“It’s never as bad as it seems. You’re much stronger than you think you are. Trust me.”
Superman has always been my favorite character in fiction. When I was growing up I wanted to be him, and I thought that one day maybe I could be. People would always say the idea was ridiculous, “What?!? Superman?!? The all-powerful alien demi-god? Not a chance! How about Batman? If you worked really hard you could be Batman! He’s a human!”
Don’t get me wrong, Batman is the coolest. I love Batman, but I think it highly unlikely that anyone will ever see me (a nerdy actor) as the living embodiment of vengeance and justice. But Superman… I could be Superman…because he isn’t an all-powerful alien; he’s the most human of all of us.
Grant Morrison’s unfathomably excellent “All-Star Superman” features possibly the greatest Superman moment of all time. It’s only five panels long. A young woman, bereft of hope, stands upon the ledge of a tall building. With tears in her eyes, she prepares to take one final step. All is lost to her. It is there, in her darkest moment, that a kind reassuring voice is there to say three golden and undying sentences: “It’s never as bad as it seems. You’re much stronger than you think you are. Trust me.”
Of course, it’s Superman and once again he has saved the day. Maybe it’s not as grand as saving the Multiverse, or as epic as punching Darkseid in the face, but this moment there on the ledge is essential. It boils Superman down to his essence. Superman, at his best, shows us that being a hero isn’t about being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. It isn’t about having the courage to stand up to gods. It’s about being there when someone needs you most. Being a hero is believing in someone who doesn’t believe in themselves. Being a hero is showing someone that there is hope, and that hope is worth fighting for.
I could never be Batman. No one will ever see me as the world’s greatest detective, or the guardian of the night. But for one minute (and all it takes is one minute)…we will all have the chance to be Superman for somebody…and it’s vitally important that you rise to that occasion.
Here’s to 80 years of looking up to the sky in wonder and to many, many more to come.
Cameron Cuffe plays Superman’s grandfather, Seg-El, on DC’s new TV series, Krypton. Follow him on Twitter at @thecameroncuffe. Krypton airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. CST) on Syfy.