The Walking Dead Makes the Case for Superman

Would you believe that at the center of one of the most gruesome, violent comics published in [...]

The Walking Dead and Superman

Would you believe that at the center of one of the most gruesome, violent comics published in recent memory you can find the answer to that old theoretical question of what Superman offers in today's world? One of the central arguments at the center of Robert Kirkman's and AMC's The Walking Dead is whether Rick Grimes and his group of survivors can retain their humanity in the face of a world that tries to rob them of it every day and enemies who will do anything to get a win. The answer, over and over again, is that we have to, or we're no better than "them," whether "they" are The Governor and his Woodbury Army or the hordes of the undead. The most recent episode of AMC's The Walking Dead reinforced that central theme--that it's important to have a moral code in the world of The Walking Dead and that, no matter how much Monday morning quarterbacking you might get from the fans when you make the hard decisions, it's the people who choose, over and over again, to do the right thing who are the standard others aspire to--even the others who mock them. Merle, who constantly talked about how Rick didn't have the guts to go through with the deal with the Governor and surrender Michonne, seemed to struggle all episode with the possibility that maybe having the "guts" to do something like that wasn't actually a good thing, and that at the end of the day, it isn't who he wanted to be. He quietly admires, and follows, his younger brother who has been won over to Rick's way of thinking, and who is one of the only ones to stand up to Rick when "Officer Friendly" starts to betray his own values. In fact, Daryl's plea that "this isn't us," echoed by Hershel and ultimately winning over Rick, reminds me a bit of the scene in Mark Waid and Alex Ross's classic Kingdom Come, in which Superman--pushed to his breaking point by circumstance--nears his moral event horizon and has to be pulled back from the brink. Rick, like Superman, inspires those around him so much that even when he himself is tempted to go the wrong way, there are those at his side who can use his own lessons to put him back on track. It's interesting because while Superman has lost some of his cultural cache both as a character and as a comic, the biggest stories in entertainment are things like the Dark Knight Trilogy and The Walking Dead, both of which take many of Superman's classic lessons to heart.