I think, for a lot of children, there's a predisposition to like Superman; he's friendly, wears bright primary colours, has instant brand recognition and is ubiquitous. Yes, he's just like Ronald McDonald. However, from a writer's point of view, Superman is to me an awful character. If you think that's harsh, even DC Comics have killed him off numerous times.
The problem I have with the Man of Steel is that he's just too powerful. It's not entirely his fault - being the first comic book super-hero, his creators threw the kitchen sink at him. Super speed, super strength, super breath, flight, heat-vision, x-ray eyes. . . yawn. The challenge as a writer is that there is nothing to truly test him so you get ridiculous villains and equally silly plots. In short, he's dull.
As if all this wasn't bad enough, Superman also had Super Pets. I knew of Krypto the Superdog, but Super Cat, Super Monkey and Super Horse were new ones for me.
Certainly, there's mileage in a story about an alien with godlike powers which ends up on earth but I struggle with Superman being for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from humans, yet able to travel faster than light (which you'd think would end most fights before they began) and willing to let atrocities happen without intervening. If you followed things through to their logical conclusion, this all-powerful being would rule the planet and subjugate humankind for our own benefit.
A recent series explored the possibility of Superman's spacecraft landing in Soviet Russia instead of the US and him growing up as a Russian icon. How about a storyline in which a black Superman lands in the American South during slavery?
Yes, I know it's foolish of me to debate the 'real-life' implications of a cartoon character but what this all comes back to is relatability and vulnerability. As humans, we are all flawed and our tragedy is to stand in our own poop while looking up at the stars in wonder. Every great MG hero has failings - Harry Potter is impulsive; Lyra Belacqua is stubborn; Kizzy Lovell is prickly - but these flaws make them recognisably human and readers can see the consequences and learn from them.
Unfortunately, for me, Superman's lack of any weakness - moral, physical or mental - makes him as appealing as a lump of rock.
Even the ancient Greeks knew that we like our gods to be as vain, petty and foolish as we are.
And I haven't even mentioned the costume!