Who would have ever guessed that there is more to Superman than a clean-cut alter ego and a bright red cape?

Ben Saunders, a professor in the University English Department and author of the recently released book “Do The Gods Wear Capes?: Spirituality, Fantasy, and Superheroes,” admits to asking a similar question himself once upon a time.

“I thought Superman was dull,” Saunders said, emphasizing the word “dull” as he described his childhood interest in the iconic DC Comics character.

On Tuesday, however, at a reading and book signing hosted by The Duck Store, Saunders made it clear that that time has come and gone by leading the audience through a detailed character study and in-depth history of Superman.

Saunders was insistent that Superman is not the cliched, boring, straightforward character that audiences seem to see. The author presented a slide show of comic book panels from Superman comics spanning from its creation in the 1930s all the way until the 1970s, providing examples from each decade that highlighted what Saunders pointed out as a new “good,” a new “evil” and an overall reflection of the ethical dilemmas of the time and culture — and how or how not Superman was able to resolve them.

“The beautiful challenge that Superman sets for his creators and for his audience is the challenge of imagining what an absolute commitment to virtue might look like — if only it were possible,” Saunders said, describing the way Superman must always transform to match the decade’s new vision of virtue and moral authority. “(His challenge) is ultimately the same challenge faced by all serious, ethical philosophers since Aristotle. If you’re in an ethics class, you wouldn’t do so badly asking yourself ‘what would Superman do?’” Saunders finished.

“I’ve never been as enlightened about Superman as I was tonight … I never knew that the earlier Superman existed,” said Will Fitzgerald, a University freshman enrolled in Saunders’ FIG class this term.@@http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=student&d=person&b=name&s=william+fitzgerald@@

Shaun Gilroy, a 36-year-old long-time comic book reader agreed.@@I’m guessing it’s this guy http://www.nerdstock.net/blog/staff/shaun-gilroy/@@

“I’m one of those people who thought Superman was really boring because he was really powerful and there’s nothing he couldn’t do,” he said. “It’s fascinating to me to see these readings of a character and go ‘wow, there’s a lot more to this character than I thought.’”

“Do The Gods Wear Capes?: Spirituality, Fantasy, and Superheroes”@@http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Wear-Capes-Spirituality-Superheroes/dp/082644198X/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1318464701&[email protected]@ is Saunders’ third book and explores the histories, ethics, and philosophy behind other famous comic book characters, such as Wonder Woman, Spider-Man and Iron Man.

“The thing that’s interesting in these art forms is that all of them have a history, but most of us aren’t familiar with what that history is,” Ken O’Connell, a University professor emeritus in the art department and long-time comic fan, said of Saunders’ book.@@http://art-uo.uoregon.edu/faculty/emeritus/oconnellk@@ “Someone like Ben is a great person to have here because he’s looked into these things, he looks at them from different sides … he brings this great research ability to this popular culture figure.”

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