That’s right, there is something even Superman with all his strength, all his speed, all his flight, all his super breath/freeze breath, all his heat vision and all of his impenetrable body simply cannot do. And that which he cannot do is his greatest internal conflict: he can’t save everyone.
There’s the surface level aspect to this; he is unable to be everywhere at once, so undoubtedly someone or someone(s) are going to fall beyond the shadow cast by this magnanimous alien. Then there is the far deeper and personal point: there are some things even Superman cannot prevent. For instance, in most iterations of the Jonathan Kent character, he dies of a heart attack. Superman cannot stop a heart attack. He may be able to super speed someone to the nearest hospital in record time, but he cannot stop the heart attack the same way he could, say, stop a large boulder from crushing Jonathan.
Bear witness to one of the most emotional Superman panels I’ve ever read from All-Star Superman. I legitimately cannot read it without getting choked up. Every. Single. Time.
Now let’s dig deeper on this. I was listening to Kevin Smith’s podcast yesterday and he spoke about how he once was pegged to write a Superman live-adaptation film script. He talked about how he wanted to focus some on the Superman/Lois dynamic and he brought up a truly fascinating point: how can they have a relationship in a literal sense? For instance, say they’re out on a typical date night and Superman stays there at the establishment for even thirty minutes to enjoy his time with Lois. How many people around the world would die in those thirty minutes sans the assistance of Superman?
I mean, on one hand, it’s awful to condemn Superman to a loveless life (and Lois too), but how does the logistics of this work? Does Superman come to accept that he has a margin of error of 4% or something? I’m only half-joking. After the death of his father due to a heart attack, does Clark just come to accept that he can’t conceivably save everyone all the time everywhere?
This fascinates me at least.