Overthinking It: Superman’s Fighting Skills – Appropriate or Lame?

I profess my love for Superman on a somewhat regular basis. Though I can’t fly, or lift a car over my head, I try to uphold the ideals he stands for daily: helping those in need, doing the right thing, being an inspiration to others. I think the world would be a much better place if, every day, more people tried to be like Superman.

There is one thing that annoys the hell out of me about Superman though:

He’s a brawler.

As fighting ability goes, there is no denying that he has some skill. What he doesn’t have, that I wish he did, is training!! Imagine for a second how powerful he would be if he had even a small portion of the fighting ability of Batman.

About the only superhero whose modern incarnation has super strength and combat training, is Wonder Woman. (She is a trained warrior and I’m sure the Amazons have an ancient fighting style she’s learned.)

Logically it makes sense on several levels that he does not have that skill. Why would you need to learn blocks and dodges when you have super speed and can just step out of the way? Why would you need to learn how to plant yourself properly to deliver more force in your punches and kicks when you can punch a hole in a mountain? It does bother me though. Superheroes may fight as a last resort (theoretically) but they do regularly fight as part of their hero calling, so some skill and training, you would think, would be beneficial.

In many Superman stories he is portrayed as so powerful that he has to hold back while fighting because he doesn’t want to injure his foes; or the stories have the plot device that his opponents have severely underestimated his abilities until he “takes things to the next level”, which is fun to read. Occasionally though, he does have to go full out in a fight and it would be interesting (to me, anyway) to see him employ some sort of technique other than standing toe to toe with his equally powerful enemy and throwing punches until one of them falls down.

I’d love to see Superman use his strength and grapple someone, or The Flash using his speed to hit pressure points and nerve clusters in a fight. I know that there is a balance, what heroes lack in power they make up for in skill, and vice-versa, but I’d love to see more superheroes with incredible power AND incredible skill.

I suppose we can’t have our heroes with too much power, or there wouldn’t be any genuine stakes in their stories. They need to have weaknesses and flaws or we wouldn’t be able to relate to them, but while I admit it wouldn’t look as good on a comic book page…….

…..I’d still love to see Superman subdue someone with an armbar.