"Inspired" by the recent Tiger Woods gossip, I started thinking about character issues when it comes to super-hero characters. Modern comics are chock-full of heroes with significant personal defects, most pointedly in various Image books like "Dynamo 5" (five bastard children of a Superman analogue, each having inherited one of the father's powers) and "Noble Causes" (super-hero family soap opera), or the Millar-Hitch "Ultimates" stories (wife-beating, philandering, treason, etc.).
Big Blue, however, has long since been untouchable in that regard. Whatever else he is, Superman has always had not just the best super-powers, but the most stringent and inspiring personal code of ethics. Except for the lying about his identity and the various bits of Super-Dickery documented on SuperDickery.com, of course. But hey, that was mostly in the Golden Age, and you can hardly harsh on a guy in a world that also had Bulletdogs getting flung out of windows.
So I wondered how you would personally feel if Superman were revealed to have had a serious personal failing in a non-super-related event:
The question brings up a lot of issues. What does it mean to be a hero? What relevance does a person's non-public actions have to his or her public duties? How much weight do we give a person's failings when compared to their successes? How much of ourselves do we let get wrapped up in our idols?
For me personally, I don't think it would diminish my respect for him as a defender of the public good, if that's what you consider his "job" to be. I'd still think he's great for, you know, keeping Brainiac from blowing up the planet or Luthor from enslaving us. Stacked up against that kind of thing, what he does sexually with whom is small potatoes.
Part of what makes Superman, Superman, is the idea that he's not just the best anyone could be in terms of physical prowess, but also in terms of moral prowess. The latter is almost more important than his physical greatness because no one, no matter how hard they work out, can stop bullets with their skin. But we can each hope to be the best moral creature we can be.
So on those terms, yes, I'd lose some respect for him as a person, if not as a public defender.
Another facet to consider is whether this is Earth-2 married Superman, or just Superman and Lois "having a good time". It shouldn't matter in terms of betraying a trust, but on the one hand there's a vow taken, and in the other something a level below that.
Anyway, what do you think?