Tomorrow, Christians all around the world will celebrate Good Friday, commemorating Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. For decades fans, commentators, and movie reviewers have identified striking similarities between Superman and Jesus. Few stories illustrate Superman’s Christlikeness better than The Death of Superman. I write about this in the following excerpt from my soon-to-be release book, Holy Heroes: Comics, Cosplay and Christianity:
I will never forget a chilly Wednesday afternoon in November of 1992. My dad drove me to the comic book store to buy the newest issue of Superman. I never saw anything like it. The line at the comic book store stretched out the door and around the corner as customers waited for hours to get a copy of the issue that sold millions. When I finally made it to the front of the line, the store owner reached beneath the counter and handed me the coveted collector’s edition of Superman #75.
In the story that resulted in the Man of Steel’s murder, a mysterious monster imprisoned far below the surface of the Earth breaks free and wreaks havoc all over the Midwest. This hulking behemoth collapses an interstate overpass, demolishes an 18-wheeler in a head on collision with his fist, and aimlessly destroys whatever catches his eye. A bystander describes him as, “the devil incarnate ushering in the end of the world!” One of the other heroes, who try and fail to stop him, dubs the monster Doomsday.
Superman is the only hero strong enough to face the ferocious beast in a battle that stretches across six issues and several states. Full-page panels decorated each page, stressing the hugeness of the story. As their mêlée reaches Metropolis, streets are demolished, cars are hurled, and the indestructible fighters crash through buildings. Their final punches send shockwaves, shattering the glass from nearby windows. Bruised and bloody, Superman refuses to give up. Finally, he puts every ounce of strength into one last blow. Like weary boxers, the two contenders collide and then collapse onto the broken pavement.
On the last page, in an image reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Pietà, Lois whispers to Superman, “You stopped him! You saved us all!” Then the leaf folds out into a three-page splash as Superman dies in Lois’ arms.
I’ll be honest with you. I cried when I read that story. Superman was my hero, yet there he lay—broken and lifeless. It shattered my eleven-year-old heart. This story and this image defined for me what it meant to be a hero.
Meanwhile, I was also reading my Bible and listening closely to the stories I would hear in Sunday School about a hero sent from above to save the world. I made a connection between the two. Superman became the bridge that Jesus walked across.
What Superman did in that comic book, Jesus did in reality. The monster may have been different, but the outcome was the same. The Bible says, “When we were unable to help ourselves, at the moment of our need, Christ died for us, although we were living against God. Very few people will die to save the life of someone else. Although perhaps for a good person someone might possibly die. But God shows his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:6-8 NCV).
This is why Jesus is my superhero! He wants to be your hero, too. As we observe Good Friday and remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, let me encourage you to embrace Jesus as your own heavenly hero. If you’re not sure how to do that, I’d love to help. Better yet, find a Bible-believing church to attend this Easter.