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Author Topic: Superman as a Super-Leader  (Read 10887 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: January 04, 2006, 08:19:54 PM »

How is Superman as a leader among other superheroes?

Personally, my favorite JLA chairpersons were the Atom, because the idea of that little guy banging a gigantic gavel the way Gardner Fox wrote him as doing was pretty hilarious, and Zatanna, because she was one surprisingly tough cookie; Gerry Conway and Paul Kupperberg made sure she had her head screwed on right.

While Superman is inspiring because of his nobility and supreme confidence, Superman is very different from a natural leader like, say, Captain America, in two key ways:

Superman's ability to lead and inspire others come from his confidence and innate incorruptibility, however, because he is a leader just by being who he is, because it comes naturally to him, he may not be aware that he has this effect. Thus, if anything, Superman has a greater degree of humility about it. Captain America on the other hand, is aware of this effect he has, and puts it into service to unite teams for the greater good. When Superman started giving his speech in Englehart's MILLENNIUM, he wasn't deliberately trying to change anyone's mind; he was just presenting his point of view.

Superman is supersmart, but he is not a scientific-trained tactician at least to the extent Captain America is.  In JLA/AVENGERS, it was Steve Rogers that was selected to be the leader of the combined teams because he had a little more Eisenhower in him, an instinctive sense of group dynamic and battle plans.
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Permanus
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« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2006, 09:44:03 PM »

Hey, nice to see you back after the holiday season, Julian. Happy New Year! As it happens, I can't imagine anyone with Superman's powers wanting to lead anybody, or even understanding the concept: this fellow spends a lot of time on his own, and most of the time, he doesn't need anybody else to get by. He's good with people and has a lot of initiative, but I can't see him as the sort of guy who likes to tell people what to do. (I have to admit that, for personal reasons, I detest the whole concept of leadership and the way corporate structures are built up: I make my living as a freelancer for those very reasons.)

 I don't want Superman to think of himself as a manager, boss, or world's greatest hero. He's a very humble man, in my view. When all the other heroes assemble around him and say "Well, what do we do now?", he says "I'm sure Batman's got a plan."
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2006, 10:22:31 PM »

Quote from: "Permanus"
Hey, nice to see you back after the holiday season, Julian. Happy New Year!


Hey, right back atcha, pal.  Cheesy

Quote from: "Permanus"
As it happens, I can't imagine anyone with Superman's powers wanting to lead anybody, or even understanding the concept: this fellow spends a lot of time on his own, and most of the time, he doesn't need anybody else to get by.


Well, this has a lot to do with the nature of Superman's super-hero club, the Justice League itself: their first instinct is to solve the problem by themselves. Contrast this with the Avengers, who have much more a team-centered dynamic. If Hawkeye or the Wasp spots trouble, their first move is tp duck behind an alley and whip out their Communicard.

Kurt Busiek explained the difference between the two teams as being the difference between the U.S. Olympic Team and the baseball team that wins the World Series.

It ought to be noted that Superman's capacity to inspire does not necessarily translate to a leadership position. Superman inspired the Legion of Super-Heroes, but except with a Deputy Leader position in Jim Shooter's run, he never went into a leader role.

This brings up an interesting point: why didn't the Legionnaires make Superboy their leader? Jim Shooter once said that "Having Superboy in the Legion is like having Abraham Lincoln in a club of contemporary politicians." Perhaps Superboy had a very different personality as a boy than he does as an adult, one less likely to assume the mantle.

(Personally, I always though Invisible Kid made for the BEST Legion leader; remember that time that Ultra Boy was to disobey him to peep on Sir Prize, and Invisible Kid socked him in the jaw, saying "I'll brook NO insubordination! When the Legion leader makes a promise, EVERYONE keeps it!")

If Superboy himself has any flaws, it may perhaps be found in a lack of ambition. What else would account for his sticking around a hick town like Smallville when he could live and fight crime somewhere big-time, like Metropolis or Paris? Perhaps achieving adulthood, something happens that fundamentally altered his character, making him gravitate to leadership positions in the JLA and leaving the city for Metropolis.

Note that this is different from Superman's humility, which leads him to adopt the nebbish Clark Kent persona when he could be rich and famous.


Quote
I don't want Superman to think of himself as a manager, boss, or world's greatest hero. He's a very humble man, in my view. When all the other heroes assemble around him and say "Well, what do we do now?", he says "I'm sure Batman's got a plan."


Batman is a pretty good tactician, although that's not the same thing as being a great leader.
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llozymandias
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« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2006, 11:30:58 PM »

Actually Superboy tried to become Legion Leader.  Wildfire beat him by a slight majority.  Then they put a by-law in their constitution mandating that Legion Leaders must be residents of the Legion's time period, & not time travelling visitors.  Superboy operated from Smallville because that was where he was living at the time.  Humility & being humble have nothing to do with Kal not seeking wealth.  For one thing he does not need it.  For another with his power, & resources (knowledge, intelligence, etc.) building a super-fortune would be no challenge whatsoever.  Kal obviously knows about the effect he has on most other beings.  For one thing he hears about it from other people, when he is Clark Kent.  He knows that he could very easily become a defacto dictator, if he is too free about stating his opinions.  Kal wants people to do things because they choose to do them, not because he tells them to.
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« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2006, 04:45:06 AM »

Superboy used Smallville as his home base, but given the fact that he has the capacity to travel at speeds fast enough to break the time barrier, there weren't many places he couldn't go.

 The bylaws are pretty clear about time-travellers not being up for Legion leadership, but I think Superboy declined a leadership role simply because he wasn't Superman. At that stage in his career he was more apt at taking orders than giving them, given the fact that he was still learning about his abilities and potential. I'd say once he was 16-18 he'd be more comfortable giving the occasional order, but up to that point he was more than willing to be a team player. The Legion faced cosmic menaces that would make the JLA put in for overtime after all.

 My hope, my secret special wish, is that in the midst of this Infinite Crisis chaos they restore the Clark/Superboy dynamic somehow. I mean, couldn't they bring him to the future, put him in the costume, have him be Superboy in the 31st century and then Clark in the 20th? Saturn Girl posthypnotic powers activate? Please, with sugar on it?  Cheesy

 -Def.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2006, 07:27:32 AM »

I wasn't aware of the anti-time traveller rule in the Legion constitution; interesting, and it makes sense; who wants a "commuter" leader when you need a leader right now?

They reprinted the Legion constitution, word for word, in the TALES OF THE LEGION comic book, which I never read because it was in tiny font, and jeez, it was all so businesslike; not as cool as the back-up pieces where they explain Interlac and give layouts for things like Metropolis, the new Legion clubhouse, and so forth.

Though considering the degree of participation that Superboy had in the Legion, it felt like he spent more time over there than in the 20th Century sometimes.

One of the greatest choices that Paul Levitz ever made as Legion writer was the decision to have Dream Girl run for leader, a tenure that lasted from Great Darkness to the Omen Saga. This was a truly inspired choice, because 1) it made her out to be more interesting and complicated than a dumb blonde, 2) it did raise a very, very trippy point: WOULD she run at all if she didn't see herself winning?

I for one, will never forget that hilarious Legion panel where they induct Dream Girl into the Legion.

All the boys, with grins on their goofy pusses like shot foxes, voted YES, hitting the bright light. All the girls, with nasty expressions on their faces, voted NO.
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« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2006, 08:50:00 AM »

Yeah, those issues were always pretty cool. I used to devour the later Levitz/Giffen issues of Legion, as well as the Who's Who issues with stuff like the Legion HQ (post rocketship version), the Legion of Super-Villains, and the individual entries. Really gave the world of the 30th century it's own kind of feel, a mythology if you will.

 I don't know but for some reason I always thought Superboy spent his summers in the era of the Legion. But then again, Superman himself once said of time travel 'you always arrive the instant you left', so I guess the commute wasn't too much of a strain. Wink


 -Def.
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« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2006, 01:38:16 PM »

Quote
Superman's ability to lead and inspire others come from his confidence and innate incorruptibility, however, because he is a leader just by being who he is, because it comes naturally to him, he may not be aware that he has this effect.


Well, being an inspiration doesn't necessarily make you a leader, nor does being "innately incorruptible."  

I can think of lots of hugely inspiring people in history: Christ, Ghandi, Martin Luther King...but if you think I'd go into combat with a squad made up of those guys, you're nuts!  :lol:

I agree Captain America and Superman tend to be inspiring in some of the same ways: they're both iconic, living symbols and so on.  But Cap is inspiring in a whole other way when it comes to battle; he's a veteran of more combat than any human is likely to see in a hundred lifetimes.  He was in "the big one." He was doing it before the other Avengers were born.  And, it must be noted, he's in the end only human.  When he goes into battle he risks his neck, and if I were a soldier...or an Avenger...I'd be reassured to know my leader has as much to lose as I do.  (And the knowledge that he's fought so many times before, in equally dangerous battles, and still lives, has got to be reassuring as well).  And a lot of Cap's experience comes not as a lone wolf but as a member of teams, whether just his partnership with Bucky, his old team the Invaders, his missions with US armed forces, SHIELD, the Avengers or whatever. That kind of resume has GOT to inspire confidence from your troops.

In contrast, Superman is...well, Superman.  I don't know I'd be inclined to take orders from a guy who's a lot less likely to get hurt than I am and whose experience is primarily from solo work. Not to mention a guy who tends to pull his punches and has a real pacifist streak to him (he can afford to, but some people have too much on the line to adopt "turn the other cheek" as a first response).

But the real issue is Superman's mental make-up.  I just don't feel he'd be comfortable leading humans (even meta-humans) into dangerous situations when every fiber of his being has been devoted to protecting them.  I think he'd tend to save all the riskiest jobs for himself and not put his teammates where they might do the most good, if that also meant endangering them.  In fact if anything I think it's harder to accept Superman joining a team than Batman.  Batman has something to gain; additional muscle for the big jobs.  Superman has nothing to gain other than a little fraternizing time with his colleagues.

Bottom line: whereas I think other heroes would find inspiration in Kal's virtue, his moral character and his dedication, I think they'd be smart enough to know none of that necessarily translates to leadership ability.  Maybe if your group is some kind of Ethics board, but not if you're a band of fighters.
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