“Superman stands alone. Superman did not become Superman, Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he is Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red S is the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears, the glasses the business suit, that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He’s weak, unsure of himself… he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race”

The word hero is used too much these days.  It doesn’t mean as much as it used to, as far as I am concerned.  If a person dies in a fire, they are a “hero”, despite the fact that their falling asleep with a cigarette in their mouth caused the fire.  Someone in combat happens to die from an exploding piece of shrapnel, even though they were in actually taking a shit while smoking a joint in the latrine, all of a sudden, they are labled a hero.

Like I said, the word hero is used too much.  The people who were killed in either tower of the World Trade Center aren’t necessarily heroes, although the ones who risked life and limb despite the risk to save them are…get me?

So comes forth the idea of the Superhero, you know, the ones we read in comics?   Even though you may have never picked up a comic book in your life, some images, some concepts of a hero bleed over into your real life.

Superman has always been one of those heroes. 

Superman is a character that embodies everything that we aspire to be as humans.  We all wish we could fly, we all wish we could see through objects (or more to the realistic point, people), we all wish that we were stronger, faster, and smarter than we really are. And most importantly…we want to be loved more than anything.  Superman is all these things, the best of what we want for ourselves.  But more important than that, is the need to have something to believe in.  Something that makes us strive for more in our own lives.  We all want the concept of the hero, we have to believe in it, because if we didn’t, what would we aspire to.

Unfortunately, Superman, however popular, is only a fictional character.  Superman has never and will never exist…maybe.

Superman’s popularity over the years has gone beyond that of the comic books.  In his nearly 70 years of existance, Superman has been portrayed in every form of media you can imagine, Radio, Television, Cartoon, and Film.  Many actors have played the character, starting with Bud Collyer in the radio version during the 30’s, Kirk Alyn in the theatrical serials during the same time, George Reeves in the classic 50’s “The Adventures of Superman”, Dean Cain in “Lois and Clark” during the 90’s.  But one man, one actor, so closely portrayed the character that he resonated (and was ultimately typecast) with audiences around the globe…Christopher Reeve.

In 1977, when Superman the Movie was being cast, the producers wanted to go with a virtual unknown, the part of Superman, they felt, was bigger than any A-list actor.  They wanted to perpetuate the myth by casting an unknown.  They hit the Jackpot with a 20-something Ivy League drama major.

For four films (love them or hate them, and I loved them all), Christopher Reeve WAS Superman.  When people saw him on the street, he would be mobbed, especially by children, because he was the character, the one who meant the most to them.  Although it affected his career, he never let the typecast anger him.  Christopher Reeve was a charming, and self-effacing individual, never being too self-important to say hi to a fan, just as he did for me, in 1984 when I visited New York with my grandparents.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  I was with them as we walked up Broadway, and then I saw him.  Being only 7 years old, I didn’t have complete grasp of the difference between actor and character, so when I saw Christopher Reeve walk out of a theatre, I bellowed, “SUPERMAN! SUPERMAN!”, Reeve stopped, looked over and smiled at the expression of a young kid.  As my grandfather recalled to me this morning, he bent down, shook my hand, and said something to the effect of, “Nah, I’m just Chris, but it’s nice to know I have a fan.”  He got up, nodded to my grandparents, and hailed a cab.

As far as I cared, he could have just flown away, just like he did in the movies.  It was one of the greatest things that had ever happened to me.

In May of 1995, I woke up one morning, happy to be freshly graduated from High School, and I heard some depressing news: “Superman Actor Christopher Reeve critically injured in horseriding accident.”  What the fuck?  How can that happen?  I mean Superman couldn’t be hurt that way, not by falling off a horse…

The events after that tragedy cemented the man as a real hero, a real Superman.  I remember reading the book he put out in 1998, his second book to be exact, called “Still Me”.  In reading about his life, and the struggles of being a quadraplegic, I felt great sorrow for him, but then I realized that he was beyond that, beyond pity.  To me, he was Superman now, he fought the fight no one said he could ever, ever win.  He fought, and never withdrew.  He changed his life from actor to crusader, and the world, including myself, were humbled by his strength and tenacity under such extreme odds.

Everyone rejoiced when reports came out that he was beginning to regain sensation in areas and limbs where there had been none.  Doctors reported that his progress was unprecedented by anyone who had a similar injury.  We all believe that someday, somehow, Christopher Reeve, OUR Superman, would walk again.

Sadly, someday will never come.

When I woke up this morning, I went to CNN, just like I do every morning, and my heart was broken.  Superman lost.  Why would it bother me that a man who I don’t personally know died?  I was bothered because I saw a hero fall this morning.  We all lost a hero, and not in the passive sense.  A man more helpless than you or I fought valiently, more valiently against something he had no possibility of beating, but yet he continued to fight, not just for himself, but for the millions of others who were just like him.  That is why I cried this morning.

As far as I am concerned, Christopher Reeve is a critique on the rest of the human race.  He is and should be our standard.  I am going to miss him, and I am going to miss his brand of hope…


6 responses

  1. Thanks for the beautiful recollection. Christopher Reeve has been and will always be, to me, a Super Man. Amen to that. RIP.

    October 11, 2004 at 12:24 pm

  2. This post was beautiful, the reason you felt sadness this morning is the same reason I did.  I think millions of people will mourn for the same reason, the falling of a true hero.  Your last few sentences brought tears to my eyes.  Like always, you have such a strong talent to touch peoples hearts and get them thinking.

    October 11, 2004 at 2:11 pm

  3. Anonymous

    You’re my hero
    Someday will come.

    October 12, 2004 at 3:14 am

  4. I can believe it. 

    October 12, 2004 at 4:56 pm

  5. It was shocking, almost unbelievable and I think that is what strikes us.  This almost infallible man is first paralyzed so severely but perservered and struggled for so long that it is a complete shock that he died. 
    As for baseball …. hmmmm.. I think this might be the Sox year.  But I thought that last year … so, um, who knows …

    October 12, 2004 at 7:02 pm

  6. Nicely done.
    I’m glad he’s out of his misery, because the last 9 or so years have just been unnecessary torture for the man.

    October 12, 2004 at 7:14 pm

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