Welcome to another blog from the bog by an arm chair culture vulture whom gets his info from Wikipedia, the utmost reliable source for idiots. I may not be right, but I want you to tell me why.
Today, Friedrich Nietzsche’s Übermensch, or as we have sloppily translated it, the superman.
The Übermensch, or Overman, or Beyond-Man, is, as Wikipedia puts it, “a goal for humanity to set for itself”(1), or the next step for the human race (not to be confused with evolution). BUT which super hero (or villain) has the closest characteristics to Nietzsche’s (see right) Übermensch.
Let’s start with the obvious choice. Übermensch first appeared in Nietzsche’s book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, published in 1896, however it was not translated into English until 1909 where the term Übermensch was translated as “Superman”.
Although, the “Superman” was later renamed it led to the DC super hero of the same name. Any un-read fool would then infer that the former resident of planet Krypton is the Übermensch, but you could be wrong. As comicbookmovie.com points out, “He could be seen as an alien invader trying to conquer humanity, but he is moral”(2), and him sticking to human morals formed from Christian values is something, according to Nietzsche, that the Übermensch would not do.
What about the other DC favourite? First of all, I feel I need to explain something. According to Nietzsche, the ideal future human is someone who makes their own values and is independently minded: “the Übermensch acts to create new values within the moral vacuum of nihilism, there is nothing that this creative act would not justify”(1) said Wikipedia.
Does this make Batman the Übermensch? It could be said that the Dark Knight follows his own morals in the vacuum of nihilism, i.e. Gotham. Plus the Übermensch must allow themselves to be lonely, for the “herd” or common man could not understand them.
“The worst enemy you can encounter will also be you, yourself; you lie in wait for yourself in caves and forests” (3) p48
That’s a quote from Thus Spoke Zarathustra. AND Batman lives in a cave! And he struggles with his inner demons a.k.a. the death of his parents! Well this was easy. Batman wins it.
But then, Nietzsche did suggest that the Beyond-man would be able to accept suffering just as much as beauty and as one of the most “emo” super heroes, Batman does mope around a lot, plus I don’t think the Übermensch would have nipples in their costumes.
“What is the ape to man? A laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the Übermensch: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment…” (3) p.8
“HULK SMASH” sounds pretty ape-ish to me #justsayin’
Now this is interesting. Comicvine.com puts forward a very strong argument that Lex Luther, not Superman is the real Übermensch.
“Lex Luthor really is the ultimate man–a man who can and has achieved all and more that a man is capable of.” (4)
And does it say that the Übermensch has to be a good person?
The only trouble with the Luthor theory is that it is his jealousy towards Superman as a God like alien that is his downfall and jealousy is just soooo uncool, man. Nietzsche calls it “Ressentiment” and explains how one sees ‘the enemy’ as the evil one, “from which he then evolves, as an afterthought and pendant, a ‘good one’—himself!” (5), which is not becoming of a true Overman who must accept foe as well as friends. Be humble.
As the new movie is coming up (if you are reading this before 2016), let us consider Deadpool. Co-Creator Fabian Nicieza stated of Deadpool’s sexuality, that “he is NO sex and ALL sexes. He is yours and everyone else’s” (6), sounds to me like someone with no thought for morals. Plus, Deadpool suffered from Cancer but was able to beat it and become a stronger person, with the power to naturally heal any wound so he never dies – a possible next step for the human race?
And Deadpool is NOT a mutant, but a human, which is a must if you want to be nominated for future human. Finally, in the comics he breaks the fourth wall, speaking to the audience whilst making references to other comic book characters – so uber-meta!
However, he did not become a better person through intellect and power, but through the super secretive Weapon X programme, you know, the one that made Wolverine a bit metal. Deadpool did not use his own will to power in order to achieve greatness but evolved through science.
YES, ok, Dr. Manhattan, from the almighty Watchmen comic book also evolved due to science (gone wrong), HOWEVER the big difference between Deadpool and Doc’ Manhat’ is that the big blue super hero learns even as he is a super hero, and by the end of the novel he becomes what you could consider the “Beyond-Man”.
Do we have a winner?
I think it is fair to say that the Watchmen takes place in the moral vacuum of nihilism (the cold war), and Doctor Manhattan does have to go to extremes to create peace, overseeing the villain’s destruction while going against standard morals, accepting suffering and being misunderstood in the process.
“Whoever climbs the highest mountains laughs at all tragic plays and tragic realities.” (3) p. 115
Doctor Manhattan is able to see the beauty in human life, comparing the creation of human life to a “thermodynamic miracle” (7) that has just as much chance of happening, in theory as “oxygen spontaneously becoming gold” (7).
“I say unto you: one must still have chaos in onself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” (3) p.11
Watchmen ends with evil villain (and possible Ubermensch candidate), Ozymandias, killing millions and although fellow heroes, Rorschach and Night Owl, do not understand, Doctor Manhattan can see that even though it is a tragedy, it makes the USA and the USSR settle their differences and find some sort of peace, for the time being. He’s the hero the world deserves, to coin a phrase.
But Doctor Manhattan, much like the Ubermensch, knows that “fate…can be described as Amor Fati…culminated in the conception of the ‘Eternal Recurrence’” (8) and that history as we know it just keeps going round and round. In facing that brutal truth, instead of moping around or breaking a fourth wall, Manhattan is able to accept this fate.
“There is no future. There is no past. Do you see? Time is simultaneous, an intricately structured jewel that humans insist on viewing one edge at a time, when the whole design is visible in every facet.” (7)
Is Doctor Manhattan the true Ubermensch? Maybe, maybe it is Batman, or Deadpool. It does not have to be a man either! Catwoman? Jean Grey? It seems that every super hero has a little bit of the Overman inside of them. Perhaps Nietszche’s design for the next human was a blue print for comic book writers across the world.
Nietszche’s views have a habit of being picked up by all kinds of people, from angsty teenagers, to feminists, comic book writers and even Nazis. His opinion is as great as his moustache and just as wiry. And it can be discussed for many many hours. So go ahead and discuss…
Thanks for reading.
3. Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All and None By Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche Algora Publishing, 2003 (originally published 1896)
5. On the Genealogy of Morals/Ecco Homo By Nietzsche Vintage Bookx 2010 (first published 1908)
7. Watchmen by Alan Moore Published by DC Comics 1986