FEATURE: Why Goku and Superman Aren’t The Same

Greetings, WOBAMers! Here’s the sitch: I was supposed to have a Story Bake collab video ready to go for you faithful audience members. And… it almost is. But life happened. And when life happens, video editing can’t happen. So hang tight: that video is still on the way faster than you can go Super Sayan. But I didn’t wanna leave you hanging for our 7 Days of Shonen Jump.

One of the things in my upcoming video that I touch upon is the idea among fandom that Goku and Superman are the same character with a different coat of paint. On the surface, there’s some merit to this idea: they’re both orphaned aliens, who’s planets exploded; both were sent to Earth, raised by humans, and grew up to be the protectors of Earth. Pretty straightforward, right?


On a fundamental level, Superman is the All-American Hero. He’s a selfless dogooder who does the right thing because it’s right; and even when he’s wrong, his actions still see him trying to do the right thing. Superman runs away from killing; he never craves the fight.

Goku is the opposite on every count. Goku is selfish in the Japanese sense; he does right as a byproduct of ambition, not because he seeks it; when he’s wrong, he gets out of it by fighting. Goku isn’t afraid to kill under the right circumstances; he ALWAYS craves the fight.

How pop culture decided two completely different characters were the same still astounds me. It’s almost like saying Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Picard are the same because they’re both captains with British accents who like funny drinks. Goku = Superman is a thing people say because it’s an easy way to compare two icons. But if we examine them closely, the comparison crumble.

Goku is the byproduct of Japanese culture in the post-atomic era. His arc, his outlook, both come from the same era that spawned hits like Akira. At a time when Japan was still looking for their place in the world, Son Goku offered escape. Goku said you can be whatever you want to be as long as you work hard for it.

Superman emerged in a time when America was a happier place. We had less stuff, fewer things to complain about. Good was good and bad was bad, and men like Clark Kent could leave their reporting jobs on a dime to save a helpless nobody from the clutches of an evildoer.

There’s nothing wrong with these differences in character. In my book, there’s plenty of room to appreciate a man in tights who shoots eyeball lasers AND a karate guy who tears of up jack with Kie blasts and raw strength. I’d say the world is better off with Goku and Superman being so different. More fans get to enjoy what they love. More people are inspired. And more stories amazing get told.

Ask me about Myst.

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