The most commonly placed criticism towards the superman character is that with his amazing powers that he is simply too powerful to be a good character. People feel as though they always know the outcome of any conflict he is in, and that there is nothing for him to overcome.
This criticism is flawed in two fundamental ways in my humble opinion, first off the man of steels powers are grossly overestimated by his fans (true this varies by continuity) and there is no reason his powers cannot be toned down to more realistic and practical levels (after all batman is not defined as over-powerful because of bat-shark-repellent). And the second reason this argument is flawed his because superman as the protagonist will almost invariably triumph, that is typically how protagonists work in films and other media.
I think that most people blame supermans powers for his issues because his powers and his identity as superman have been greatly focused on over the years. And that is part of the problem, superman has become un-relateable, people have forgotten that he is a man..
Before I start, I must point out that I in no way mean to say that Supes should abandon the Clark Kent identity! I mean that Clark Kent needs to change, when superman was created people lived in small towns and on farms, growing up with ma, pa, and apple pie. Clark Kent was an utterly relatable character that people identified with, he had a normal job even.
But look what has happened to the world, small towns barely exist anymore, farms are mostly owned by corporations, nobody grows up on a farm anymore! As well nobody really has a job as a reporter anymore, the two pillars of Clark Kent have been utterly butchered by time, thus why the focus has shifted to the superman persona. . . which is not relateable at all.
Clark Kent . . . needs to change, in order for him to be a superman he needs to have grown up in the suburbs, have had a life that was difficult with a ma and pa operated small store, his life being constantly pressured. In this modernized setting for Clark Kent we can get to the heart of the character, being pulled towards the city by his desire to help humanity, and away from it by the crushing weight of all that is wrong with the world.
In between worlds, a constant theme of the superman mythos, it needs to be translated into more earthly terms. That is why a suburban environment could have a lot more meaning for the character, as well he would have to control himself greater and it has a lot more dramatic potential for seeing the consequences of his powers.
An aspect that ties into the “between worlds” aspect of superman is his loneliness. Superman was born on krypton, adopted on earth, and truly he doesn’t fit in on either world. He has powers above and beyond those of what people on krypton had under the red sun, and above those of the people of earth.
Imagine, you question your entire life where you come from and why you have these spectacular amazing abilities. And then the truth comes out, that you were not born of this world, the hope that there are others like yourself out there.
But the truth is, Clark Kent had to have been utterly crushed by the revelation that upon krypton nobody had powers like his. That despite discovering where he came from, he still didn’t have answers or anyone to relate too.
It is no wonder he has a fortress of solitude, because he needs time alone to think about his place in the universe. Nobody to understand him, to guide him, or to be with (this is pre-supergirl, krypto, and other kryptonians of course) and two legacies he can hardly manage.
Now imagine how this must be, with all of his powers. He can hear everything around him, so much noise, hundreds of thousands of people all of them completely incapable of understanding him, and the only people who potentially could, are beyond the range of even his hearing now. It’s like being alone in a crowded room, and when he is in his fortress surrounded by the legacy of krypton, he is alone still.
The symbol of humanity.
Consider batman, a highly intelligent super genius human that chose the symbol of the bat to represent his crusade against all the horrible things of humanity. What is the symbol of superman? Probably the closest thing that comes to mind is the “S” the crest of the House of El, a symbol that has long meant hope.
Hope, hope is a theme you will see often with superman. Hope that the legacy of Krypton can survive in this one child of the stars (as the name Kal-el means) but also hope for humanity. Realize this, as Bruce Wayne chose the symbol of the bat, so did Jor-el chose humanity.
Jor-el from krypton looked down upon earth, and instead of seeing all of things wrong with it, he saw the good of it, he saw man helping man. He knew what they could become with time and patience, he saw an indomitable spirit that never gave up, they represented Jor-els hopes and dreams, and perhaps something that kryptonians had lost?
He chose earth, because the essence of humanity was something he wanted his son to have. The drive and the will to be all that he could be, Kal-el was sent to earth to become a human being in a sense. His kryptonian half of his heritage provided the super, the strength, the powers, the intelligence, but it was growing up on earth that gave him the man half.
He is a super man, a man who struggles to maintain all the good parts of humanity and his own kryptonian heritage. He has created an ideal for himself, to strive towards and maintain at all costs. And through this ideal, he achieves wonders and cures his own aching heart. Clark Kent is not a god, with unlimited powers and an outlook on the universe that cannot be replicated, he is and always has been a man and it is time that we remember that.