I remember conversing with an artsy friend of mine: He showed me a character he was working on and half jokingly challenged that she could beat me in a fight. I protested that I was real while she was fictitious, but this didn’t seem to figure into his calculations. She was a powerful warrior. On a different vein, a professor of mine recently cited Tom Bombadil as the coolest character in the Lord of the Rings. His reasoning: Tom Bombadil is the most powerful character.
Now, I love Superman stories, and am not one to drone on about how the narrative tension is destroyed by Kal-El’s godlike powers, but I feel a real sense of frustration when powerful is equated with cool.
Reality can have a hard time of it when compared to the imagination: Who doesn’t want a world in which men can fly, where right always wins, and favorite childhood restaurants still serve food as good as you remember? (Honestly, I just want a hamburger to taste like hamburgers used to taste).
As an unrepentant daydreamer, I think I know something which can easily be forgotten: Imagination is best as it reflects reality. I love fantasy novels, but so often, even the great ones have no connection to reality. They say nothing of humanity nor of nature. Serving only as a pleasant dream, they are empty.
Fiction can and deserves to be real. There can be stories of Superman which are real, which reflect and express something of reality. I can’t think of any at the moment, but it has been a very long time since I read or watched any superman media. (Am I just evolving into an old geezer? Maybe I need to pick up a comic book again).
Where am I going with all this? I find it a creative blackhole to simply make a powerful character, or to simply make powerful challenges. Even when the world-building is perfect, and everything makes logical sense, if the character, the challenge, or the situation has nothing to do with reality, then it is meaningless.