If people treated Superman like he had a disease they’d catch by being saved by him, would he keep doing it? Or would they be frightened, running from the man as strong as a bull and fast as a locomotive, while he tried to grasp their hands to pull them up? Would he pick his battles? I have this idea that Supes is the kind of guy who moves on instinct. He doesn’t think that much about what he does. He’s just Clark without his glasses on, putting his foot in his mouth, like a star athlete who’s soft spoken and kind. He doesn’t really know what he means to other people. He hears everything we whisper to each other. He tries to respect our privacy, but he doesn’t always. What’s the harm? If he moves so fast you can’t see him peek over your shoulder to read your text? He only wants to be sure you’re safe. And to be in on the joke. Superman likes to laugh. He has a great sense of humor. Is he happy? No. He’s busy. There’s work to be done. Even moving faster than light, he can only be in so many places at a time, even if he sends robots to fill in the gaps. He goes to the Fortress of Solitude and watches the old crystal tapes his Dad Jor-el sent him all those years ago. He seems so regal, so magnificent, and human at the same time, vulnerable. He talks to the hologram sometimes. He’s even yelled at him. He wants answers, and there will be none forthcoming from old, dead Jor-el.
“Why am I like this, Dad? Why is always only me out there? They’re all scared of me. They don’t trust me. I hear them calling me ‘alien, freak, infected.’ I have to watch the world burn to ash and I can only sweep up the pieces. They’re all dying and I’m not. Luthor says I don’t really care, that it’s just part of my programming, how my genetic code was designed to replace humanity, and that there are millions of Kryptonian matrices waiting to be deployed to rocket to the earth, once I’ve subdued it. It’s not true, is it, Dad? You would never do that. You’re not a parasite, a selfish murdering bully like Luthor. “
“It’s the greatest irony, Dad, I’m supposed to be invulnerable, but everything hurts me. Every look, every word, every misunderstanding, every passive aggressive gesture, I see it and treasure it in my heart. What good is it being the strongest man in the world if everybody hates you? If it were all a dream, if there was another pretender masquerading as savior, and I could be just a guy, an ordinary guy, what would that feel like? “
“Lois … sold me out, Dad. She gave my secret identity to Luthor for the chief job at the Daily Planet. I feel like an idiot. Everyone’s in danger now.”
“Is there someone like me, out there, alive today, who understands how this hurts? To want to help, to interact, to relate, not to hurt, but to mend. Luthor’s made everyone believe the epidemic is a Kryptonian superbug. It’s not.”
“They wanted to make me king. Give the keys to me, let me rule the world. I said, “no, not for me, thanks, I’m not an administrator.” I laughed, but they turned on me then, I know they did. When I wouldn’t tell them what to do. When they realized I wasn’t anything special, just a humble citizen doing his best to help people. I just thought if I did good in the world, Dad, it would lead to something. I would go somewhere, and the clouds would open, and a plan would unfold. I would know who I was and what I was supposed to do. But that’s not what happened.”
“I had a dream that everyone I had tried to please for so long had forgotten me. They didn’t recognize me, even after I told them my name and where we knew each other from. The one guy who was friendly to me, he was just using me to get him pipe tobacco, and when his car got stolen, I felt a little guilty, but I thought it was what he deserved.”
“You’ll always remember them, but they won’t remember you. You’re still frozen with them in the past.
What am I supposed to do? Hide? Leave those creeps in charge?”
And Jor-el’s hologram solemnly intones: “Everybody doesn’t have to love you, Kal. Most of them will despise you. You think people like those who are better than them?”