DC Comics are celebrating Superman's 80th birthday today, and I suppose it's as good a time as any (the copyright date of Action Comics no. 1 is April 18 1938, though it probably didn't hit the stores until a couple of weeks later - and of course the story had been written and drawn years earlier, and repeatedly rewritten and redrawn as Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster tried to get someone to publish it), so let's all take a moment to cheer for the world's greatest superhero!
A lot of people talk about Superman as if the guiding creative philosophy behind him is "Wouldn't it be nice if I could fly?". That's a long way off beam - if you read the earliest comic stories, it's obvious that Superman is all about "If I could hit people without them being able to hit me back, I could make the world a better place!". Which is a worthy kind of view too, I suppose, but it's not what most people think of when they think of Superman.
He's not about saving the world from natural disasters, let alone Lex Luthor's evil schemes, at first. In that first published story (which reads like what it is; a chopped-up newspaper comic strip arbitrarily cut down to size to fit in a comic book - most comics were like that at the time, the only difference here was that Superman had never been actually published in a newspaper strip; they'd all rejected it!) he applies his ability to hit people to save a woman wrongly accused of murder, beat up a wife-beater to teach him a lesson, rescue Lois Lane from the unwelcome attentions of a thug, and get half-way through exposing a crooked senator. It's almost comically rough around the edges, but you can still see why it was such a sensation right from the start!
Where would the world be today without Superman? And why can so few people write good Superman comics nowadays? Any old idiot can (and regularly does) write Batman, but the modern approach to Superman all too often takes the Batman approach of "have him be beaten to a pulp but still somehow win in the end", which requires a flood of enemies of ridiculous power-levels. A good Superman story has Superman be by far more powerful than the bad guys, but still keeps the reader's interest by being clever and exciting! You can't really get away with the 1930s approach of him making the bad guys confess by threatening to kill them (it's surprising that that ever stood up in court...), but you can still make him the unequivocally-moral-and-good hero who's entirely indestructible and tell a good story if you really put your mind to it!