Grant Morrison explains Superman's connection to solar myths

Nowadays, everywhere you look, there's a newer, more evil version of Superman offering some half-hearted commentary on how absolute power corrupts absolutely. Aside from being so anodyne that the entirety of their existence can be reduced to a cliché, these Supermen variants that flood our screens fundamentally miss the character's point. He's a personification of the life-preserving nature of the sun. 

When they're not intent on making him villainous, or at the very least sinister, Superman adaptations usually saddle the character with Jesus metaphors aplenty. Drawing parallels between the inherently biblical framing of Superman's mythos and the story of Christ doesn't take much thought. However, analyzing the symbolic association that both Jesus and Superman have with the sun creates a more compelling connection. 

Practically everyone knows about the overt revisions made to the story of Jesus to help him comply with the rich tradition of solar messiahs from around the world. In an attempt to unify their population, Roman leaders merged their beloved Saturnalia- a celebration of the winter solstice and the pagan god Mithra- with the birth of Christ to create Christmas. In doing so, Jesus slyly snuck behind the velvet rope of the solar messiah club to eventually become the owner. Superman's infiltration into the club happened similarly. Throughout the first few decades of his publication, Superman's powers were a byproduct of his Kryptonian biology and had nothing to do with the sun. Over time, in an attempt to lend more "scientific credence," writers revised Superman's physiology so that he would gain abilities by absorbing Earth's yellow sun.

Like Jesus, the transition afforded Superman a second lease on life and a more resolute metaphor around which writers could craft his mythos. As Joseph Campbell- author of the Hero With a Thousand Faces– states, "myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths." To paraphrase the meaning of the maxim, when stories, specifically myths, drift away from the clarity of their central metaphor, their hold on the public's consciousness loosens proportionally. As the influx of evil Superman archetypes suggests, the character's connection to his central metaphor is in tremendous disrepair. Whenever writers make Superman villainous, it indicates that they're seeking to subvert Superman's iconic status as a heroic figure for shock value, or they're utterly bereft of ideas. This particular brand of creative bankruptcy stems from their own faulty understanding of the character's central metaphor. Is it any coincidence that one of the most celebrated Superman stories, where the character effortlessly embodies the beloved heroism that has always defined him, intentionally melds all the great solar myths into one narrative?

In the video linked above, Grant Morrison, writer of the extraordinary All-Star Superman, breaks down what makes Superman tick and why so many writers feel the need to make him more "badass."