The second half of Eco's essay doesn't just deal with Superman but also gets at a common feature of a lot of modern literature: in novels, television and comics. The problem is that when people want the similar they want something repeated but repeated in a way that isn't too different and isn't too same. If we look at Superman in terms of a meaning the way we might look at a myth this leads us to the odd conclusion that we both want to know the meaning and yet simultaneously don't want to know the meaning. (This is, perhaps, an other manifestation of story being under a kind of erasure that I mentioned previously)
It remains to be asked if modern iterative mechanisms do not answer some profound need in contemporary man and, therefore, do not seem more justifiable and better motivated than we are inclined to admit at first glance.
If we examine the iterative scheme from a structural point of view, we realize that we are in the presence of a typical high-redundancy message. A novel by Souvestre and Allain or by Rex Stout is a message which informs us very little and which, on the contrary, thanks to the use of redundant elements, keeps hammering away at the same meaning which we have peacefully acquired upon reading the first work of the series . . . The taste for the iterative scheme is presented then as a taste for redundance. The hunger for entertaining narrative based upon these mechanisms is a hunger for redundance. From this viewpoint, the greater part of popular narrative is a narrative of redundance. (120)
The problem is not to ask ourselves if different ideological contents conveyed by the same narrative scheme can elicit different effects. Rather and iterative scheme becomes and remains that only to the extent that the scheme sustains and expresses a world; we realize this even more, once we understand how the world has the same configuration as the structure which expressed it. The case of Superman reconfirms this hypothesis. If we examine the ideological contents of Superman stories, we realize that, on the one hand, that content sustains itself and functions communicatively thanks to the narrative structure; on the other hand, the stories help define their expressive structure as the circular, static conveyance of a pedagogic message which is substantially immobilistic. (122)
It is interesting to me to consider this relative to myth which is also a "static conveyance" but one in which the world is not conveyed. (At least in my opinion) That is the main difference between quasi-historic narratives like Superman or even typical television shows and myth is that the former have a world. Myths are, in a real fashion, de-worlded. They attempt to be almost platonic ideals told in a narrative form. They are structural elements somehow divorced from what allows us to understand them. Math divorced from physics as it were.
If this is true then Superman is characteristic of a fairly significant development in human culture and communication. Of course it doesn't originate with Superman. One can find it in the literature prior to him such as Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan stories. Yet it seems undeniable that at the end of the 19th and early 20th century this genre developed. In a way Superman is a kind of culmination of that art form. The very extremes in the character which let us question the Superman myth help illustrate the structures of this art form in itself. Instead of communicating types we communicate worlds but in the repetitive fashion that characterized myth and ritual in the ancient world.
The developing Tarzan stories make a great example and contrast to Superman. He goes from a youth to a married tribal warlord of sorts, while remaining primally himself.
Good perspective shot to illustrate the metaphor.