The title of this article is a quote from JLA #4, written by Grant Morrison. The Flash, Wonder Woman, and Superman are all having a conversation regarding humankind. It is mentioned that humankind must be allowed to climb towards their own destiny. The Flash then questions why the heroes even have to be there for them at all. “To catch them if they fall,” Superman replies. Why does Superman, a Kryptonian, feel this way about humans? Why does he feel the need to be there for everybody and be a worldwide savior? This article will attempt to answer these questions, and many more, as we explore the inner workings of the Man of Steel’s mind.
Something that is often overlooked in regards to Superman is that he is an alien. He is, at his core, an outsider that must do everything he can to fit in and be human. Of course, this is made easier by having an identical appearance to humans. But an argument can be made that his desire to fit in is more psychological than physical. Take, for instance, his developing a secret identity. Clark Kent was developed to hide his alien nature. As exhibited so perfectly by the actor Christopher Reeves in the original Superman films, he alters his personality and physicality to create Clark and make him more acceptable to human society. As Kent, Superman is a bumbling, clumsy, timid guy that can’t seem to catch a break. This sharp contrast to his true persona alone shows just how determined he is to fit in with us Earthlings.
Now take that same strong desire to fit in here on Earth, and transfer it to an omnipotent, invulnerable, nearly omniscient alien being. Not so easy to fit in on Earth now, huh? As Superman, there is absolutely no way that he can fit in here on Earth. He is ultimately forced to take a god like role amongst humans. Taking on this role has its consequences. For one, Superman is truly alone. Throughout the Superman mythos, it has been touched upon just how alone Superman feels on Earth. We all know Supes doesn’t mind spending time alone. I mean, he’s not on Batman’s level of anti-social behavior, but Superman does have his own pad located in one of the most remote parts of Earth called the “Fortress of Solitude.” So we can see how he at times feels isolated and alone. This is the persona that Superman truly dislikes. He is unable to fit in. As Superman, his inner most desires go unfulfilled.
Superman’s strong desire to fit in with humans, exhibited by his developing the identity of Clark Kent, and his taking on a god like role while donning the Superman persona, has allowed Superman to develop a Masochistic Personality Disorder. Masochistic Personality Disorder is defined by the American Psychological Association as a personality disorder in which individuals persistently and characteristically obtain gratification or freedom from guilt feelings as a consequence of humiliation, self-derogation, self-sacrifice, wallowing in misery, and, in some instances, submitting to sadistic acts. Superman’s strong desire to fit in with humanity, and subsequent inability to, is the driving force in the development of his guilt feelings. Thus he sacrifices himself to gain freedom from those feelings of guilt. That is why he feels the need to always be there for humanity, to “catch them if they fall.”