It's All About Context: All-Star Superman #10

I think most comic book fans have seen it.  A young, androgynous punk/goth named Regan drops a phone from a perch atop a Metropolis skyscraper.  We learn quickly this phone was on the other end of a conversation we've witnessed a couple times previously in All-Star Superman #10, but from the perspective of Regan's therapist, who has been delayed from meeting his suicidal patient.  Superman shows up to let Regan know that the therapist was trying to get there and gives words of encouragement, punctuated by an embrace.

The girl on the ledge has become a symbol for many of everything that is right about Superman and a clarion call for suicide prevention.  It's been called the greatest moment in comics.  It's been called heartwarming.   It's been held up as an example of how Superman is accepting of everyone.  It is a wonderful mechanism for opening up a discussion about suicide.  To many, it defines why Superman is a hero

I think this shows how kind Superman is, but to truly appreciate his heroism, you have to consider the context for that page.  Specifically, you have to remember what happened on the page prior:

Superman is dying.  That's the trigger for the entire All-Star Superman miniseries.  And here he is telling the woman he loves that he'll be dead soon.  He is breaking her heart (and his), letting her know that they'll never have a family together.  "We could... never have more than this," he tells her.  She tries to comfort him: "There's always a way.  That's what you always say."  And at that point he rushes to save Regan.

This to me is the true act of heroism.  Superman recognizes he is fighting a lost cause and that he will die soon.  He has to give up his greatest love and admit that they'll never have what he (and Lois) have dreamed of.  And yet he can tell Regan that, "it's never as bad as it seems," and mean it.  Because he's Superman.  Someone who does not stop fighting for lost causes until the very end.  Someone who, regardless of how badly he himself is hurting, thinks of others.  This is what makes him a hero.

Grant Morrison gives us another example of this elsewhere in the same issue.  Van Zee and other scientists from Kandor enter Superman's bloodstream to try to fight his condition.  All they succeed in doing is slowing it down.  But that's okay with Superman.  He had just needed things to slow down enough to do what he needed to accomplish that day.  But the work was not for naught: because while he could not be cured by the Kandorian approach, the people of Earth could.

And that's starting with the kids that Superman took time out of one of his last remaining days to take on an adventure, as showed at the beginning of the issue:

Thinking of others when you don't need to think of yourself is kindness.  Thinking of others despite your own suffering is heroic.  Giving your all when your all is all you have is heroism.  And that's our Superman.

JL Franke is a fan of both hard science fiction and hard fantasy.  He has been collecting comics for over 40 years and has been an on-and-off active member of online fandom for 25.  Those interested can find other writings at his personal blog,  When not geeking out, you may find him at a baseball park or cheering on his favorite college and pro football teams.  In his spare time, he is chief scientist for a research and development laboratory somewhere in the Washington, DC greater metropolitan area.
It's All About Context: All-Star Superman #10 It's All About Context: All-Star Superman #10 Reviewed by JL Franke on Thursday, March 22, 2018 Rating: 5
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