Keep Moving Forward, Kinda Like Superman

Jake Thomas
The Outtake
4 min readAug 26, 2020

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May 2007

I’m finishing my bachelor’s degree at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center. For the last four months, I’ve spent endless hours working on student films and group projects. I’m going on three days with no sleep, but the deadlines are done.

The war is won. It’s finally time to fly home.

On the final night of film school, I walk through the Park La Brea complex where students live. Two-story townhouses and apartment towers line the streets. Beyond them both: the Hollywood hills.

I’m surrounded by a metropolis. Traffic horns. Sparkling lights. Skyscrapers. Compared to my hometown, it’s vast.

Home is the Midwest city of Canton, Ohio, one hour south of Cleveland. My parents’ house sits in a wide suburb cradled beside open farmland. Drive 15 minutes in one direction, you’re downtown. Drive 15 minutes the opposite direction, you’re in cow town. Weird juxtaposition.

I’ll return to Canton for one month. Then, I will fly back to this megapolis and get my first industry job. Los Angeles will become my home for 13 years.

H-O-M-E: four heavy letters. And it’s all about to change—kinda like Superman, my inner geek whispers.

I’ve been on a Superman kick lately: revisiting the movies, discovering new books. Something about this character I identify with as I’m finishing college and readying to enter the workforce. What is it? Why now?

At this moment in the evening, I finally understand.

Superman’s origin has been compared to the biblical stories of Moses and Christ, along with the collective story of early 20th-century European immigration to the United States. My origin story lacks such magnitude. The fictional character and I could not be any different.

But at this moment, there’s something I share with the character: I’m transplanting my roots, moving forward to a new home—moving forward to a future.

Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash

Childhood landmarks lie behind me. Avondale Elementary School is no longer just up the street. I won’t run into former classmates from Heritage Christian School at retail stores in the Belden Village mall, or at restaurants in The Strip shopping center on Portage Avenue. I won’t be able to meet friends during closing hours at the Muggswiggz coffee shop.

I have new ground, a future that will resemble nothing from my past, merely by its displaced geography.

In the comics, you’ll recall, baby Kal-El leaves the planet Krypton and crash-lands in Kansas. Now called Clark Kent, the character moves from farmland to Metropolis. His secret hiding place, his Fortress of Solitude, lies in the arctic far from the city. Then, depending on your comics reading list, Superman gets married, has a son, and supports a family. Heck, he even keeps getting new names.

The story of Superman’s life dramatizes progress. Ever moving forward. Looking back for guidance, but never staying put for too long.

I’m still walking the massive apartment complex in the middle of this metropolis. The evening grows late, but my mind is racing.

For the first time in my life, and uncharacteristically for such a nostalgic person, I’m thinking only of my future. By leaving my former home and making a new one in this city, I’m cutting tethers. The horizon now stretches much farther with possibilities.

That’s probably why the comic book character always moves forward: when you gain new perspective, you invite propulsion.

May 2011

It’s four years later. The film industry has weathered a writers’s strike and a recession. I’ve worked a number of odd jobs in the big city.

At this point, I’m recently laid off from being the front-desk receptionist for a visual effects company. Bad timing, because my fiancé and I will marry in September.

I’m at a crossroads. I examine my every choice and ask, Now what? Return home and reset, or keep moving forward?

Coincidentally (or not), this is when I write and direct a short film about Superman. The plot was inspired by a dream. It boils down to a single scene in which a compassionate Clark Kent sits down for a conversation with a runaway teenager and gives her the encouragement to keep moving forward in life.

Both characters are orphans. Both have suffered past trauma. But one of them has a higher perspective: Look. Up here. You have a future. Don’t give up.

One on One: A Superman Story (2012)

Moving Forward

I have felt stuck. I have seen endless roadblocks. I have lain awake at 4:00 AM with the fear that improvement is impossible.

My remedy? A change in perspective.

Small changes. Strolling down an unexplored street. Eating new foods. Writing new stories. Reading new authors. Watching new movies. Asking new questions to old friends. Reframing values.

I tell myself, You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to solve everything. Just keep moving forward—kinda like Superman. Then I smirk, a subtle nod to my inner geek.

Jake Thomas is a writer, filmmaker, and wannabe chef. Along with writing articles and reviews for Fanbase Press, he has toured with the improv comedy groups Spats&Cane and Nice People. To create the perfect evening, he adds a dash of black-and-white movies with a splash of chilled white wine. He’s on Twitter and Instagram, and you can see his work at jakethomasmakesmovies.com.

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Jake Thomas
The Outtake

Relentless reader | Storyteller | Filmmaker | Finding my voice in my nerdy thirties. See my work at jakethomasmakesmovies.com