I’ve heard it said that Superman is a hard character to write for, since he’s so powerful and finding a good foe or challenge for him can be something of a task. I say, “Bull!” Writing for Superman is EXTREMELY easy! You can tell how easy it is if you read some of his graphic novels or watch some of his movies, because they all tend to do at least ONE of the following five things–usually more.
1. Make a lot of allusions to Superman being like Jesus. Because, you know, Superman and Jesus are totally alike. Personally, my favorite parts of the Bible are when Jesus busts through the walls of the Hebrew temple, melts the swords of the Romans with his heat vision, and freezes the Sea of Galilee with his ice breath right before walking out on it. Therefore, be sure to toss in all kinds of allusions to how Kal-El is like the Son of God. It makes perfect sense. Last of an extinct alien race raised on Earth by adoptive parents to grow up and become an indestructible man flying around in his pajamas vs. one-third of a triune, creator deity, born of a virgin, sent to die for the salvation of mankind. To-may-to, to-mah-to.
2. Give Superman some kind of power, skill, or ability on a deistic level. It’s a common misconception that Superman is too powerful. He’s actually not powerful enough. Being bulletproof, the ability to fly, vision powers, breath powers, super speed, super strength–all child’s play. When you’re writing your story, feel free to make some new power up. Anything. Actually, the bigger the better. We’ve seen new powers as small as erasing memories with a kiss, to as large as creating alternate universes inside the Fortress of Solitude. Feel free to go beyond that, even (though it is tough to think about going much bigger than creating LIFE). The beauty of understanding this about Superman is that he’s a walking deus ex machina. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to write yourself into any corner with this guy.
3. Destroy the Fortress of Solitude. Oh yeah, it’s got to go. First, don’t ask yourself if it’s been destroyed before–not important. Just blow the damn thing up. Have someone trash it. Have a meteor smash it. Have a ball! What’s a Fortress of Solitude if Superman is alone there all the time and no one knows about it? Make it common knowledge, and then have them DESTROY IT. Couldn’t be simpler. And be sure to get to it quick, too. Don’t waste your precious story time establishing it as a true place of refuge for the Man of Steel. Just assume everyone already knows about it, have the bad guy show up, and BOOM goes the fortress. Observe below:
4. Have some Kryptonians show up. It’s really very logical when you think about it. Part of Superman’s character is there’s a deep lonliness in him because his entire race, his entire planet, no longer exists. He’s the last Kryptonian. So what better twist than to have some stray Kryptonians show up? I mean, if General Zod was such a huge hit, then MORE Kryptonians equals Superman story gold! Yet we can’t have EVERYONE come out of the Phantom Zone. Just say they were wandering the galaxy somehow or somewhere. Without a spaceship. Oh, sure, there’s the fact that Superman gets his power because of the light from our yellow sun, so Kryptonians wandering around in space away from yellow stars doesn’t actually make any sense–but so what? Just write it.
5. Do not, under any circumstances, bother with the difference between “dark and brooding” and “confident and serious.” No one likes a hero who has it all together, right? I mean, since the mid-1970’s, all of our heroes in comic books and action movies have been nothing but good-hearted, charming, stand-up citizens. . . . BORing. We need heroes that are conflicted and moody and lonely and disturbed and, oh what’s that word the kids are using these days . . . “emo.” The point of all of this is to help you understand how writing for Superman is easy, so trying to figure out the right balance between smiling altruist and “humanity” is out of the question. That’s too hard. That would require paying attention to his motivations to justify non-happy emotions, like anger. Instead, just make him dark and angry all the time, OR make him really sad and whiny. Your choice!