In the press of adult life and holding a budget, I had to give up some hobbies. Sadly, reading comic books was one of them, but that doesn’t mean I don’t value the archetypes and characters. Both Superman and Captain Marvel are orphans from a time without many protections for children. Clark’s parents were originally old and Billy has no known parental influence. They both are pure good, considered too good to be interesting.
That is bullshit.
I saw a section of a comic that illuminates why Superman is the model hero, despite the occasional misstep in individual projects and titles: Superman and Captain Marvel
It’s the aftermath.
Some say Clark is a flat and boring character. He has so many powers and no great tragic flaws. Some believe that he has nothing to say for today because he is too nice. But what he keeps over most of his peers is that he retains his compassion and empathy. That isn’t for the approval for the crowd, isn’t because of a lack of standards, but because of his compassion. What happens if the near gods in these universes forget compassion, mercy, and respect for those who don’t have such powers?
Billy has possibly the most tragic origin because he didn’t just have tragedy, but that he is that tragedy. Traces of his 1940’s origin story are still there in the food cans and bare mattress, but he is the product of not just harsh or unfeeling events, but cruel ones made worse by a ‘wise’ man.
Here Shazam throws it back on Clark for Clark to fix, never admitting that he was wrong. The wizard chose Billy, who is expected maintain a standard of good that the wizard cannot. Deprived of emotional support and forced to act beyond his maturity, the wizard is the villain in this tragedy; fate should not require that it arrive today.
Billy is in pain and too much of a victim.
Because this is Clark, he will try to help. He will reach out to help someone in pain. Not because it requires his Kryptonian powers, but because it requires his humanity. There may be stronger characters, there may be character with more exotic powers, and there are many characters who fight their own demons, but Clark helps people.
Superman may be filled with a just wrath but he overcomes that to help a lost boy. Clark doesn’t keep that aggressive entrance to give readers yet another fight. He was enraged a minute ago, but he doesn’t give away his humanity. It may be hard, but he does it. That maturity is his greatest strength, to do the right thing even if it’s hard. He is what we should try to be, someone to help a weeping child in over his head.
That’s why they are called superheroes!