By David Hopkins

While other people may ponder the loftier subjects of truth and meaning, I’ve always wondered how Wolverine can bend his wrists when the claws sheath back into his hand. How can the Silver Surfer stay on his board with no noticeable traction or grip tape? Are Dr. Strange and his manservant Wong secret lovers? Why haven’t the citizens of Gotham City put two and two together about Batman and Bruce Wayne? How can Flash have any self-respect when he fights a villain named “Rainbow Raider”? If when Billy Batson grows up, he says “Shazam,” will that make him younger? And why would the noble Wonder Woman wear star-spangled undies?

I’ve also wondered how Superman could punch another person and not kill him. Forget a deeper postmodern critique of the superhero as a reconstruction of masculine language systems. I want to know how Superman doesn’t kill people when he hits them. How does he not accidentally send a fist straight through the chest of a bank robber or would-be world conqueror? He’s Superman, the strongest of the super-powered cape-wearing spandex titans. Even the phrase “more powerful than a locomotive” is an outdated understatement. From my own fanboyish research, I wager this Last Son of Krypton could do lethal damage using only his pinky finger.

I imagined this hypothetical scenario:

Superman playfully whacks Jimmy Olsen upside the head. Jimmy’s head wobbles, a dopey grin spreads across his face, his eyes roll toward the back of his head and he falls over. “Oh, Jimmy,” Superman laughs  …

More from David Hopkins

Stay Updated

on our daily essay, giveaways, and other special deals

Our Books

Subscribe via RSS