Retro Thursday: Superman’s enduring status
The following is a piece I wrote for the release of “Superman Returns.” It’s one of my favorite pieces I’ve written for The Oklahoman. It’s about the legacy of Superman, and why he still matters.
“There’s one thing that I know for sure, son. And that is, you are here for a reason.”
- Jonathan Kent (Glenn Ford), “Superman: The Movie”
“They can be a great people, Kal-El; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way.”
- Jor-El (Marlon Brando), “Superman: The Movie”
The fantasy born in the minds of two teenagers during the Great Depression is still touching the hearts of dreamers in the 21st century. While most of the fads of 1938 have disappeared, Superman is proving he still has the power to fire imaginations.
Kurt Busiek, the current writer of “Superman,” says the strength of the basic idea of Superman is what’s led to his endurance.
“I think Superman’s enduring popularity comes down to the fact that the character is so primal, such a clean, stark, simple idea that resonates with the audience in all kinds of ways,” Busiek said via e mail.
“Whether it’s the fantasy identification of feeling that people see us as Clark, but if only they knew our true hearts, they’d know we’re Superman, or the mythic ritual of the powerful son sent to us from the heavens to save us all, to the simple joy of imagining flight, unsurpassed strength and more – Superman touches something deep in our dreams and on such a basic level that it withstands all the societal changes that come with the passing decades.”
Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two mild-mannered teens from Cleveland who started the legend of the first superhero. Their character seemed larger than life, but the two were not afraid to infuse themselves into the character. Superman’s meek identity of Clark Kent was inspired by the real lives of the timid teenagers.
“Superman would lead a double-life,” Siegel wrote in “Action Comics” in 1983, for the character’s 45th anniversary. “As headline-hunting newspaper reporter Clark Kent, he would hide behind a false front of pretended timidity, so that no one would suspect that he was secretly the crusading, all-powerful Superman. As a furthering disguise, meek, mild Clark Kent would wear eyeglasses, which would give a somewhat intellectual, inhibited appearance.
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