If you are a comic book fan–and obviously I am–Lex Luther: Man of Steel should be on your shelf. The latest Superman movie, which was aesthetically mesmerizing but conceptually unsatisfying, meekly explains why the world doesn’t need Superman through an article Lois Lane wrote during Superman’s absence as a way of dealing with her own grief over his departure. The movie itself refutes the article’s assertion: Superman looks down from space over the entire planet, listening to all of our mournful cries for salvation. That we call for him is proof that we need him. So says Superman, and the movie.
Lex Luther, however, argues that the very fact that we call for Superman in our time of need is proof of why he must be destroyed. I am speaking not of the Lex Luther from Superman Returns, who may be the single most disappointing depiction of a comic book character of the cinematic comic book boom. I am speaking of the real (fictional) Lex Luther: the, albeit narcissistic and greed-driven, genius who can be found in the pages of Lex Luther: Man of Steel.
We call on him. He comes. He saves us. Another disaster strikes. We call on him and he comes. We get into a rhythm of dependence. We settle into a routine of mediocrity, never searching for ways of saving ourselves. We never strive to be better, because there is no reason to become better because Better can fly around the world in a heartbeat and stop bullets with his eyeballs and there is no way that you can top that so why try. That is why Lex Luther wants to destroy Superman: because he is the greatest threat to human advancement.
It would be the argument of the anarchist, potentially even the atheist, if it were not coming from a man whose ultimate concern is not with society but with his own self-aggrandizement. Or maybe it is the argument of the Satanist.
I think it is only fair to start this blog (earnestly start this conversational component of this blog, I should say) by being honest: I am not sold that theater will save humanity. I do not think theater is the social equivalent to Superman, or, if it is, then I agree with Mr. Luther in that I often think Superman is not all that super.
Theater has as much worth as we are willing to give it. It is language and spectacle. It is reality and fiction: the reality of people on stage in front of you performing a fiction which they are asking you to experience as reality (and fiction). Nothing more, but nothing less. It is like all art about communication, and in a world in which communication is going the way of code zipping around the airless Internet, I question if theater is the best way to communicate. The best way to connect
Many argue that it is because it can never be reproduced on the web, or in film, that it has value. There is “something” about being in a theater, with an audience, with the actors on stage, with the heat from the lights and the smell of their sweat that gives the experience worth. And I do not disagree; having just seen Spring Awakening on its tour through San Francisco, I do not disagree. There is “something.” And part of the purpose of this blog is to better figure out what that something is.
I guess I am saying that I am willing to fight for it, but I do not believe I am willing to die for it. I’m not a zealot. I’m not an extremist. This will not be the blog of a Believer. I am here to convince myself as much as anybody.
In Lex Luther, Lex dines with Bruce Wayne and convinces him to courier a hunk of kryptonite to Batman. Bruce takes it. Why wouldn’t he? He’s a genius too; his paranoia is rooted in an overactive sense of practicality. This is not a new motif: there is a long tradition of the Dark Knight having a store of the green rock in case Superman goes bad. He usually keeps it in his utility belt. He’s ready to bring him down. Just in case.