COMIC BOOK HERO
Superman and the Gospel Story
By Hannah Goodwyn
A friendly smile from the Man of Steel is the last thing audiences saw at the conclusion of Superman: The Movie starring Christopher Reeve in 1978. After all of his amazing feats of strength that helped save the world from impending doom, Superman paused while flying over the Earth to reassure us that he has things under control.
Author Stephen Skelton’s interest in this superhero started when he watched the movie as a young child. It made such a lasting impression on him that he wrote a book, The Gospel According to the World’s Greatest Superhero, to show how Superman’s adventure and the Gospel story are similar.
“Superman’s story goes something like this… From above, a heavenly father sends his only son to save the Earth. When he comes down to Earth, he’ll be raised by two parents who originally had the names Mary and Joseph – now this is the Superman story we are talking about,” Skelton says.
When Superman comes of age, he travels to the artic wilderness to commune with his father’s spirit, which mirrors Christ’s journey into the desert.
“At age 30, Superman will embark on his public mission – this is the same age as Christ,” he explains. “And then Superman will, in his mission as ministry, fight for truth and justice, two fundamental, biblical principles to base a mission on.”
He comes back to life after being killed in the last comic book published in 1992 called The Death of Superman. Then, Superman comes back to Earth – this is where the storyline in Superman Returns picks up.
“Within the specifics of that story, I know of no other story that mirrors it so closely than the Christ story,” Skelton says.
The original Superman comic strip, created by Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster in the 1930s, wasn’t supposed to reflect the Gospel story. The two Jewish teenagers simply stumbled onto the plot when they were creating Superman’s adventurous tale.
They drew from biblical heroes, such as Samson, who was the strongest man in the Bible, and Moses, who helped free the Israelites from slavery. The familiar storyline just happened to be one they used because it sounded like the most logical way to layout a story of a great hero.
Superman also was created out of the loss of Jerry’s father, who was shot to death by robber, and at a time when America was battling with the Great Depression and the world was fighting World War II.
“They were looking for a savior figure they could relate to, they could envision, something to give them hope, inspire them,” Skelton says.
X-Men director Bryan Singer brings the latest Superman story to the big screen with his new movie, Superman Returns. Although the correlation to Jesus’ story could have been easily written out, comic book and television show writers have kept its strong ties to the Bible. Singer, who is not a Christian, also determined not to disrupt that in Superman Returns.
Skelton says, “When asked what [the movie] was about, [the director] said, ‘Superman Returns is about what happens when messiahs come back.”
Besides the parallels between the two plots, strong symbolism abounds in the adventures of Superman that point directly to God. Skelton’s book specifically discusses the meaning found within Superman’s costume. One particular symbol that is interesting to Skelton is the triangular shield, which holds Superman’s S-shaped family crest.
Historically, a triangle is the symbol for the Trinity, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. The triangle used on Superman’s costume points down signifying God’s relationship with man and the gift of His only to mankind.
Other superheroes have come onto the scene through the years – Batman, Spiderman, and Wonder Woman, are just a few. So, why has Superman maintained prominence all over the world for more than 70 years while others have not?
According to Skelton, people are intrigued by Superman simply because of his close resemblance to Christ.
“Even apart from the special powers, the character of Superman is something that mirrors the character of Christ,” Skelton says. “Superman actually illustrates the beatitudes in the same way that Christ would….”
After watching Superman Returns, Skelton talked with a non-Christian friend about the movie.
“He said, ‘I can’t stop thinking about it. Do you know that movie spoke more to me about Jesus than The Passion of the Christ?’” Skelton explains. “And the reason that was is because The Passion of the Christ was a very straightforward presentation. It was obviously about Jesus Christ, and so it was easily dismissed by a non-believer.”
What Skelton saw in that conversation was the power a fictional story that resembles the Gospel message has on viewers.
“It spoke to his heart before he realized what it was saying,” Skelton says. “It spoke to him about the one true Savior before he could reject that he needs a one true savior.”
This movie gives believers the opportunity to share about what Jesus Christ did on this Earth for us. With Superman’s entrance back into the world in Superman Returns, viewers can get a taste of what it will be like when our hero, a true super man, Jesus comes back.
“What Superman can remind us is that Christ is the universal savior, the savior that came not just to save one person or to save a city full of people, but in fact came to save everyone who ever lived who comes to him,” Skelton says.
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Hannah Goodwyn serves as a producer for CBN.com. For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.
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