Man of Steel and the Original Superhero

Man of Steel and the Original Superhero

In case it’s not already on your radar, the highly anticipated reboot Man of Steel releases next week. Most are familiar with who Superman is—understandable considering this cultural icon (and first comic book superhero) has been around for 75 years.

For nonnatives to the comic book world, here’s a quick recap: Young Kal-El is placed in a rocket ship and transported to Earth just before his home planet of Krypton explodes. Taking the name Clark Kent, the child grows to become Superman. With his superpowers, Superman protects the earth and its people.

What might be less familiar to some are the religious analogies drawn from Superman. In a hallway conversation earlier this week, biochemist and comic book fan Fuz Rana discussed the similarity between Superman and Moses. He points out that the parallels are interesting when considering Superman was placed in a rocket ship and Moses was placed in a basket. Both left their homeland and certain death, and were raised by strangers in a foreign land. And both represent redemption, he adds. “Superman brought redemption to Earth and Moses, to Israel.”

The religious parallels don’t stop with Moses. Superman is also considered a Christlike character: sent to Earth to save mankind. In “Jesus—The Original Superhero” (available at, theologian Dr. Craig Detweiler acknowledges the parallel between Superman and Christ then highlights the vital distinction between the two.

The Man of Steel shows us what sacrifice looks like in the mythical Metropolis. Jesus Christ shows us what sacrifice looks like in the historical Jerusalem.

RTB’s resident theologian Kenneth Samples is also quick to point out the distinction between the two. He explains that, “many or most depictions of superhero characters seem more like powerful humans than like Christ who is Yahweh in human flesh (Philippians 2:6–7). For example, the various superheroes have super human powers (e.g., strength, speed, the ability to fly, etc.) but, like humans, they are morally flawed in character and sometimes lacking in genuine wisdom.”

While we might find entertainment in stories about mythical characters like Superman, Christ—the real, original superhero—was sent to Earth by His Father to save mankind. Through His sacrifice, in addition to bringing about human redemption, He provides an ideal example for humanity.

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21)

Now notice the similar message from a poignant scene with Superman (Henry Cavill) and Jor-El (Superman’s biological father, played by Russell Crowe).

You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.

One can hope that Man of Steel might lead people to contemplate the reality of Jesus Christ and the example He set for us to aspire to be something greater: to follow in His steps and live godly lives.

Hebrews 4:15–16 puts it this way: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

In other words, humanity’s hope and help derives solely from Jesus, the original Superhero.


For more on the Incarnation and the hope we have in the Resurrection, see:

RTB 101 – The Incarnation

Guide to the Mystery of the Incarnation,” by Kenneth Samples

Resurrection: Humanity’s Greatest Hope,” with Kenneth Samples

Thinking about the Incarnation: The Divine Word became Flesh,” by Kenneth Samples

Christ’s Cross: It’s Fourfold Distinctive Meaning,” by Kenneth Samples

For comic-book-related resources, see:

“Captain America and Superhero Worldviews, Part 1 and Part 2” by Kenneth Samples

Connecting Comics with Faith,” by Sandra Dimas

Lastly, with Father’s Day coming up, one might also look at Man of Steel from the perspective of the love, sacrifice, and guidance of earthly fathers. With that in mind, here are a few Father’s Day-related resources from Kenneth Samples:

How My Father Shaped My Logical Mind

Father’s Day Reflections

An Unlikely Intellectual Role Model