How does superman shave? And other 'Batman v Superman' musings
Posted April 11, 2016
As a boy growing up in a small suburban neighborhood in Los Angeles County, I read a lot of books, listened to a lot of records, watched a lot of TV shows and saw more movies than I can possibly count or remember. And I also read comic books.
Hey, I’m a baby boomer, a child of the 1950s and ’60s, and I make no apologies.
But for those young’uns out there who think I’m too old to identify with their modern comic book fandom, au contraire.
Among the comic books I favored as a kid were Mad Magazine (loved the movie spoofs), Classics Illustrated (I compared them to the novels), Archie (Team Veronica, thank you very much), comic book movie adaptations (“Rio Bravo” was a favorite) and those that offered cartoon depictions of comedians (Jerry Lewis, Abbott & Costello, the Three Stooges).
And when it came to superheroes, I was all about DC Comics, particularly Superman. He had no competition as far as I was concerned. (Spider-Man and the Marvel comics gang came along in the early 1960s after I had outgrown comic books … or thought I had.)
I occasionally read Detective Comics and Batman during my DC period, but it was the Superman comic books I accumulated — Action Comics; Adventure Comics; Superman; Superboy; Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen; Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane; and Supergirl.
Yes, those were all real comic books. And for a decade or more, I was all in.
There was something about the ideal of a tough guy in a red cape and tights who could fly and was impervious to bullets, who stood for justice and could perform the most amazing rescues and stop the most evil villains, and who unabashedly waved the Red, White and Blue.
He was also a sweet, charming, considerate guy, and there was a kind of embedded sunny optimism that appealed to me.
Of course, I was just a kid. I wanted to believe that justice would prevail and bad guys could quickly and easily be brought down. (Yes, I watched “Perry Mason,” too.)
This was before the Cold War boiled over, before the Kennedy assassination, before race riots in my own backyard, before I found myself in Vietnam, before I read “All the President’s Men,” before the fall of Saigon … before the world became so cynical.
Maybe that cynicism is why I stopped reading comic books before my first year in high school, and it’s probably also why today I still like my superheroes a bit sunnier than they seem to be nowadays. Sometimes, I just want to slap Iron Man and tell him to get over it.
When the 1978 “Superman” — or “Superman: The Movie” as the posters would have it — was released, I was all over that. And I didn’t have to go back and read the comics to remind myself about the details. It was all stuffed in the back of my brain, filed under “Childhood Memories.”
But here in the gloomy 21st century, even Superman has to be dark and angst-ridden.
A lot has been written about how dumb the script is for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” from the cumbersome title to the lack of character development, so I won’t rehash all of that.
But here are a few things I noticed that — pardon my falling back on 1950s vernacular — just bugged me.
Why, for example, are terrorism and human trafficking used as plot points? And why is there an image that brings to mind the 9/11 fall of the Twin Towers?
It’s a movie about a frowning, surly flying guy squaring off against another frowning, surly guy in a tricked-out rubber suit (occasionally with a metal helmet).
Invoking real-life tragedies seems lazy and perhaps offensive.
So that’s my rant of outrage. The rest are more frivolous.
For example, why is the title “Batman v Superman” instead of “Superman v Batman”? After all, it is a direct sequel to “Man of Steel” — so much so that the last scene of that film is the first scene of “Batman v Superman.”
Also, do all our superheroes now come with a stubble beard?
OK, maybe Batman doesn’t need to be clean-shaven because, you know, he’s so existentially troubled.
In fact, in “Batman v Superman,” he suffers from such malaise that we have to endure, yet again, nightmarish flashbacks of Bruce Wayne’s parents being shot in front of him when he was a child — several times and in slow motion.
But at one point, even Superman’s angst leads him to sport the stubble look. So what I’d really like to know is, how does Superman shave?
Although the character also had a grouchy demeanor and stubbly appearance in one brief sequence of “Superman III,” up until now I thought perhaps the character’s hair just grew to a certain length and stopped, and that his beard didn’t grow at all. But there he is in “Batman v Superman,” needing a shave.
An episode of “Lois & Clark” a couple of decades ago suggested that Superman shaved by reflecting his own heat vision off a handheld mirror, but I remember seeing that and thinking, “So why didn’t the mirror melt?”
Bill Nye the Science Guy suggests that Superman grinds down his beard with some super-heavy metal object.
Personally, I’m thinking it’s a low-res kryptonite razor.
And finally, when “Batman v Superman” does get around to the climactic title smackdown, after two hours of grimacing and posturing, and a few “you’re not the boss of me” confrontations where they throw empty threats at each other, Batman squares off against Superman, and, well, Superman just wants to talk.
But Batman’s not having it.
“Go take your stupid feelings and share them with Dr. Phil, Mr. Blue Tights!” he shouts. And they abruptly start tossing each other around.
OK, Batman doesn’t really say that … but he could have. And they do toss each other around.
The real surprise is that Wonder Woman doesn’t sigh, roll her eyes and mutter under her breath, “Men!”
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.