Musings on tech, management and more. Opinions are my own, unless otherwise cited.
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For those who don’t follow
comics, the movie character Iron Man comes from a long tradition of comic
stories about a billionaire playboy who moonlights as a superhero. This
hedonist-with-a-heart has played well for some time. It is no surprise Iron Man
enjoys high popularity in today’s society. But now publishers are altering
other, even more iconic characters in order to “relate” to modern
audiences. This is not a crisis. But does it really serve us and our social
dialog, or does it just further promote our propensity to live in bubbles of
The changes in Superman are the
ones that catch my attention the most. In a recent movie reboot called Superman
Returns, several changes were made to make his morays align more with modern
personalities. The near-flawless, flag-waving, naive “good guy” of two
generations was made far more introspective. His chivalric code took a far back
seat to his emotions. His trademark red-and-blue was shifted to
burgundy-and-blue, to distance the association with America. (This was recently taken
further in the comics themselves. There, Superman renounces his American
citizenship). Ignoring the patriotic angle, in the Superman Returns reboot,
we essentially watched a character of untarnished morality twisted into some
kind of cosmic, absentee baby-daddy.
Superman is supposed to be “a
bit too much” morality-wise. That's what makes the character work. He can take
the straight arrow, paladin-esque, good guy road in any situation. He can be the
stereotypical Boy Scout even in the face of acid-breathing alien invaders.
Why? The indestructible Superman is the only person on earth who can survive
it. Take that away and he's converted into a sometimes-thug with a cape.
The high moral code of Superman
was always perceived as a “challenge” and “somewhat unrealistic for mere
mortals to attain.” It was idealistic even in the 50’s and 60’s. Yes,
characters should speak to you. But no, not all characters are designed to be
relatable. Some are in fact supposed to challenge you… to give you an “outer
bounds check” on your idealism and imagination.
It is one thing to take the
traits and actions of an icon and update the trappings of the story while
retaining the icon’s personality. This direction with Superman is quite another
thing altogether. I personally hope we have not entered a phase were even our most
iconic characters lose their voice and become merely brands, tailored every
5-10 years in endless reboots and re-inventions. If we become lost in that, we
lose the ability to have meaningful cross-generational discussions about the
character or use it as a learning tool for our children.
It is a lesson that transcends.
A brand is not just a logo.