Glen Weldon Superman’s biographer), in the New Republic, traces the Man of Steel’s history and the changes to his persona and characteristics over the decades which mirrored those of America’s changing culture.
Seventy-five years ago, every red-blooded American kid read comic books.
Churned out on cheap paper, these comics sold for ten cents a pop, a not inconsiderable amount of money considering that the Great Depression still hung in the nationâ€™s doorway like a party guest who canâ€™t take a hint. In exchange for their dimes, kids could spend an entire afternoon at the movies, gorge themselves at the soda fountain, or take home a comic ablaze with the four-color adventures of Tarzan, Buck Rogers, Popeye and other well-known strips hastily reprinted from the newspaper funny pages.
Then came Action Comics #1.
Like the other comics of its day, Action adopted an anthology format, offering eleven different features of varying length. These features, however, were different. They were, for the first time, original stories starring brand new characters. Despite their brawny, evocative namesâ€”Scoop Scanlon! Sticky-Mitt Stimson! Pep Morgan! Chuck Dawson, Fastest Gun in the West!â€”none of them would last.
Well. Except one.
The guy on the cover? That circus strongman hefting a green Studebaker over his head? That guy?
Heâ€™d hang around. In fact, heâ€™d do much more than that. Scant months after Supermanâ€™s debut as the lead feature of Action #1, he would leap from the comics page into the funny pages and from there into the toy box, onto the radio, the movie screen, and the television. Over the course of a 75-year multimedia push, he would transcend the various media that convey him and infiltrate the collective consciousness of the country, and the world. He would construct his own archetype, powered by a uniquely American fuel mixture: our power and privilege, our violence and spectacle, our noblest ideals.
Read the whole thing.
I predict that Superman will go Gay, and have an affair with Archie in 2020.
Of course, the best take on Superman comes from Bill: