Good and Evil in an Ambiguous World

March 2008

By Isaac Frisbie (

I remember when I was a kid growing up in the eighties I used to love to watch pro wrestling. I even went to one at the local convention center and saw Hulk Hogan, Junkyard Dog, Andre the Giant, etc. I used to also love to watch Transformers and all the other kiddie shows you would expect a young boy to watch as a child. What I loved about these shows was that there was a clear distinction between right and wrong, good and evil. Hulk Hogan was the good guy, Randy Savage the bad guy. Optimus Prime was the ultimate good guy, while Megatron was his antithesis.

As I grew older the line between hero and villain became more blurred. Steve Austin and the Rock were the "bad" good guys, Wolverine was the rebellious and violent good guy. Batman has, for many years walked a thin line between good and evil. Although convincingly good, Batman lives in a world where evil is everywhere, and it's his job to keep it at bay. He assumes the worst in humanity because he believes everyone can potentially have ulterior motives.

We live in a world that believes that there is no such thing as good and evil, just shades of gray. We have mainstream media that tells us about all the bad in the world, because happiness does not sell like tragedy. Ratings would plummet because news would be more boring. So they spend less time telling it like it is and hype the negative. How often do we hear of a killing, robbery, fire, stock crashes, etc.? What if for every negative story there was a positive story about a school being built, or some poor person being helped out? But we are overwhelmingly given the bad.

This is why in a world of chaos and ambiguity, we have figures like Superman that buck the trend and tell us that there is good out there, and that people have good in them and that that is what we should focus on. Superman provides us with a moral anchor that we can always have.

Throughout the Superman mythos, we have been given so many great quotes that have stood the test of time. One of my favorites is from Superman: The Movie. He is asked why he is here and he responds so innocently and powerfully, "I'm here to fight for truth, and justice, and the American way." Now even though he says America it can be safely said that he fights for what is right, no matter what. I could go on for longer but we all understand who Superman is. There is no ambiguity with him.

Kevin Smith said that the character of Superman should be killed off because his greatest stories have been told. He needs to make way for the up and comers. The problem with Superman has NEVER been Superman, it has been bad writing. Even the greatest stories can be butchered by bad writing. How popular was Green Lantern? Many people felt the path to evil and eventual redemption of Hal was wrong because of continuous retconning and saying, "Well, we can tell people didn't like that story (of him becoming Parallax) so we'll wriggle our way out of this one by redeeming him." And yet Sinestro Corps went on to be one of the most talked about comics for DC in a while. This is proof that you can take anything and make it great with solid writing. This is why Kevin Smith is simply wrong.

Now more than ever we need the character of Superman because he has always been a lighthouse in a world without hope. Superman has been, is, and always will be, the standard to which other superheroes are measured. Without Superman being the standard-bearer, what would we have left? We would have ambiguity and shades of gray. Superman shows us there is such a thing as good and evil and light and darkness. And that is why Superman will always be the greatest superhero to exist.