Superman is the one most often singled out as a stand-in for Christ, but is he really?
Through the years, a few aspects of the Superman character have remained consistent:
* he comes from another planet
* his power comes from his alien nature
* he uses his power to save the innocent and punish the guilty
* he inspires others to better their own lives
As a symbolic representation of Christ, Superman fails in several ways that really matter.
Jesus came to us from a divine origin. Superman's origins are rooted in humanism - all accounts of Krypton have that society as having developed technological and physical perfection. In spite of this perfection, the destruction of the race was caused by moral and intellectual flaws of intolerance and hubris.
Jesus power over nature comes from a natural authority over creation, so that creation obeyed his will. Superman uses power derived from physical and technological superiority to impose his will over nature without nature's consent. The embodiment here is one of triumph over adversity, not sovreignty.
Jesus purpose on Earth was to redeem the guilty and bring the realization of sin to those who believe themselves innocent. Superman saves innocent and guilty alike from the consequences of internal and external evil, but always makes sure that consequences of another sort are visited upon the guilty.
Jesus purpose was to redeem humanity from the consequences of inherent sin. He does this out of love for humanity and in obedience to the Father. Jesus obligation is to the Father, and humanity's obligation is to Jesus. Superman is often seen absorbing the consequences of evil in place of others, this is portrayed as a civic and moral duty of the strong to the weak. Superman is at fault if he fails to act, he is obligated to humanity, while humanity itself is under no obligation to address the moral failings of themselves or others.
Jesus lesson to humanity was, "You are flawed, you need a savior." Superman's lesson to humanity is, "Do your best to be a good person."
If Superman is a messianic figure, it is only in the eyes of secular producers and consumers who do not understand religion in general or Christianity in specific. The character embodies many good things, and represents values we hold dear, but the message is one of morality, humility, civic duty, and self-empowerment, and not of salvation. Like Superman, you too can be a *good* person through selflessness and hard work.
As messiahs, superheroes are simply not up to par. What then, is the literary purpose of the hero in reformed theology? Any takers?