That’s right. February 29th, Leap Day, is widely considered to be Superman’s birthday. Sure, other dates have been refereed to in the near 80 years of the comics but today is the day most accepted by fans and creators as the birth date of the Man of Steel. That’s how he keeps looking so youthful. He only ages one year every four.
As the first costumed super hero Superman has had his share of ups and downs. There have been missteps and misguided takes over the years. Sometimes he’s honestly been a bit lame. Cooler heroes have come along. More heralded villains too. Superman’s impact was diminished. In the comics Batman himself said, “the last time you really inspired anyone was when you were dead.” Ouch. Yet true.
But that might be Superman’s greatest power. Inspiration. There’s a reason why Metropolis is always portrayed as the city of the future. Because the red and blue flying in the sky every day drives every citizen within to push themselves higher.
This strange visitor from another planet is inspired by all that humanity is and all it has the potential to become. He could easily rule the planet and subjugate all. Yet he serves instead. Valuing every life. Treating everyone as an equal. His biggest issue with most of his rogues gallery is how beings of great power choose to use that gift in evil ways.
It doesn’t matter that he is but one man. Even with all of his powers he can’t be everywhere nor help every one. But he doesn’t have to. Because every day one of his selfless acts inspires another person to don a bright costume and apply their unique talents and gifts for the greater good.
From comics into the real world. From Christopher Reeve to Shaquielle O’Neal. Men and women see something in that stylized “S” that drives them to push past what they thought was the limit. To live their lives with a certain code. To extend that inspiration from the printed page, to their public lives, to countless lives in the real world.
Superman doesn’t need to be dark, grim, gritty, or any other comic book buzz terms. He needs to show up and have everyone, hero or villain, take notice and rise of fall based solely on his mere presence.
Making people want to be their best whether it’s me, a little boy next to me with the middle name Clark, or millions of other lives over the decades is Superman’s greatest feat. Happy Leap Day birthday to the man who can leap tall buildings in a single bound.