I always felt really bad for superheroes, the majority of them hiding away in their stupid civilian clothing, constantly pretending to be something they’re not, always in fear of having their secret discovered by some idiot who would then call up the closest reporter, giving away that secret for no better reason than because nobody in the comics has anything better to do.
What’s it have to be like to be Superman, only allowed to use his super abilities when he’s dressed up that ridiculous outfit? Of course nobody really considers it from his point of view, because he’s so easily able to put on a pair of glasses and pretend like he’s just a regular guy. But while his powers might seem uncanny to us earthlings, to him it’s just his nature. To him it must be a struggle to keep it all hidden away.
Imagine the earth was about to blow up, but your parents are these geniuses who, despite the fact that nobody listened to their warnings about the impending destruction, built a prototype rocket capable of sending you as infant to a habitable planet far away inhabited by a race of aliens that appeared almost identical to human beings.
But unlike human beings, these aliens can barely walk. They can’t run. They can’t lift anything heavy at all. In fact, they can’t really do anything. They barely have enough strength and intelligence just to go about surviving and procreating. And all of the sudden a spaceship crashes and guess who’s inside? It’s you.
And some aliens take you in and raise you, but you’re a little human baby, so you’re screaming and crying and running around and throwing stuff everywhere. And these aliens are completely shocked. They have no idea how to deal with your unimaginable powers. Even your screaming is impossible for them to comprehend, let alone deal with, because their inferior bodies can’t even produce audible sounds louder than a whisper.
So you’re whole life you have your adoptive parents telling you to pretend like you’re just like everybody else. No running. No talking loud. No lifting stuff up. That’s what it must have been like for Superman growing up in Kansas. It had to have been awful. His mom sends him to the store to go get some groceries. “But don’t you use any of that super speed! Walk slow! Really slow!” And now put yourself back on that alien planet from before, and your adoptive mom tells you to walk across the room to go get the remote, but she tells you to do it really deliberately, and make it look like it’s not a struggle to pick it up when you get there.
What’s that got to be like, to modulate your strength and your speed? It’s one thing to fake walking slow, but it’s another thing to fake it to the point to where it looks authentic. We always see Superman either walking like a regular person or running as fast as the Flash. Wouldn’t it look a little suspicious if Clark Kent started walking or running but only fifteen percent faster than a normal human would? How does he control it, make it look authentic?
Back on the alien planet. You pick up the remote, you have to actually act, to literally stage a performance of you straining to lift it up after you’ve already made a whole scene of pretending to walk over to get it really slowly. That must be exhausting. They never touch on it the comics, but the majority of Superman’s brain activity must have been engaged and spent constantly trying to make a convincing show, hoping not to raise anybody’s suspicions.
If that were me, if I were that baby in that rocket ship on that alien world that I made up to illustrate my point, I’d be so pissed off, constantly bitter. Why am I living my life pretending to be something that I’m not? Why can’t I just jump across the room and pick up the remote like it’s no big deal? And I eventually would. There’s no way I’d be able to keep a lid on my powers for too long.
Sooner or later I’d be in a bad enough mood where I’d just be like, you know what? I don’t care anymore. Hey everybody I can run fast. I can fly. I can lift up giant pieces of machinery and I have X-Ray vision and laser-eyes and freeze-breath and I have super hearing and I can read really fast and you can’t shoot me with a gun, I mean you can, but it would be a waste of a bullet because I’m bulletproof.
And that’s just Superman. I’m sure life on regular Earth must be equally frustrating for all superheroes, like Spider-Man and Iceman and She-Hulk and even more obscure superheroes like Deathlock or Speedball or even Aquaman’s teen sidekick Aqualad. I find it completely unbelievable that there would be even one person with the character to keep an identity secret for an entire lifetime, let alone a whole cast of costumed caped crusaders. These universes full of super beings should realistically just be a whole bunch of villains, people who were told to shut up and slow down their whole lives, that conformity is the only answer, that you have to suppress your super natures. And eventually they’d grow more and more bitter and vile until one day they’d snap and give a big collective middle finger to regular society and its bland conventions of normality and the status quo.
But, yeah, I don’t think that would sell a whole lot of comics, not to mention TV shows or movies or actions figures. Still, it’s something to think about. Just try walking super slowly from one side of the room to the other and tell me its not something interesting to think about.