It often feels like with the modern world, where technology that was once the stuff of science fiction is commonplace and man has not only walked on the moon many times over, but now sends probes and satellites to planets far away from the Sun and Earth; that a character like Superman, a being from another world with powers and abilities far beyond that of normal people, would seem almost comical compared to the achievements mankind has made over the years.
And yet, the sight of a picture of Superman on a comic book cover, soaring across movie and TV screens, or even grinning up at people from lunch boxes and phone covers is as welcome a thing as summer vacations and the holidays. He is Superman! The last son of the Planet Krypton, rocketed to Earth just before the planet succumbs to internal pressures. Raised by the kindly Jonathan and Martha Kent in Kansas, the heartland of America, he was instilled with the basic beliefs and tenets to do good by everyone and to make the world a better place with his fantastic superpowers.
But the myth, the legend of Superman, is one that has taken shape over the years. With each writer that has told more tales in the adventures of Superman, with every artist that has taken pen to paper (or screen now with modern technology), each member of the comic book community who takes up the task of chronicling Superman’s story must pay homage to the two men who gave us this fantastic character, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
Life back in 1938 was one of struggle and hardship; the Great Depression was still rampant across the country, men, women and children struggling to live day-by-day. Across the ocean in Europe, the rumblings of war were well under way as Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich annexed Austria and claimed the Sudetenland for Germany. In the Pacific the Second Sino-Japanese War entered its second year. Despite all the doom and gloom that was pervasive, great things happened culturally in America. One of them being the release of Walt Disney’s first animated feature film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
Flash forward to June, and DC Comics (then National Allied Publications) had their latest comic book hitting the newsstands across America. Titled Action Comics, splashed across the cover is a man in trunks with a cape and a bold, red ‘S’ on his chest hoisting a car overhead as men run frantically. Inside was the first story of a brand new character…Superman! The dream had become a reality for Jerry and Joe, two friends from Cleveland, Ohio who poured all their creative spirit into a character they had been trying to sell to publishers since 1933/1934. A genie had been let out of the bottle and there was no putting the cork back in. Superman was a hit with its first print running selling like hotcakes.
Now jump ahead to the here and now, the year 2017. Superman is 79 years old this month, and for 79 years he has been delighting audiences of all ages across America and the world with his exploits. With each passing year, his character and world has grown and developed into what we have today. The great love of his life Lois Lane, his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor, the many friends Superman has made both as Clark Kent and as the Man of Steel, as well as the many enemies that are now synonymous with him. And not just confined to the pages of comic books, oh no, Superman has been everywhere and sold on almost every kind of product and entertainment medium imaginable.
For these many years, Superman has always been a constant presence. A fictional reminder that for all the bad and evil that is prevalent in the world, there is a world where a man can fly and bend steel in his bare hands, who rights the wrongs that would be considered too big for anyone else to tackle. He is the Man of Tomorrow, the Last Son of Krypton, the Man of Steel, one of DC Comics’ leading characters. As time passes, his legend continues to grow and new fans are introduced to him at a daily rate, whether it’s through the comics or another medium.
It’s hard to imagine a world without Superman, just as much as it is hard to imagine a world without Wonder Woman or Batman or Captain America or Spider-Man, the Avengers or the Justice League. Our heroes are something that provide an immense amount of joy and exhilaration for us. We delight in their victories and triumphs, then weep and feel sorrow at their tragedies and failures. But in the end, it all leads back to Superman, back 79 years ago when DC Comics took a chance on the fantastic character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, brought to life within the pages of Action Comics #1. And so we salute Superman, for all that he has done for the comic book industry as a character, and for all that he will continue to do in the years to come.