Friedrich Nietzsche first introduced the concept of the Übermensch — often translated in English as “The Superman” — in his influential philosophical work, Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883), writing:
I TEACH YOU THE SUPERMAN. Man is something that is to be surpassed. What have ye done to surpass man?
All beings hitherto have created something beyond themselves: and ye want to be the ebb of that great tide, and would rather go back to the beast than surpass man?…
Lo, I teach you the Superman!
The Superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The Superman SHALL BE the meaning of the earth!
I conjure you, my brethren, REMAIN TRUE TO THE EARTH, and believe not those who speak unto you of superearthly hopes! Poisoners are they, whether they know it or not.
Despisers of life are they, decaying ones and poisoned ones themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so away with them!
Once blasphemy against God was the greatest blasphemy; but God died, and therewith also those blasphemers. To blaspheme the earth is now the dreadfulest sin, and to rate the heart of the unknowable higher than the meaning of the earth!
As Eva Cybulska observes in an article on Philosophy Now, Nietzsche never quite spelled out what he meant by Übermensch/The Superman, leaving it to later interpreters to fill in the blanks. She notes: “RJ Hollingdale (in Nietzsche) saw in Übermensch a man who had organised the chaos within; [Walter] Kaufmann (Nietzsche) a symbol of a man that created his own values, and Carl Jung (Zarathustra’s Seminars) a new ‘God’. For Heidegger it represented humanity that surpassed itself, whilst for the Nazis it became an emblem of the master race.”
You can now add to the list of interpretations another by Alain de Botton’s School of Life. In a newly-released animated video, de Botton treats The Superman as the incarnation of human perfection. Embodying characteristics possessed by Goethe, Montaigne, Voltaire and Napoleon (people who came closest to achieving perfection in Nietzsche’s mind), the Übermenschen/Supermen will live by their own values (Pagan in nature); delight in their superiority and take pity on the weak; perhaps hurt people in the name of achieving great things; accept that suffering can be a necessary evil; use culture to raise the mentality of the society around them; and beyond.
Whether you see The Superman differently is another question. You can download Thus Spake Zarathustra from our Digital Nietzsche collection and come up with your own take.
And, tangentially, you can watch The Original 1940s Superman Cartoon Free Online.