Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Superman must decide if colors are good


Superman Red and Blue is a wonderfully fun compilation of stories spanning his different versions, eras, continuities, and genre. The gimmick is that all of the stories use only variations of blue and red, although most stories also allow black, and white (as in white space).

The book’s only all black and white (no red or blue) story, readers are given the reason for the color gimmick. 

In the story, “Human Colors” Superman discovers an entity from the fifth dimension has stolen color from our dimension. Not being truly good or evil, the entity returns the colors to Superman with a question - should you really release them back into your world? The entity advises Superman that while colors did seem to make the world more interesting, they also seemed to bring pain and suffering. 

“It’s possible you’ll think you were better off like this.” 

Colors obviously become a metaphor for various emotions, or at least the intensity of those emotions. Thus, we are left to wonder how important and how harmful are our emotions? Are the risks and realized harm of our deepest feelings worth the joy and goodness they bring?

To make the decision more difficult, no one remembers that colors existed. The story illustrates how difficult it is to describe or explain something that no one has experienced. Like Paul trying to describe Heaven, or like Jesus describing a world of love and sharing, Superman is unable to articulate a clear definition and explanation of what had gone missing.

Superman falls back on shared experience to explain our loss. Asking, “Do you remember we used to sit and watch the sunrise? Why did we bother? It’s only…That?” When remembering the sense of awe and wonder felt as watching a simple, everyday sunrise, and now feeling the loss of that wonder, we might also ask - what changed?

We might also ask ourselves what once brought us wonder and awe, but now seems insignificant? What was stolen from us? Can we, or should we pursue it? When did we see it last and could it still be there, waiting for us to care enough to retrieve it?

Spoiler alert!  After consulting with friends and family, Superman comes to a decision, he will let two colors out and back out into the world. He determined that he could let out two colors and see what kind of effect these colors had on the world. But which two colors to let loose?

Superman’s wife in the story, Lois Lane, relates that Superman chose red, the color of love, anger, fire, and bloodshed and the color blue, representing sadness, music, water and blood not shed. In the end, Superman chose to give us the colors of humanity - to first restore our humanity before considering anything else. Maybe because without humanity, we cannot enjoy the rest of the colors. Maybe being human is the key to accepting and embracing everything else.

Another spoiler alert.

The final pages of the book deviate from the red and blue theme dramatically but demonstrating what happens when we embrace all of the colors, or all of the people in our life. 

Reminding us of a recent storyline, Superman reveals his real identity to the world. Determining to build greater trust and transparency, Superman claims his Clark Kent identity. Yes, Baby-Boomers, I know this feels like a betrayal of the Superman you grew up with and love but give it a beat and the stories that follow will delight you and spoiler alert within a spoiler alert, the reveal is actually short-lived. Superman’s secret identity is once again a secret.

The point of this storyline’s inclusion is that Superman’s courage to own who he really is inspires a boy to come out to his family and let them know that he is gay. Sure, we’re not as important as Superman, but we can still inspire those around us when we live truthfully and embrace our most authentic selves. 

Maybe this was how some of Jesus’ followers felt when he asked them to do as He was doing (Matthew 20:25-28, John 13:13-16). Living the grace that God has provided to us through His Son seems like the best way to inspire others to live better and to become curious about the God we serve. 

May we all choose to embrace all of the colors, acknowledging the beauty and horror that is visible in all of us.

by John Ridley (Author), Brandon Easton (Author), Henry Clayton (Illustrator), Steven Lieber (Illustrator)

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