June 22, 2021

#08-099: Superman

50s-style color photo of Superman; a woman stands behind him, while a man points a gun at his belly. Other men look on.
George Reeves as Superman

Note: Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's the first modern superhero, the "gold standard" for all others.

Get Ready: Why must even the strongest of heroes, like Achilles and his heel, need a weakness, a vulnerability?

The story is simple enough. Kal-El is born to alien scientists on the planet Krypton just before it is destroyed. His parents send him to earth in a small spaceship, which lands in America's heartland, where the baby is discovered by a childless couple, Jonathan and Martha Kent.

They name him Clark and raise him on their farm just outside of Smallville, Kansas. It's not long before they notice that the infant has some unusual powers: he is incredibly fast and strong; his skin is impervious to puncture; and he can see through objects at will with his "X-ray vision." The Kents work hard to ensure that young Clark keeps his real identity a secret, and will use his powers only on the side of good. He thus becomes Superman, the first modern superhero and the standard against which all others are measured.

The grown-up Clark Kent moves to the city of Metropolis, where he becomes a "mild-mannered" reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper. There, he can keep an eye on events, and intervene when necessary. He is in love with another reporter, Lois Lane, but she only has eyes for Superman! (Oh, the irony!) Also at the paper are Clark's editor Perry White, and the staff photographer Jimmy Olsen.

Clark is a real milquetoast. He wears large eyeglasses and drab suits. He walks with a slouch and speaks in a gentle voice. He avoids confrontation so thoroughly that he develops a reputation as a sort of coward.

But when trouble calls, he becomes Superman: he removes his suit and underneath it is a costume (made by his earthly mother from the Kryptonian cloth of his baby blankets) blazoned with a large "S." He stands up straight, speaks with authority, and, in short, becomes every inch the hero. Even his hairstyle becomes more roguish. Everyone is fooled.

You might think a dashing hero like Superman is indestructible, but you'd be wrong. He has one weakness, like the heel of Achilles: Kryptonite, a green crystal coming, like baby Kal-El, from the planet Krypton. It arrived on earth in a meteorite, and its radiation weakens Superman. He needed a weakness, though, to keep things interesting. As one editor put it, "Superman's invulnerability was boring."

Kryptonite proves to be a boon, of course, to Superman's arch-enemy: Lex Luthor.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superman

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. blazoned
  2. boon
  3. crystal
  4. drab
  5. heartland
  6. intervene
  7. milquetoast
  8. radiation
  9. roguish
  10. slouch

  1. a great benefit
  2. conspicuously marked
  3. a bent-over posture
  4. energy emitted from a material
  5. the central area
  6. get involved
  7. playfully handsome
  8. dull; boring
  9. timid, unassertive person
  10. a transparent piece of mineral

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for June 22, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. b; 2. a; 3. j; 4. h; 5. e; 6. f; 7. i; 8. d; 9. g; 10. c