We all know the story. A traveler from another planet crash lands on earth, is raised by a farmer and his wife, then grows up to be the greatest hero that ever lived. He possesses powers the likes the world has never seen, and because of his modest, honest upbringing, he possesses the traits we all strive for. He’s nearly perfect in every way.
The most proliferate of all DC Comic Heros, Superman stands for all the good things in life: truth, justice, freedom, kindness, wisdom, strength, etc. And yet, it’s because of these very traits that his popularity has waned from time to time, and the readership of his books, for a long time, steadily declined. People couldn’t relate to him in the least, and could certainly never live up to him. And that turned people off.
Sure, Clark Kent, the alter ego of the Man of Steel, is supposed to be the one people can relate to. He is the mild-mannered, polite, bumbling everyman that provides the perfect disguise for the Kryptonian superhero. Except that Clark Kent is a boy scout, whose values and morals are every bit as stout as Superman’s himself. And thus, it makes it hard to relate to and live up to even being Clark Kent!
The core of every Superman story used to be Superman swooping in to save the day from immoral villains and ruffians. Even Lex Luthor was the epitome of evil incarnate throughout the Superman mythos. But now, and for a while, Luthor has become more than just evil. He has become a villain with a purpose, and a purpose that makes sense! His twisted views and outlook on things gained him the presidency of the United States in the DC Universe for a time, which caused a great deal of conflict for Superman, who knew how evil Lex truly was.
In recent years, Superman has evolved somewhat, and has shown his weaknesses, and I’m not talking about vulnerability. In an attempt to make Superman more vulnerable and relatable, DC took a chance by challenging his thinking when one of his best friends kills someone, then he loses his powers, and the entire world goes without Superman for over a year. When he does come back, though, he’s the boy scout again, and is involved in the typical Superman stories of old.
No matter what they do, DC can’t seem to make Superman a relatable character anymore without changing the core of who the character is. Until that balance is reached, Superman’s popularity will continue, but his readership will suffer.