On the occasion of the visit of the well-known author Frank Miller at event Heroes Comic within Madrid, some media echoed the same. One of them spoke of the comic heroes with and Miller’s presence in it, claiming he was the creator of Batman and Superman. Miller was not responsible for the Dark Knight or the man of steel. Here you will find out everything about the origin of the father of superheroes. A character that served as an inspiration for the film version of Justice League, where he is played by Henry Cavil. Although Christopher Reeve would be the first to play Krypton’s Last Son on the big screen.
The context in which Superman was forged: The Great Depression and World War II
In 1939, nine years after the Great Depression caused by the collapse of Wall Street, there were still dangerous famine situations in the United States, resulting from the failure of banks and the loss of jobs and homes. I think this sounds familiar.
Moreover, on the old continent, specifically in Germany, there had been the rise to power of the dictator Adolf Hitler, which would lead to World War II.
With the great villains on the scene, namely, poverty, corruption, and tyranny, one of the creative responses of the so-called “Free World” was Superman. To be more precise, it was too timid and imaginative creatives from Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, science fiction fans, who shaped an ideal, the first superhero, in Action Comic #1 (1938).
- Superman’s abilities in their origins
Superman had the power to jump up to 200 meters, was faster than a train; his strength was comparable to that of the legendary Hercules and his impenetrable skin. This scourge of corruption could not yet fly, or orbit the world at the speed of sound, or stop the flow of time. That would come later. In its origins, its abilities were almost credible, explained by the fact that the gravity of its home planet, Krypton, was far superior to that of Earth. So any Krypton Ian would feel like us on the Moon.
- Location of Superman: Metropolis
Siegel and Shuster placed their adventures in a contemporary city, similar to New York, which they called Metropolis. A fictitious town with the same injustices of the real world, which made him the hero of the people. The original Superman was a humanitarian response to the fears of the Great Depression as uncontrolled scientific advances, political corruption, or an illegal business class.
- The appearance of Superman
Superman’s appearance was based on the circus forceps of the 1930s. Both showman’s Cape and boots, belt or tight spandex were inspired by the circus costumes and helped to emphasize the spectacularity of their adventures. This image, along with its logo on the chest and the patriotic tone of its colors, contributed to Superman being recognizable, intriguing, and marketable.
- Clark Kent, as opposed to Superman
And before Peter Parker, Spider-Man’s alter ego, he made his way into Clark Kent. A total disguise, being his personality opposed to that of Superman, to protect his loved ones and allow him to lead a healthy life.
- Superman’s jump to other headlines and media
The concept of the superhero that Superman had inaugurated immediately caught the public so that, in 1941, he was the star of Action Comics, had his title and appeared both in World’s Finest Comics teaming with Batman, and in All-Star Comics as part of the JSA, Justice Society of America, as an honorary member. Would later be a founding member of the ALJ, Justice League of America, the remodeling of the JSA.
When Siegel and Shuster sold Superman’s rights to National Comics (which later became DC), and Superman jumped to other media, such as radio or television, they began to add more elements to their mythology, such as the space mineral known as Kryptonite, their weak spot. His presence in other forms of expression and communication expanded his fame and ensured his survival beyond the pages of comics, helping him to enter the collective consciousness of the entire world.
As it could not be otherwise, I close this post thanking my friend and former collaborator, artist Maria Pizarro, for her illustration for the main image of this post and recommending a series of readings that brings us closer to the origins of the man of steel. In the first place, the volume compilation Action Comics (1938 – 2013) – 75 years of Superman, and the stage of Grant Morrison in Action Comics Vol 2, where it reboots the story of Superman to bring it closer to the new generations. All this material can be obtained on the web of our colleagues in New Valkyries.