Planet Superman: An ecocritical analysis of the Man of Steel from 1938-2017

Planet Superman is a critical examination of the DC comic book superhero Superman as analyzed through an ecocritical lens. The primary argument is that, within the world of DC Comics, Superman is single-handedly capable of ending all of the Earth’s various ecological crises using his very existence as a solar battery or using his superhuman power to become a totalitarian despot that enforces the law through superior firepower. I calculate Superman’s greatest feat of energy output to prove how much solar energy is actively dormant within the Man of Steel. Using the several “versions” of Superman throughout his 79 year career (Golden Age, Silver/Bronze Age, and Modern/New Age), I argue how DC Comics has changed the character to meet the needs and values of the era he was being written in, but purposefully do not have him solve all of the world’s environmental problems for mankind. Using eco-critical theorists such as Cheryll Glotfelty, Ursula K. Le Guin, Glen Love, and Frederick Turner, this thesis poses and answers the questions of whether or not Superman saving humanity time and time again has actually made him antagonistic to the environment as a whole or if he is simply delaying the inevitable annihilation of man through their own wasteful and ecologically destructive methods—similar to how his own planet Krypton was destroyed. The question answered is whether or not human beings are a species that can save themselves or if they must be helpless bystanders as they wait on a “Superman” to do it for them.