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ssohail's picture


It’s not a bird. It’s not a plane. It’s, uh...Superman?

That’s right. It’s the superhero of the skies...Clark Kent turned Superman! We’re so used to seeing this guy with his cape billowing, fist raised as he flies high, fighting crime. But Mel Ramos paints a pretty different picture compared to what DC comics would approve. No, this is a more stolid version of Superman. A pensive Superman. 

There’s no question as to why someone would want to paint Superman. He’s a do-gooder from an alien land who fights crime and all he’s gotta do to complete his metamorphosis from journalist to a caped crusader is tear off his geeky glasses (a nifty disguise!) and rip open his button-down. Presto! The ultimate fantasy of escape for all those who wanna bust up some bad guys in their own lives. Of course, that interpretation didn’t really appeal to Mel Ramos, who decided to pick Superman as his subject for altogether different reasons: “I painted Superman. No, Batman was the first one. I decided to just go, ‘The hell with it. I’m going to be an artist. I’ll paint whatever the hell I want.’ I started paying attention to the comics I had—the guys who drew those comics were really incredible. I did a celebration of comic book heroes, in a heraldic way, the way Gainsborough would do a portrait.” That’ll work, too.

But he didn’t just paint Superman like he was featured in the comic books, much like his Pop movement contemporary Roy Lichtenstein. He painted Superman in anything but a dynamic pose. His fists clenched, sure, but not raised at an enemy or up in victory-flight mode. He stands by his lonesome, stares out of the frame, and looks somewhere in between wary and weary. Almost as though he’s been battling for a while and is now standing around like, “Ugghhh, MORE criminals? Can’t a guy catch a break? I just wanna Netflix and chill…” Could be the post-war Superman who is simply beat from all the work he’s had to do on his own? Remember, Superman was a big seller during WW2. It was pictures of him battling the bad guys that was solid reading material for soldiers in the trenches, and made them identify with this golden boy. Looks like he grew tired of all the inspirational combat he was constantly getting into. But in spite of looking jaded and lonely, at least he didn’t let himself go completely. Well done on that toned bod, Superman. Don’t give in to carbs...