Culture: American comics fandom
Setting: DC Comics
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Superheroes 2008 p25
"Superman, the creation of writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Schuster, was the first character to embody the definition of the superhero. Starting with Action Comics No. 1, June 1938, he established the principal conventions of the superhero genre, which the scholar Peter Coogan has identified as a heroic character with a prosocial mission, extraordinary powers or abilities, and a code name and costume that usually express his or her origin, powers, and character."
* Misiroglu w/ Roach eds. 2004 p538
"Superman is widely regarded as the first superhero. That's not entirely true: The Shadow, the Phantom, Doc Savage, the Spider, and a handful of others preceded him in the mid-1930s. Those costumed or superpowered crime fighters may have beaten Superman out of the gate, but not to the punch. This 'Man of Steel' and his astounding abilities caught an unsuspecting readership by surprise in 1938. Generations later, Superman has become indelibly etched into the annals of American folklore. Today, most historians call Superman the first superhero because he defined a distinct hero type, clearly breaking away from the masked adventurers who preceded him."
* White ed. 2013 p1
"Superman may not have been the first superhero, but ever since his introduction in Action Comics #1 in 1938, he has been the model for every superhero to follow. For the past 75 years, Superman has thrilled millions with his adventures in comic books, movies, and television shows. His legacy transcends national, cultural, and generational borders, mainly because he strikes so many universal themes. He's a strange visitor from another planet who longs to be human. He's a mild-mannered farm boy from Kansas who wins the heart of a cosmopolitan reporter from the big city. He's the idealistic big blue boy scout who befriends a cynical dark knight detective. Finally, he's the ultimate hero who serves as an inspiration for the rest of the world's costumed protectors -- and a few of its best philosophers."
* Superman 2023 p6 (Richard Jerome, "Introduction: Man of Steel, man of hope" p5-7)
"Superman's emblematic power has changed along with the country over the past eight decades. 'The truth is that he has always evolved to reflect the zeitgeist and America's idealized self-image of the time,' says Roy Schwartz, author of Is Superman Circumcized? The Complete Jewish History of the World's Greatest Hero. When he debuted in 1938, he was known as 'Champion of the Oppressed,' a firebrand New Dealer promoting immigration reform and racial equality. When America entered World War II, Superman changed from rabble rouser to role model and became a national icon. In the 1950s, he became a patriarchal authority figure and a 'Big Blue Boy Scout,' which is the version people remember from The Adventures of Superman TV show starring George Reeves. Then in the 1980s, he became a Yuppie 'Super Republican,' embracing the Reagan Revolution and the era's aesthetic. But, for all the changes, he's still the same guy Siegel and Shuster created. A hero who preaches tolerance for all but the intolerant, and who personifies the indomitable human spirit."
* Superheroes 2008 p25
"Superman's costume, made from the blankets in which he was swaddled on his journey from Krypton to Earth, became the standard upon which successive superheroes were styled. With its flowing cape and skintight unitard, inspired by sources as diverse as the costumes worn by circus acrobats and Douglas Fairbanks in his period pictures of the 1920s, it combined the male fantasies of an idealized classical nudity with a flamboyant, performative intemperance.
"Beyond its components, the iconicity of Superman's costume lies in its colors and 'S' emblem, both of which serve to abstract and amplify Superman's representation in comics as well as in film and television. The 'S' emblem inscribed on his chest and cape functions as a simplified statement of his identity. As the artist Chipp Kidd observed, 'The "S" on Superman's chest is the monogram made monolithic, the family crest as modern logo.'"
* Superman 2023 p7 (Richard Jerome, "Introduction: Man of Steel, man of hope" p5-7)
"Siegel and Shuster both acknowledged that their youthful yearning for unattainable women played into the creation of this square-jawed hunk. As Saunders points out, there is certainly an undeniably erotic component to Superman's lasting appeal. 'One thing I think doesn't get talked about enough is the sexual nature of the superhero fantasy,' he says. 'Superman and other superheroes aren't just powerful. They are gorgeous and glamourous, and they wear costumes that might as well be painted on. These fantasy figures of glamour and power are then spliced into stories that emphasize ethics, morality, decency, sacrifice. It's a heady brew.'"