Having seen Man of Steel, in which, among other things, kryptonite is absent and Superman kills Zod, my friend Jim Winter concludes:
Even the myths of old had vulnerable characters. Chronos swallowed his children, only to vomit them back up so they could condemn him to darkness. The Norse gods will all die someday. The Greek and Roman pantheons are a collection of case studies in human neuroses, from the panicked overlord (Zeus) to perpetual smartass (Hermes) to the borderline autistic (Hades and Hephestus). Pick a god, any god. They have more weaknesses than Superman and more flaws. This lets them be the hero or the villain, depending on the story.
I know I loved Superman as a kid, having this invincible hero take out much more powerful baddies than people could handle. But I’m not a kid anymore. Even my escapism needs a dose of reality. "I know I loved Superman as a kid, having this invincible hero take out much more powerful baddies than people could handle. But I’m not a kid anymore. Even my escapism needs a dose of reality.
I commented that I thought Man of Steel did a good job of showing how Superman empathized with the everyman. The draw of Superman, to me, is his capacity to feel for humanity, to the point he goes out of his way to assimilate into Earth culture. That an alien would do this says something positive about humanity. His empathy also makes him vulnerable to people and supervillains who don’t care who they hurt in pursuit of their goals. His emotional vulnerability, to me, is more compelling than his physical vulnerability to rocks from Krypton.
There are times I’d like Superman to have more personality, like the Greek gods Jim mentions, but that’s not who he’s become. He’s not the tortured Batman or the wise-cracking Spider-Man; he’s the Boy Scout, boy-next-planet Superman.