As pressures on superheroes mount, Superman fights back — with help from Oprah

Illustration of Superman's increasing woes.
(Daniel Sulzberg/For the Times)

It’s been a rough year for superheroes.

The long-awaited four-hour Zack Snyder version of “Justice League” has audiences demanding their time back. Batman acknowledged he “may have played a role” in animal-to-human transmission of the coronavirus. The former Little Miss Muffet, now a 47-year-old attorney, accused Spider-Man of bullying her as a child. Aquaman and the Green Hornet, forced to work remotely, said they were struggling to fight crime via Zoom. And the Lone Ranger was cited for wearing his mask improperly.

Now, activists are decrying Warner Bros.’ plans for a new Superman movie.

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane …

No, it’s box office kryptonite.

Although superhero films have made some Oscars headway in recent years (“Black Panther” was up for best picture in 2019, and Heath Ledger snagged the supporting actor prize for 2008’s “The Dark Knight”), critics fear that Superman could damage the comic book oeuvre.

In 2021, the Man of Steel is hopelessly outdated, they say. The litany of problems includes:


— Multiple me-too allegations related to Superman’s X-ray vision.

— Proliferation of drones makes flying more hazardous.

— As mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent in an era of massive newspaper layoffs, he now has to write so many stories per day that he doesn’t have time to save anyone.

— The Fortress of Solitude, his Arctic hideaway, is melting from global warming.

— His dedication to “truth, justice and the American way” is increasingly viewed as nationalistic.

— Longtime slogan “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive” is stolen by California Gov. Gavin Newsom in an attempt to resurrect the bullet train.

— Smartphone videos of him roughing up Lex Luthor and other criminals spur growing “Defund Superman” movement.


— Republicans demand deportation after discovering he immigrated to Smallville illegally.

— Superhuman sense of hearing is denounced by privacy advocates.

— Ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound is hampered by weight gain from pandemic Netflix bingeing.

— Rising steel tariffs force him to become the Man of Anodized Aluminum.

But Superman is fighting back. This week, he and Lois Lane sat down for a two-hour interview with Oprah Winfrey and revealed that Lois quit the Daily Planet after editor Perry White raised concerns about the couple having a “mixed-galaxy” baby.

Superman also acknowledged that his upcoming film might not get an Oscar but said Warner Bros. was optimistic about the Golden Globes and planned to pressure the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. to add members from other planets.