The Gospel According to the World's Greatest Superhero: The Man of Steel and Spiritual Truths Paperback – May 1 2006
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The author admits this truth and tries to navigate around it by several times admitting that not all the parallels he mentions were intended by the creators or writers responsible for the stories. Nonetheless, Skelton says, Christians ought to see any figure in pop culture through the lens of the Bible, so that we can be reminded of truth even in a medium where the author did not deliberately try to convey it -- essentially, we should interpret all our experiences (including those involving Superman) from a Christian persective.
This is all fine and good, but Skelton then goes on to point out such elaborate and inventive parallels between Jesus and Superman that it becomes hard to take some of them seriously. According to this book, we should be reminded of some aspect of Jesus' life by Superman's Kryptonian name (Kal-El), his earthly name (both "Clark" and "Kent" can remind us of Jesus), the names of both his Kryptonian parents and his earthly parents, the shape of the spaceship that brought him to earth, the clothing worn on Krypton, the clothing his earthly parents were wearing when they found him, the fact that Kryptonite is lethal to him, the color of Kryptonite (at least, the Green K), the colors on Superman's costume, the name of the actor most known for portraying Superman (i.e., Christopher Reeve), and on and on. It is as if every detail of some parts of Superman's life is meant to suggest some new idea about Jesus to us. The examples are so creative that they begin to appear contrived and artificial, rather than genuine parallels to the life of Jesus.
Ironically, Skelton ignores a pretty heavy dose of the Superman mythos to make his case. While he pays attention to every "jot and tittle" of some parts of the Superman lore, he completely overlooks other parts. He draws most extensively from the TV show "Smallville," the first "Superman" movie (not including any of the campy or humorous scenes from that film), and a couple of Superman comic stories -- mostly his origin and the "Death & Return of Superman" saga from the early '90's. Almost no mention is made of the "Lois & Clark" series (which definitely did *not* portray Superman as a parallel to Christ), the Superman III or IV movies, the 1940's Max Fleischer cartoons and movie serials, the George Reeves TV series, nor to broad themes appearing in the comics throughout their 70-year history -- other than mentioning these all briefly in a "Superman chronology timeline" in the beginning of the book. Also noticeably absent was any reference to Brian Azzarello's recent 12-issue stint on the Superman comic, which portrayed Superman as regularly flying to a church and confiding in a priest. Surely if all these other mundane aspects of Superman's life can remind us of Jesus, his presence in a church ought to, as well!
The book ends with a brief synopsis of Bryan Singer's "Superman Returns" movie. However, because the book was released at roughly the same time as the film, the author was not able to view it before the book was complete, so he just deals with "plot speculation." This is unfortunate, because that film did make several deliberate attempts to depict Superman as a Messiah/Christ figure, and examples from it would have fit better than some of the ones that are in the book (Skelton doesn't even mention the most overt Christ-image in the movie, of Superman "giving his life" to save the earth and then falling with arms outstretched, in the position of Jesus on the cross, back to earth.)
Still, this book certainly is an entertaining read, even if I had to scratch my head a little at some of the examples that Skelton draws. After all, it is a well-thought-out book, and it's Superman!!! Anyone who enjoys Superman and wants to see how some of the ideas in his history can point us to Christ ought to enjoy it, as long as you don't expect an analysis that starts with the Superman creators' own intentions.
An excelent supplement to this book, which focuses more on broad themes (not only on the minutiae) of Superman, and also includes a "spiritual" analysis of many other comic book heroes, is H. Michael Brewer's "Who Needs a Superhero?"
The research is extensive and intriguing; the points are well-made and thoughtfully outlined. Skelton makes it easy to see why we are drawn to the Superman story - despite how self-sufficient we think we are, we're all in need a Savior!
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