Superman is one of the most iconic superheroes of all time; a paragon of morality and virtue who never could quite figure out the knack to wearing a pair of knickers. Yet despite his super powers, he remains somewhat bland. He will always be a mild mannered farm boy with all the common sense of the demented offspring of the runners up of a “where’s my nose” competition.
Need a fool proof disguise to prevent the entire population of the world from discovering your true identity? Pop on a pair of glasses. Have the ability to move at speeds so fast, no one would notice if you nipped home to get changed? Just wear a lycra onesie all the time – B.O. be damned! Give him all the gritty reboots you want, but having him finally figure out that tiny red panties go on the inside isn’t enough to change decades of mundane, strait-laced superiority.
Enter the Shaw Brothers with the first superhero movie to come out of China: The Super Inframan or, literally translated, Chinese Superman.
There isn’t a single extra-terrestrial baby in sight as our hero is simply a man who gets one hell of an upgrade after prehistoric monsters in the bowels of the Earth decide they want out and will destroy everything topside until the entire human race submits to their will. Capitalising on the popularity of TV shows like Ultraman and Kamen Rider that featured giant monsters and transforming superheroes, Super Inframan is pitted against a myriad of powerful subordinates, all serving the Demon Princess Elzebub, who is herself a dragon monster that can morph into a hot, albeit evil, blonde.
Here are 8 reasons why the Shaw Brothers Chinese Superman trumps DC’s creation:
1. Origin Story
Kal-El was just a squirming, squealing, poop machine when he was shipped off from a dying Krypton and jettisoned into the vacuum of space by the most irresponsible parents in the universe. His super powers are a mere by-product of existing in our particular solar system.
Super Inframan on the other hand is a product of terrestrial science. We know this because the chap who dreamt up the blue prints is a professor who just happens to run Science Headquarters – the centre of all science on the planet it would seem. He selects his best SH officer for the transformation into the saviour of humanity after Elzebub makes her plans known to the world. Lei Ma, much like Steve Rogers, willingly gives himself over to science for the betterment of mankind and undergoes an arduous process that involves serum and a vague project X ‘we’re replacing your soft, gooey innards with some hardcore shit’ vibe to become the Super Inframan. That’s certainly a much nobler endeavour than some passive wrinkly pink baby without a clue about what’s going on outside of its nappy.
2. Innate Ability
It has become apparent over the years that without his powers, Superman is just an average Joe. In Superman vs. Muhammed Ali, he has to receive training to learn how to fight but despite that, he still gets an ass whooping. Of course, that would happen to any poor sod that was whisked away for a spot of training for all of 5 minutes and then thrown into the ring with a professional boxer and that’s why this storyline proved more than anything, that when robbed of the powers imbued by our Solar System’s yellow sun, Superman was just a regular, unexceptional guy.
Lei Ma on the other hand is holding down a job at the most prestigious and influential centre for science known to man and is a kung fu master. Super intelligent and a super bad ass – and that’s before the upgrade. The professor may have given him a fancy costume and installed a few gadgets in the suit, but the rest is all Lei Ma.
Being a near indestructible being battling crazy bad guys can raise a lot of ethical questions; “This maniac has just killed a bunch of innocent people but does he deserve to die? Who am I to make that decision?” Superman is stuffed to the brim with good intentions and strict moral values and for the most part, will not kill a nemesis and that’s why he’s constantly plagued by a plethora of nutters who just keep coming back for more. At some point he’s got to be asking himself if all of that grief is worth it. But doing anything else would shatter his moral compass and so continues his inner struggle as he temporarily rids the world of evil in the most humane way possible.
When Super Inframan is faced with a psychotic bad guy bent on a murderous rampage, he doesn’t sit around wringing his hands about what the ‘right’ thing to do is. Could this evil dragon lady, if rehabilitated, lead a long happy life and swear never to trouble humanity again? Doubtful… Laser attack! Even after the first five attempts at decapitations, Super Inframan doesn’t succumb to tears over his actions. He ups the ante with thunder fist and double laser attack!
There’s no questioning of morals or ethics or general faffing about with his thumb up his arse. Super Inframan gets the job done. Evildoers don’t casually massacre innocent people on the off chance that they’ll get a stern talking to and a slap on the wrist if they get caught. Don’t do the crime if you can’t withstand getting your head lopped off a half dozen times. Lei Ma has a nice, simple, work ethic that leaves his conscience unmarred and the world a truly safer place.
4. Back Up
A luxury barely afforded to most Superheroes, all criminal hi-jinks fall under the realm of a single hero who has to quash it solo. While it’s true that holding back the forces of evil on his own should hardly have Superman breaking a sweat, it sure would be nice and a lot less lonely if he had, oh I don’t know, a crack team of kung fu pals at his back….
As it turns out, everyone that works at Science Headquarters is trained in dishing out ass-whoopings like it’s going out of fashion. A deadly squad of fighters all equipped with their own silver gogo boots and scooters form Super Inframan’s back up motorcycle gang. What kind of hero would turn that kind of support down?
5. Villains and their Evil Lairs
These days a bad guy just has to have enough money to buy a swish pad and throw some wads of cash in the general direction of the nearest charity and the populous has the wool pulled over their eyes. This is to the severe dismay of the hero who has to go to great lengths to prove that the magnanimous bald guy is actually a sociopath obsessed with crushing him in some deranged vendetta that began because, as it turns out, the guy was really attached to his hair. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if the bad guy has a sign right outside that said ‘murderous bastard resides here’?
Well there’s certainly no need for signs when they take up residence in a dragon shaped mountain called Mount Devil, strewn with the bones of their vanquished foes and broadcast messages of their plans for the imminent destruction of all life on the planet.
“What’s that? You want to blow up a philanthropist’s batchelor pad because you think he’s evil? You’re nicked sonny Jim! Wait – he lives in a giant dragon head sculpted from a mountain littered with rotting corpses and he said he wants to wipe out the human race? Give me that dynamite. We’ll blow that sumbitch to hell!” And that’s just how easy it would be.
6. The Masses
Despite his years of tireless service to the people of Metropolis, how is it that a man in a bright blue and red spandex suit is still being confused with birds and planes?
Taking into account the scale and flight patterns of each of those object, you have to question just what these people have been smoking to jump from “Hey Gerald, is that a bird?” to “No, wait…it could be a plane. You know a huge man made vessel hundreds of times bigger than any bird and with no feathers whatsoever” before they finally get their shit together and realise that what they’re looking at is a flying person “Oh right! It’s only that guy that wears all that brightly coloured lycra and flies around saving people. Hey Gerald…where did you say you got this crack from?”
The residents in the world of Super Inframan are infinitely more switched on than their Metropolis counterparts. Bearing in mind that they have no idea that a superhero has just been cobbled together by the professor of all things science, when Inframan somersaults onto the scene, momentarily affecting a heroic pose for their benefit, they know exactly what’s happening and who this spiffy looking fellow is.
7. Action and Stunts
As we already saw, Superman isn’t much of a fighter. Some might say learning an arsenal of basic combat techniques is a waste of time for a man who’s near invincible. Others might say that makes him a lazy, pompous arse. But in the Superman movies of yore, Kal El didn’t branch out much in the field of fisticuffs and in more recent years, CGI action has negated the need for anyone to be doing much stunt work. And that’s why Super Inframan triumphs, with multiple choreographed fight scenes, stunt men being tossed around like ragdolls and the combined power of martial arts movie actors Danny Lee and Bruce Le.
As a rule, anything can be improved upon by the inclusion of giant monsters. Even DC rolled out a King Kong clone with Titano, a great big ape that could shoot Kryptonite lasers from its eyeballs and mecha monkey Grogamesh.
But you know what makes supersized monsters even better? Supersized superheroes. Super Inframan possesses the ability to balloon in size to match his gargantuan foes making for epic kaiju battles with a fitting end for the abominable monsters.
So there you have it – eight reasons why our henshin hero is better than big blue boy scout. Do you think the Shaw Brothers have Supes beat or does the man of steel come out on top?
We dare you to buy Super Inframan DVD!
Author Gamer Girl is a podcast co-host on FrontTowardsGamer Radio. It is highly recommended you follow her on Twitter.
Previously in Poison Popcorn: 5 Reasons Why Ben Affleck as Batman isn’t so Terrible. See previous Poison Popcorns right fucking here!