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Superman with his cape billowing
Art by Alex Ross
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Action Comics #1
(cover date June 1938 / published April 18, 1938)[1]
Created by Jerry Siegel (writer)
Joe Shuster (artist)
In-story information
Alter ego Kal-El (birth name)
Clark Kent (adopted name)
Species Kryptonian
Place of origin Krypton
Team affiliations Justice League
Legion of Super-Heroes
  • Superhuman strength, speed, and durability
  • Flight
  • Heat vision
  • Freezing breath
  • X-ray vision
  • Telescopic & microscopic vision

Superman is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. The character was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, high school students living in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1933. They sold Superman to Detective Comics, Inc. (now known as DC Comics)[a] in 1938. Superman debuted in Action Comics #1 (cover-dated June 1938) and subsequently appeared in various radio serials, newspaper strips, television programs, films, and video games. With this success, Superman helped to create the superhero archetype and establish its primacy within the American comic book.[2] The character is also referred to by such epithets as the Big Blue Boy Scout, the Man of Steel, the Man of Tomorrow, and the Last Son of Krypton.[3]

The origin story of Superman relates that he was born Kal-El on the planet Krypton, before being rocketed to Earth as an infant by his scientist father Jor-El, moments before Krypton's destruction. Discovered and adopted by a farm couple from Kansas, the child is raised as Clark Kent and imbued with a strong moral compass. Early in his childhood, he displays various superhuman abilities, which, upon reaching maturity, he resolves to use for the benefit of humanity through a "Superman" identity.

Superman resides and operates in the fictional American city of Metropolis. As Clark Kent, he is a journalist for the Daily Planet, a Metropolis newspaper. Superman's love interest is Lois Lane, and his archenemy is the supervillain Lex Luthor. A close ally of Batman and Wonder Woman, he is typically depicted as a member of the Justice League. Like other characters in the DC Universe, several alternative versions of Superman have been characterized over the years.

Superman's appearance is distinctive and iconic; he usually wears a blue costume with a red-and-yellow emblem on the chest, consisting of the letter S in a shield shape, and a red cape. This shield is used in many media to symbolize the character. Superman is widely considered an American cultural icon.[2][4][5][6] He has fascinated scholars, with cultural theorists, commentators, and critics alike exploring the character's role and impact in the United States and worldwide.

The character's ownership has often been the subject of dispute, with Siegel and Shuster twice suing for the return of rights. He has been portrayed in many adaptations of the comics as well, including films, television series, and video games. Several actors have played Superman in motion pictures and TV series including Bud Collyer, Kirk Alyn, George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain, Tim Daly, Tom Welling, Brandon Routh, Henry Cavill, and Tyler Hoechlin.


Jerry Siegel, writer
Joe Shuster, illustrator

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster met each other in 1932 in high school in Cleveland and bonded over their mutual love of movies, pulp fiction magazines, comic strips, and science fiction. Siegel aspired to become a writer and Shuster aspired to become an illustrator. Siegel wrote for his school newspaper and self-published a fanzine called Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization. His friend Shuster often provided illustrations for his work.[7]

"The Reign of the Superman", short story by Jerry Siegel (January 1933).

In January 1933, Siegel published a short story in his fanzine titled "The Reign of the Superman". Shuster provided illustrations. The titular character is a vagrant named Bill Dunn who is tricked by an evil scientist into consuming an experimental drug. The drug gives Dunn the powers of mind-reading, mind-control, and clairvoyance. He uses these powers maliciously for profit and amusement, but then the drug wears off, leaving him a powerless vagrant again.[8]

Siegel and Shuster shifted to making comic strips, with the ambition of becoming professional comic authors. Siegel observed that comic strips featuring villainous protagonists such as Fu Manchu tended to struggle, whereas strips with heroic characters such as Tarzan were more popular,[9] so he and Shuster reinvented Superman as a crime-fighting hero. Like Bill Dunn, this second prototype of Superman is given powers against his will by an unscrupulous scientist, but instead of psychic abilities, he acquires superhuman strength and bullet-proof skin.[10][11][b] In later years, Siegel once recalled that this Superman wore a "bat-like" cape in some panels, but typically he and Shuster agreed there was no costume yet, and there is none apparent in the surviving artwork.[12][13]

Unpublished 1933 comic book proposal. Art by Shuster.

Siegel and Shuster showed this second concept of Superman to Consolidated Book Publishers, based in Chicago.[14][c] In May 1933, Consolidated had published a comic book titled Detective Dan: Secret Operative 48.[15] It contained all-original stories as opposed to reprints of newspaper strips, which was a novelty at the time.[16] Siegel and Shuster put together a comic book in similar format called The Superman. A delegation from Consolidated visited Cleveland that summer on a business trip, and Siegel and Shuster took the opportunity to present their work in person.[17][18] Although Consolidated expressed interest, they later pulled out of the comics business without ever offering a book deal because the sales of Detective Dan were disappointing.[19][20]

Siegel believed publishers kept rejecting them because he and Shuster were young and unknown, so he looked for an established artist to replace Shuster.[21] When Siegel told Shuster what he was doing, Shuster reacted by burning their rejected Superman comic, sparing only the cover. They continued collaborating on other projects, but for the time being Shuster was through with Superman.[22][23]

Siegel wrote to numerous artists.[21] The first response came in July 1933 from Leo O'Mealia, who drew the Fu Manchu strip for the Bell Syndicate.[24][25] In the script that Siegel sent O'Mealia, Superman's origin story changes: He is a "scientist-adventurer" from the far future, when humanity has naturally evolved "super powers". Earth is about to blow up (for some unspecified reason), and he escapes in a time-machine to the modern era, whereupon he immediately begins using his super powers to fight crime.[26] O'Mealia produced a few strips and showed them to his newspaper syndicate, but they were rejected. Nothing of Siegel and O'Mealia's collaboration survives, except in Siegel's memoir.[27]

In June 1934, Siegel found another partner: an artist in Chicago named Russell Keaton.[28][29] Keaton drew the Buck Rogers and Skyroads comic strips. In the script that Siegel sent Keaton in June, Superman's origin story further evolved: In the distant future, when Earth is on the verge of exploding due to "giant cataclysms", the last surviving man sends his three-year-old son back in time to the year 1935. The time-machine appears on a road where it is discovered by motorists Sam and Molly Kent. They leave the boy in an orphanage, but the staff struggle to control him because he has superhuman strength and impenetrable skin. The Kents adopt the boy and name him Clark, and teach him that he must use his fantastic natural gifts for the benefit of humanity. In November, Siegel sent Keaton an extension of his script: an adventure where Superman foils a conspiracy to kidnap a star football player. The extended script mentions that Clark wears a special "uniform" when assuming the identity of Superman, but it is not described.[30] Keaton produced two weeks' worth of strips based on Siegel's script. In November, Keaton showed his strips to a newspaper syndicate, but they were rejected, and he abandoned the project.[31][32]

Siegel and Shuster reconciled and resumed developing Superman together. The character became an alien from the planet Krypton. Shuster designed the now-familiar costume: tights with an "S" on the chest, over-shorts, and a cape.[33][34][35] They made Clark Kent a journalist who pretends to be timid, and conceived his colleague Lois Lane, who is attracted to the bold and mighty Superman but does not realize that he and Kent are the same person.[36]

In June 1935 Siegel and Shuster found work with National Allied Publications, a comic magazine publishing company in New York owned by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson[37] (and the corporate precursor of DC Comics[a]). Over the next few years, they produced various detective and adventure stories for him, the first of which were published in New Fun Comics #6 (Oct 1935).[38] Wheeler-Nicholson offered to publish Superman,[39] but Siegel and Shuster refused to entrust their prize creation to him because he did not manage his business well.[40][41] Wheeler-Nicholson often failed to pay his employees and release books on schedule.[42] His business finally collapsed in late 1937,[43] and in early January 1938, his business was taken over by his partners Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz as part of a bankruptcy settlement.[7][44]

On December 4, 1937, Siegel visited Liebowitz in New York, and they asked Siegel to produce some comics for an upcoming anthology magazine called Action Comics.[45][46] Siegel proposed some new stories, but not Superman. Siegel and Shuster were still soliciting Superman to newspaper syndicates, the latest one being the McClure Newspaper Syndicate. In early January, Siegel had a three-way telephone conversation with Liebowitz and an employee of McClure named Max Gaines. Gaines informed Siegel that McClure had rejected Superman, and asked if he could forward the Superman strips to Liebowitz. Siegel agreed.[47] Liebowitz and his colleagues were impressed by the strips, and they asked Siegel and Shuster to develop the strips into 13 pages for Action Comics.[48] Having grown tired of rejections, Siegel and Shuster accepted the offer.[49][50] Siegel and Shuster submitted their work in late February and were paid $130 (AFI $2,260) for it.[51] In March, at the request of Liebowitz, they signed a contract in which they released the copyright for Superman.[52] Superman was finally published on April 18, 1938, in the first issue of Action Comics.[53][1][54]


Siegel and Shuster read pulp science-fiction and adventure magazines, and many stories featured characters with extraordinary abilities such as telepathy, clairvoyance, and superhuman strength. An influence was Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars: a human who is transported to Mars, where the lower gravity makes him stronger than the natives and allows him to leap great distances.[55][56] Another influence was Philip Wylie's 1930 novel Gladiator, featuring a protagonist named Hugo Danner who had similar powers.[57][58] The mythological characters Samson and Hercules were also an influence.[59]

Superman's stance and devil-may-care attitude was influenced by the characters of Douglas Fairbanks, who starred in adventure films such as The Mark of Zorro and Robin Hood.[60] The name of Superman's home city, Metropolis, was taken from the 1927 film of the same name.[61] Popeye cartoons were also an influence.[62]

Douglas Fairbanks (left) and Harold Lloyd (right) influenced the look of Superman and Clark Kent, respectively.

Clark Kent's harmless facade and dual identity was inspired by the protagonists of such movies as Don Diego de la Vega in The Mark of Zorro and Sir Percy Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Siegel thought this would make for interesting dramatic contrast and good humor.[63][64] Another inspiration was slapstick comedian Harold Lloyd. The archetypal Lloyd character was a gentle man who finds himself abused by bullies but later in the story snaps and fights back furiously.[65]

Kent is a journalist because Siegel often imagined himself becoming one after leaving school. The love triangle between Lois Lane, Clark, and Superman was inspired by Siegel's own awkwardness with girls.[66]

The pair collected comic strips in their youth, with a favorite being Winsor McCay's fantastical Little Nemo.[61] Shuster remarked on the artists which played an important part in the development of his own style: "Alex Raymond and Burne Hogarth were my idols – also Milt Caniff, Hal Foster, and Roy Crane."[61] Shuster taught himself to draw by tracing over the art in the strips and magazines they collected.[7]

As a boy, Shuster was interested in fitness culture[67] and a fan of strongmen such as Siegmund Breitbart and Joseph Greenstein. He collected fitness magazines and manuals and used their photographs as visual references for his art.[7]

The visual design of Superman came from multiple influences. The tight-fitting suit and shorts were inspired by the costumes of wrestlers, boxers, and strongmen. In early concept art, Shuster gave Superman laced sandals like those of strongmen and classical heroes, but these were eventually changed to red boots.[68] The costumes of Douglas Fairbanks were also an influence.[69] The emblem on his chest may have been inspired by the uniforms of athletic teams. Many pulp action heroes such as swashbucklers wore capes. Superman's physical appearance was based on Johnny Weissmuller with touches derived from the comic-strip character Dick Tracy and from the work of cartoonist Roy Crane.[70]

The word "superman" was commonly used in the 1920s and 1930s to describe men of great ability, most often athletes and politicians.[71] It occasionally appeared in pulp fiction stories as well, such as "The Superman of Dr. Jukes"[72] and Doc Savage.[73] It is unclear whether Siegel and Shuster were influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of the Übermensch; they never acknowledged as much.[74]

Publication history


Superman debuted as the cover feature of the anthology magazine Action Comics #1 (cover-dated June 1938 but published on April 18, 1938).[75] The magazine was an immediate success,[76] and reader feedback showed it was because of Superman.[77] In June 1939, DC Comics[a] began a sister magazine, Superman, dedicated exclusively to the character.[78] Action Comics eventually became dedicated to Superman stories too, and both it and Superman have been published without interruption since 1938 (ignoring changes to the titles and numbering).[79][80] A number of other magazines have been published as well.[81] Superman has also appeared as a regular or semi-regular character in a number of magazines featuring superhero teams, such as Justice League of America and World's Finest Comics, and in spin-off magazines such as Supergirl.

Sales of Action Comics and Superman declined steadily from the 1950s,[82][83] but rose again starting in 1987. Superman #75 (Nov 1992) sold over 6 million copies, making it the best-selling issue of a comic magazine of all time,[84] thanks to a media sensation over the supposedly permanent death of the character in that issue.[85] Sales declined from that point on. In March 2018, Action Comics sold just 52,503 copies.[86] The magazines are today considered a niche aspect of the Superman franchise due to low readership.[87]

After Shuster left National, Boring also succeeded him as the principal artist on Superman comic books.[88] He redrew Superman taller and more detailed.[89] Around 1955, Curt Swan in turn succeeded Boring.[90]

Newspaper strips

Beginning in January 1939, a Superman daily comic strip appeared in newspapers, syndicated through the McClure Syndicate. A color Sunday version was added that November. Jerry Siegel wrote most of the strips until he was conscripted in 1943. The Sunday strips had a narrative continuity separate from the daily strips, possibly because Siegel had to delegate the Sunday strips to ghostwriters.[91] By 1941, the newspaper strips had an estimated readership of 20 million.[92] Joe Shuster drew the early strips, then passed the job to Wayne Boring.[93] From 1949 to 1956, the newspaper strips were drawn by Win Mortimer.[94] The strip ended in May 1966, but was revived from 1977 to 1983 to coincide with a series of movies released by Warner Bros.[95]

Novels and collected editions

Most Superman comic books are magazines, and DC Comics regularly reprints the magazine stories in "collected editions", sometimes called "graphic novels" when the book contains a single complete story. DC Comics has occasionally published some graphic novels with original stories (sometimes called "one-shots"), such as Superman: Peace on Earth (1998). A handful of text novels have been published too, beginning with The Adventures of Superman by George Lowther in 1942.


Initially, Siegel was allowed to write Superman more or less as he saw fit because nobody had anticipated the success and rapid expansion of the franchise.[96][97] But soon Siegel and Shuster's work was put under careful oversight for fear of trouble with censors.[98] Siegel was forced to tone down the violence and social crusading that characterized his early stories.[99] Editor Whitney Ellsworth, hired in 1940, dictated that Superman not kill.[100] Sexuality was banned, and colorfully outlandish villains such as Ultra-Humanite and Toyman were thought to be less nightmarish for young readers.[101]

Mort Weisinger was the editor on Superman comics from 1941 to 1970, his tenure briefly interrupted by military service. Siegel and his fellow writers had developed the character with little thought of building a coherent mythology, but as the number of Superman titles and the pool of writers grew, Weisinger demanded a more disciplined approach.[102] Weisinger assigned story ideas, and the logic of Superman's powers, his origin, the locales, and his relationships with his growing cast of supporting characters were carefully planned. Elements such as Bizarro, Supergirl, the Phantom Zone, the Fortress of Solitude, alternate varieties of kryptonite, robot doppelgangers, and Krypto were introduced during this era. The complicated universe built under Weisinger was beguiling to devoted readers but alienating to casuals.[103] Weisinger favored lighthearted stories over serious drama, and avoided sensitive subjects such as the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement because he feared his right-wing views would alienate his writing staff and readers.[104] Weisinger also introduced letters columns in 1958 to encourage feedback and build intimacy with readers.[105] Superman was the best-selling comic book character of the 1960s.[106][107]

Weisinger retired in 1970 and Julius Schwartz took over. By his own admission, Weisinger had grown out of touch with newer readers.[108] Schwartz updated Superman by removing overused plot elements such as kryptonite and robot doppelgangers and making Clark Kent a television anchor.[109] Schwartz also scaled Superman's powers down to a level closer to Siegel's original. These changes would eventually be reversed by later writers. Schwartz allowed stories with serious drama such as "For the Man Who Has Everything" (Superman Annual #11), in which the villain Mongul torments Superman with an illusion of happy family life on a living Krypton.

Schwartz retired from DC Comics in 1986 and was succeeded by Mike Carlin as editor on Superman comics. His retirement coincided with DC Comics' decision to streamline the shared continuity called the DC Universe with the companywide-crossover storyline "Crisis on Infinite Earths". Writer John Byrne rewrote the Superman mythos, again reducing Superman's powers, which writers had slowly re-strengthened, and revised many supporting characters, such as making Lex Luthor a billionaire industrialist rather than a mad scientist, and making Supergirl an artificial shapeshifting organism because DC wanted Superman to be the sole surviving Kryptonian.

Carlin was promoted to Executive Editor for the DC Universe books in 1996, a position he held until 2002. K.C. Carlson took his place as editor of the Superman comics.

Aesthetic style

In the earlier decades of Superman comics, artists were expected to conform to a certain "house style".[110] Joe Shuster defined the aesthetic style of Superman in the 1940s, including the Fleischer and Famous animated serial of the 1940s, for which he provided character model sheets.[111] After Shuster left National, Wayne Boring succeeded him as the principal artist on Superman comic books.[88] He redrew Superman taller and more detailed.[89] Around 1955, Curt Swan in turn succeeded Boring.[90] The 1980s saw a boom in the diversity of comic book art and now there is no single "house style" in Superman comics.[112]

In other media


The first adaptation of Superman beyond comic books was a radio show, The Adventures of Superman, which ran from 1940 to 1951 for 2,088 episodes. It featured the voice of Bud Collyer as Superman. It was produced by Robert Maxwell and Allen Ducovny, who were employees of Superman, Inc. and Detective Comics, Inc. respectively.[113][114] It became the highest-rated entertainment show on radio.[115]


Paramount Pictures released a series of animated shorts titled Superman between 1941 and 1943. Seventeen episodes in total were made; the first nine were produced by Fleischer Studios and the next eight were produced by Famous Studios. Bud Collyer provided the voice of Superman. The first episode had a budget of $50,000 with the remaining episodes at $30,000 each[116] (AFI $831,900), which was exceptional for the time.[117]

The first live-action theatrical serial was a 15-part serial released in 1948. Kirk Alyn became the first actor to portray the hero onscreen. A sequel serial, Atom Man vs. Superman, was released in 1950.

The first feature film, Superman and the Mole Men, starring George Reeves as Superman, was released in 1951, and was intended to promote the subsequent television series.

Superman returned to movie theaters in 1978 in a movie simply titled Superman, starring Christopher Reeve. It is the most successful Superman feature film to date and spawned three sequels.[118] The first three of these movies were produced by Alexander and Ilya Salkind. Warner Bros. had control over the budget and the casting, but left everything else to the producers' discretion.[119] In 2006, Warner Brothers released Superman Returns, starring Brandon Routh, which is a loose sequel to the Salkind films.

In 2013, director Zack Snyder rebooted the film franchise with Man of Steel, starring Henry Cavill. Snyder also directed its 2016 sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which featured Superman alongside Batman and Wonder Woman for the first time in a live-action movie. Cavill reprised his role as Superman in the 2017 film Justice League and revealed he is under contract to play Superman for one more film.[120]


The first television series was Adventures of Superman, which aired from 1952 to 1958 and starred George Reeves as Superman. Robert Maxwell, who produced the radio serial, was the producer for the first season. DC Comics felt that the first season was too violent for what they expected to be a children's show, so they removed Maxwell and replaced him with Whitney Ellsworth, a veteran writer and editor at DC Comics.[121]

Three additional live-action television series featuring Clark Kent (as Superman, Superboy, or neither) have since aired on television. Superboy aired from 1988 to 1992. It was produced by Alexander and Ilya Salkind. DC Comics had approval rights over all creative aspects of the show, from scripts to casting to shooting revisions.[122]

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman aired from 1993 to 1997.

Smallville aired from 2001 to 2011 and covers Clark Kent's story from his high school years to his debut (in the last episode) as Superman. In this series, Clark never calls himself Superboy.

In 1975, the Broadway musical It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman, which debuted on the stage in 1966, was remade for television.

The first animated television series was The New Adventures of Superman, which aired from 1966 to 1970. Two additional Superman-centered animated series have since aired on television: Superman, which aired in 1988; and Superman: The Animated Series, which aired from 1996 to 2000.

Superman has appeared as part of a team, a supporting character, or a guest star in other television shows, such as the animated Super Friends and Justice League Action, and the live-action Supergirl.[123]

Superman has appeared in a number of direct-to-video animated movies produced by Warner Bros. Animation, beginning with Superman: Doomsday in 2007.

Electronic games

The first electronic game was simply titled Superman, and released in 1979 for the Atari 2600. The last game centered on Superman was Superman Returns (adapted from the movie) in 2006. Superman has, however, appeared in more recent games starring the Justice League, such as Injustice 2 (2017).

Copyright battles

By Superman's creators

In a contract dated 1 March 1938, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster released the copyright to Superman to their employer, DC Comics (then known as Detective Comics, Inc.[a]). They much regretted this decision after Superman became an astonishing success, because now they would not get the lion's share of the profits.[124] DC Comics retained Siegel and Shuster, and they were paid well because they were popular with the readers.[125] Between 1938 and 1947, DC Comics paid them together over $400,000 (AFI $5,880,000).[126][127]

Siegel wrote most of the magazine and daily newspaper stories until he was conscripted in 1943, whereupon the task was passed to ghostwriters.[128][129] While Siegel was serving in Hawaii, DC Comics published a story featuring a child version of Superman called "Superboy", which was based on a script Siegel had submitted several years before. Siegel was furious because DC Comics did this without having bought the character.[130]

After Siegel's discharge from the Army, he and Shuster sued DC Comics in 1947 for the rights to Superman and Superboy. The judge ruled that Superman belonged to DC Comics, but that Superboy was a separate entity that belonged to Siegel. Siegel and Shuster settled out-of-court with DC Comics, which paid the pair $94,013.16 (AFI $957,580) in exchange for the full rights to both Superman and Superboy.[52] DC Comics then fired Siegel and Shuster.[131]

DC Comics rehired Jerry Siegel as a writer in 1957.

In 1965, Siegel and Shuster attempted to regain rights to Superman using the renewal option in the Copyright Act of 1909, but the court ruled Siegel and Shuster had transferred the renewal rights to DC Comics in 1938. Siegel and Shuster appealed, but the appeals court upheld this decision. DC Comics fired Siegel when he filed this second lawsuit.

In 1975, Siegel and a number of other comic book writers and artists launched a public campaign for better compensation and treatment of comic creators. Warner Brothers agreed to give Siegel and Shuster a yearly stipend, full medical benefits, and credit their names in all future Superman productions in exchange for never contesting ownership of Superman. Siegel and Shuster upheld this bargain.[7]

Shuster died in 1992. DC Comics offered Shuster's heirs a stipend in exchange for never challenging ownership of Superman, which they accepted for some years.[52]

Siegel died in 1996. His heirs attempted to take the rights to Superman using the termination provision of the Copyright Act of 1976. DC Comics negotiated an agreement wherein it would pay the Siegel heirs several million dollars and a yearly stipend of $500,000 in exchange for permanently granting DC the rights to Superman. DC Comics also agreed to insert the line "By Special Arrangement with the Jerry Siegel Family" in all future Superman productions.[132] The Siegels accepted DC's offer in an October 2001 letter.[52]

Copyright lawyer and movie producer Marc Toberoff then struck a deal with the heirs of both Siegel and Shuster to help them get the rights to Superman in exchange for signing the rights over to his production company, Pacific Pictures. Both groups accepted. The Siegel heirs called off their deal with DC Comics and in 2004 sued DC for the rights to Superman and Superboy. In 2008, the judge ruled in favor of the Siegels. DC Comics appealed the decision, and the appeals court ruled in favored of DC, arguing that the October 2001 letter was binding. In 2003, the Shuster heirs served a termination notice for Shuster's grant of his half of the copyright to Superman. DC Comics sued the Shuster heirs in 2010, and the court ruled in DC's favor on the grounds that the 1992 agreement with the Shuster heirs barred them from terminating the grant.[52]

Superman is due to enter the public domain in 2033.[133] However, this would only apply to the character as he is depicted in Action Comics #1 (1938). Versions of him with later developments, such as his power of "heat vision" (introduced in 1949), may persist under copyright until the works they were introduced in enter the public domain themselves.[134]

Captain Marvel

Superman's success immediately spawned a wave of imitations. The most successful of these was Captain Marvel, first published by Fawcett Comics in December 1939. Captain Marvel had many similarities to Superman: Herculean strength, invulnerability, the ability to fly, a cape, and a job as a journalist.

DC Comics filed a lawsuit against Fawcett Comics for copyright infringement. The trial began in March 1948 after seven years of discovery. The judge ruled that Fawcett had indeed infringed on Superman. However, the judge also found that the copyright notices that appeared with the Superman newspaper strips did not meet the technical standards required by the Copyright Act of 1909 and were therefore invalid. Since Superman had appeared in more newspaper strips than magazines, and since the strips carried stories adapted from the magazines, the judge ruled that DC Comics had effectively abandoned the copyright to Superman as a whole.[52]

DC Comics appealed this decision. The appeals court ruled that the faulty copyright notices of the newspaper strips did not invalidate the copyright to previous Superman works; therefore, Superman had not been abandoned to the public domain. The appeals court, however, refused to issue an injunction against Fawcett because it could not determine exactly which Superman strips Fawcett had infringed. The appeals court remanded the case back to the lower court to settle that last matter.[52]

At this point, Fawcett Comics decided to settle out of court with DC Comics. Fawcett paid DC Comics $400,000 (AFI $3,658,706) and agreed to stop publishing Captain Marvel. The last Captain Marvel story from Fawcett Comics was published in September 1953.[135]


In Action Comics #1 (1938), Superman is born on an alien world to a technologically advanced species that resembles humans. When his world is on the verge of destruction, his father, a scientist, places his infant son alone in a spaceship that takes him to Earth. The earliest newspaper strips name the planet "Krypton", the baby "Kal-L", and his biological parents "Jor-L" and "Lora";[136] their names were changed to "Jor-el", and "Lara" in a 1942 spinoff novel by George Lowther.[137] The ship lands in the American countryside, where the baby is adopted by the Kents. In the original stories, they adopt him from an orphanage.[138] The Kents name the boy Clark and raise him in a farming community. A 1947 episode of the radio serial places the unnamed community in Iowa.[139] It is named Smallville in Superboy #2 (June 1949). New Adventures of Superboy #22 (Oct. 1981) places it in Maryland. The 1978 Superman movie and most stories since place it in Kansas.[140]

In Action Comics #1 and most stories before 1986, Superman's powers begin developing in infancy. From 1944 to 1986, DC Comics regularly published stories of Superman's childhood and adolescent adventures, when he called himself "Superboy". In Man of Steel #1, Superman's powers emerged more slowly and he began his superhero career as an adult.

The Kents teach Clark he must conceal his otherworldly origins and use his fantastic powers to do good. Clark creates the costumed identity of Superman so as to protect his personal privacy and the safety of his loved ones. As Clark Kent, he wears eyeglasses to disguise his face and wears his Superman costume underneath his clothes so that he can change at a moment's notice. To complete this disguise, Clark avoids violent confrontation, preferring to slip away and change into Superman when danger arises, and he suffers occasional ridicule for his apparent cowardice.

In Superboy #78 (1960), Superboy makes his costume out of the indestructible blankets found in the ship he came to Earth in. In Man of Steel #1 (1986), Martha Kent makes the costume from human-manufactured cloth, and it is rendered indestructible by an "aura" that Superman projects. The "S" on Superman's chest at first was simply an initial for "Superman". When writing the script for the 1978 movie, Tom Mankiewicz made it Superman's Kryptonian family crest.[141] This was carried over into some comic book stories and later movies, such as Man of Steel. In the comic story Superman: Birthright, the crest is described as an old Kryptonian symbol for hope.

Siegel understood that Superman's invulnerability diminished his appeal as an action hero, and so wrote a story introducing "K-metal", whose radiation harms Superman. This draft was never published since in the story Superman reveals his secret identity to Lois,[53] but the writers of the radio serial took inspiration and introduced the green mineral kryptonite in a 1943 episode.[142] It first appeared in comics in Superman #61 (Dec. 1949).[143]

Clark works as a newspaper journalist. In the earliest stories, he is employed by George Taylor of The Daily Star, but the second episode of the radio serial changed this to Perry White of The Daily Planet.[144] In comics from the early 1970s, Clark worked as a television journalist (an attempt to modernize the character). However, for the 1978 movie, the producers chose to make Clark a newspaper journalist again because that was how most of the public thought of him.[145]

Action Comics #1 introduced Clark's colleague Lois Lane. Clark is romantically attracted to her, but she rejects the mild-mannered Clark and is infatuated with the bold and mighty Superman. This love triangle was conceived in 1934 and is present in most Superman stories. Jerry Siegel objected to any proposal that Lois discover that Clark is Superman because he felt that, as implausible as Clark's disguise is, the love triangle was too important to the book's appeal.[146] In many stories in early decades, Lois suspects Clark is Superman and tries to prove it, but Superman always outwits her; the first such story was in Superman #17 (1942).[147][148]

In Action Comics #662 (Feb. 1991) in a story by writer Roger Stern and artist Bob McLeod, Lois definitively learns of Clark's dual identity,[149] a status quo that would exist for two decades and was reflected in a 1995 episode of the TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.[150] Both in that series and in the 1996 comic book special Superman: The Wedding Album, Clark and Lois marry.[151] The couple's biological child, Jonathan Samuel Kent, was born in Convergence: Superman #2 (July 2015). Jonathan eventually becomes the newest Superboy.

The first story in which Superman dies was published in Superman #149 (1961), in which he is murdered by Lex Luthor by means of kryptonite. This story was "imaginary" and thus was ignored in subsequent books. In Superman #188 (April 1966), Superman is killed by kryptonite radiation, but is revived in the same issue by one of his android doppelgangers. In the 1990s The Death and Return of Superman story arc, after a deadly battle with Doomsday, Superman died in Superman #75 (Jan. 1993). He was later revived by the Eradicator. In Superman #52 (May 2016) Superman is killed by kryptonite poisoning, and this time he is not resurrected, but replaced by the Superman of an alternate timeline.


In the original Siegel and Shuster stories, Superman's personality is rough and aggressive. The character often attacks and terrorizes wife beaters, profiteers, lynch mobs, and gangsters in a rough manner and with a looser moral code than audiences today might be used to.[152] Superman in the comics of the 1930s is unconcerned about the harm his strength may cause. He tosses villainous characters in such a manner that fatalities would presumably occur, although these are seldom shown explicitly on the page. This came to an end in late 1940 when new editor Whitney Ellsworth instituted a code of conduct for his characters to follow, banning Superman from ever killing.[153] The character was softened and given a sense of humanitarianism. Ellsworth's code, however, is not to be confused with "the Comics Code", which was created in 1954 by the Comics Code Authority and ultimately abandoned by every major comic book publisher by the early 21st century.[154]

In his first appearances, Superman was considered a vigilante by the authorities, being fired upon by the National Guard as he razed a slum so that the government would create better housing conditions for the poor. By 1942, however, Superman was working side-by-side with the police.[155][156] Today, Superman is commonly seen as a brave and kind-hearted hero with a strong sense of justice, morality, and righteousness. He adheres to an unwavering moral code instilled in him by his adoptive parents.[157] His commitment to operating within the law has been an example to many citizens and other heroes, but has stirred resentment and criticism among others, who refer to him as the "big blue boy scout". Superman can be rather rigid in this trait, causing tensions in the superhero community.[158] This was most notable with Wonder Woman, one of his closest friends, after she killed Maxwell Lord.[158] Booster Gold had an initial icy relationship with the Man of Steel, but grew to respect him.[159]

Having lost his home world of Krypton, Superman is very protective of Earth,[160] and especially of Clark Kent's family and friends. This same loss, combined with the pressure of using his powers responsibly, has caused Superman to feel lonely on Earth, despite having his friends and parents. Previous encounters with people he thought to be fellow Kryptonians, Power Girl[161] (who is, in fact from the Krypton of the Earth-Two universe) and Mon-El,[162] have led to disappointment. The arrival of Supergirl, who has been confirmed to be not only from Krypton, but also his cousin, has relieved this loneliness somewhat.[163] Superman's Fortress of Solitude acts as a place of solace for him in times of loneliness and despair.[164]

In Superman/Batman #3 (Dec. 2003), Batman, under writer Jeph Loeb, observes, "It is a remarkable dichotomy. In many ways, Clark is the most human of us all. Then ... he shoots fire from the skies, and it is difficult not to think of him as a god. And how fortunate we all are that it does not occur to 'him'." In writer Geoff Johns' Infinite Crisis #1 (Dec. 2005), part of the 2005–2006 "Infinite Crisis" crossover storyline, Batman admonishes him for identifying with humanity too much and failing to provide the strong leadership that superhumans need.

Abilities and vulnerabilities

The catalog of Superman's abilities and their scale has varied considerably over the vast body of Superman fiction released since 1938. Certain abilities are not displayed in all stories, and the scale of these powers also varies.

Since Action Comics #1 (1938), Superman has superhuman strength. The cover of Action Comics #1 shows him effortlessly lifting a car over his head. Another classic Superman feat of strength is breaking steel chains. In some stories, he is strong enough to shift the orbits of planets.[165]

Since Action Comics #1 (1938), Superman has a highly durable body, invulnerable for most practical purposes. At the very least, bullets bounce of him without so much as bruising him. In some stories, such as Kingdom Come, he is tough enough to survive a nuclear bomb.

In some stories, Superman is said to project an aura that renders invulnerable any tight-fitting clothes he wears, and hence his costume is as durable as he is despite being made of common human-factured cloth. This concept was first introduced in Man of Steel #1 (1986). In other stories, Superman's costume is made out of exotic materials that are as tough as he is.

In Action Comics #1, Superman couldn't fly. He travelled by running and leaping, which he could do to a prodiguous degree thanks to his strength. Superman gained the ability to fly in the second episode of the radio serial in 1940.[166] Superman can fly at great speeds. He can break the sound barrier, and in some stories he can even fly faster than light to travel to distant galaxies.

Superman can project and perceive X-rays via his eyes, which allows him to see through objects. He first uses this power in Action Comics #11 (1939). Certain materials such as lead can block his X-ray vision.

Superman can project beams of heat from his eyes which are hot enough to melt steel. He first used this power in Superman #59 (1949) by applying his X-ray vision at its highest intensity. In later stories, this ability is simply called "heat vision".

Superman can hear sounds that are too faint for a human to hear, and at frequencies outside the human hearing range. This ability is introduced in Action Comics #11 (1939).

Action Comics #1 (1938) explained that Superman's strength was common to all Kryptonians because they were a species "millions of years advanced of our own". Later stories explained they evolved superhuman strength simply because of Krypton's higher gravity. Superman #146 (1961) explains that his abilities other than strength (flight, durability, etc.) are activated by the light of Earth's yellow sun. In Action Comics #300 (1963), all of his powers including strength are activated by yellow sunlight and can be deactivated by red sunlight similar to that of Krypton's sun.

Superman is most vulnerable to green Kryptonite, mineral debris from Krypton transformed into radioactive material by the forces that destroyed the planet. Exposure to green Kryptonite radiation nullifies Superman's powers and immobilizes him with pain and nausea; prolonged exposure will eventually kill him. The only substance on Earth that can protect him from Kryptonite is lead, which blocks the radiation. Lead is also the only known substance that Superman cannot see through with his x-ray vision. Kryptonite was introduced in 1943 as a plot device to allow the radio-serial voice actor, Bud Collyer, to take some time off.[167] Although green Kryptonite is the most commonly seen form, writers have introduced other forms over the years: such as red, gold, blue, white, and black, each with its own effect.[168]

Alternate versions

The details Superman's character and story vary across his large body of fiction released since 1938, but most versions conform to the basic template described above. A few stories feature radically altered versions of Superman. An example is the graphic novel Superman: Red Son, which depicts a communist Superman who rules the Soviet Union. DC Comics has on some occasions published crossover stories where different versions of Superman interact with each other using the plot device of parallel universes. For instance, in the 1960s, the Superman of "Earth-One" would occasionally feature in stories alongside the Superman of "Earth-Two", the latter of whom resembled Superman as he was portrayed in the 1940s. DC Comics has not developed a consistent and universal system to classify all versions of Superman.

Supporting characters


Superman's large cast of supporting characters includes Lois Lane, the character most commonly associated with Superman, being portrayed at different times as his colleague, competitor, love interest and wife. Other main supporting characters include Daily Planet coworkers such as photographer Jimmy Olsen and editor Perry White, Clark Kent's adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha Kent, childhood sweetheart Lana Lang and best friend Pete Ross, associates like Professor Hamilton and John Henry Irons who often provide scientific advice and tech support, and former college love interest Lori Lemaris (a mermaid). Stories depicting Superman siring or adopting children have been featured both in and out of mainstream continuity.

Incarnations of Superboy have included Superman as a boy, a teenager partly cloned from Superman, and Superman's own son. Incarnations of Supergirl and Krypto the Superdog have also been major characters in the mythos, as have the Justice League of America (of which Superman is usually a member and often its leader) and the Legion of Super-Heroes (which Superboy traveled through time to join). A feature shared by several supporting characters is alliterative names, especially with the initials "LL", including Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Linda Lee, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, and Lucy Lane,[169] alliteration being common in early comics.

Team-ups with fellow comics icon Batman are common, inspiring many stories over the years. When paired, they are often referred to as the "World's Finest" in a nod to the name of the comic book series that features many team-up stories. In 2003, DC began to publish a new series featuring the two characters titled Superman/Batman or Batman/Superman. Following DC Comic's The New 52 line-wide relaunch, Superman established a romantic relationship with Wonder Woman. A comic book series titled Superman/Wonder Woman debuted in 2013, which explores their relationship and shared adventures.

Various enemies of Superman, as they appear on the cover of Superman Villains: Secret Files and Origins #1 (June 1998). Art by Dan Jurgens.


The villains Superman faced in the earliest stories were ordinary humans, such as gangsters, corrupt politicians, and violent husbands, but they soon grew more outlandish and collectively become Superman's rogues gallery. The mad scientist Ultra-Humanite, introduced in Action Comics #13 (June 1939), was Superman's first recurring villain. The hero's best-known nemesis, Lex Luthor, was introduced in Action Comics #23 (April 1940) and has been envisioned over the years as both a recluse with advanced weaponry to a power-mad billionaire.[170] In 1944, the magical imp Mister Mxyzptlk, Superman's first recurring super-powered adversary, was introduced.[171] Superman's first alien villain, Brainiac, debuted in Action Comics #242 (July 1958). The monstrous Doomsday, introduced in Superman: The Man of Steel #17–18 (Nov.-Dec. 1992), was the first villain to evidently kill Superman in physical combat. Other adversaries include the odd Superman-doppelgänger Bizarro, the Kryptonian criminal General Zod, and alien tyrants Darkseid and Mongul.[172]

Cultural impact

Superman has become an American cultural icon recognised around the world.[173][174] Superman is often thought of as the first superhero. This point is debated by historians: Doctor Occult, an earlier creation of Siegel and Shuster, appeared in comic books two years earlier, and the Phantom and Mandrake the Magician had previously appeared in newspaper strips. However, there is no debate that Superman started the 20th century's craze for costumed adventurers.

His adventures and popularity have established the character as an inspiring force within the public eye, with the character serving as inspiration for musicians, comedians and writers alike. Kryptonite, Brainiac and Bizarro have become synonymous in popular vernacular with Achilles' heel, extreme intelligence[175] and reversed logic[176] respectively. Similarly, the phrase "I'm not Superman" or "you're not Superman" is an idiom used to suggest a lack of omnipotence.[177][178][179]


Superman became popular very quickly, with an additional title, Superman Quarterly, rapidly added. In 1940 the character was represented in the annual Macy's parade for the first time.[180] In fact Superman had become popular to the extent that in 1942, with sales of the character's three titles standing at a combined total of over 1.5 million, Time was reporting that "the Navy Department (had) ruled that Superman comic books should be included among essential supplies destined for the Marine garrison at Midway Islands."[181] The character was soon licensed by companies keen to cash in on this success through merchandising. The earliest paraphernalia appeared in 1939, a button proclaiming membership in the Supermen of America club. By 1940 the amount of merchandise available increased dramatically, with jigsaw puzzles, paper dolls, bubble gum and trading cards available, as well as wooden or metal figures. The popularity of such merchandise increased when Superman was licensed to appear in other media, and Les Daniels has written that this represents "the start of the process that media moguls of later decades would describe as 'synergy.'"[182] By the release of Superman Returns, Warner Bros. had arranged a cross promotion with Burger King,[183] and licensed many other products for sale.

Superman's appeal to licensees rests upon the character's continuing popularity, cross market appeal and the status of the "S" shield, the stylized magenta and gold "S" emblem Superman wears on his chest, as a fashion symbol.[184][185] The "S" shield by itself is often used in media to symbolize the Superman character.[186][187]

Musical references, parodies, and homages

A building with a painted caricature of Barack Obama in Superman's clothes in its facade

Superman has also featured as an inspiration for musicians, with songs by numerous artists from several generations celebrating the character. Donovan's Billboard Hot 100 topping single "Sunshine Superman" utilized the character in both the title and the lyric, declaring "Superman and Green Lantern ain't got nothing on me."[188] Folk singer-songwriter Jim Croce sung about the character in a list of warnings in the chorus of his song "You Don't Mess Around with Jim", introducing the phrase "you don't tug on Superman's cape" into popular lexicon.[189] Other tracks to reference the character include Genesis' "Land of Confusion",[190] the video to which featured a Spitting Image puppet of Ronald Reagan dressed as Superman,[191] "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman" by The Kinks on their 1979 album Low Budget and "Superman" by The Clique, a track later covered by R.E.M. on its 1986 album Lifes Rich Pageant. This cover is referenced by Grant Morrison in Animal Man, in which Superman meets the character, and the track comes on Animal Man's Walkman immediately after.[192] Crash Test Dummies' "Superman's Song", from the 1991 album The Ghosts That Haunt Me explores the isolation and commitment inherent in Superman's life.[193] Five for Fighting released "Superman (It's Not Easy)" in 2000, which is from Superman's point of view, although Superman is never mentioned by name.[194] From 1988 to 1993, American composer Michael Daugherty composed "Metropolis Symphony", a five-movement orchestral work inspired by Superman comics.[195][196]

A thin Superman with AIDS
Superman depicted as stricken by AIDS, in an awareness campaign

Parodies of Superman did not take long to appear, with Mighty Mouse introduced in "The Mouse of Tomorrow" animated short in 1942.[197] While the character swiftly took on a life of its own, moving beyond parody, other animated characters soon took their turn to parody the character. In 1943, Bugs Bunny was featured in a short, Super-Rabbit, which sees the character gaining powers through eating fortified carrots. This short ends with Bugs stepping into a phone booth to change into a real "Superman" and emerging as a U.S. Marine. In 1956 Daffy Duck assumes the mantle of "Cluck Trent" in the short "Stupor Duck", a role later reprised in various issues of the Looney Tunes comic book.[198] In the United Kingdom Monty Python created the character Bicycle Repairman, who fixes bicycles on a world full of Supermen, for a sketch in series of their BBC show.[199] Also on the BBC was the sitcom My Hero, which presented Thermoman as a slightly dense Superman pastiche, attempting to save the world and pursue romantic aspirations.[200] In the United States, Saturday Night Live has often parodied the figure, with Margot Kidder reprising her role as Lois Lane in a 1979 episode. The manga and anime series Dr. Slump featured the character Suppaman; a short, fat, pompous man who changes into a thinly veiled Superman-like alter-ego by eating a sour-tasting umeboshi. Jerry Seinfeld, a noted Superman fan, filled his series Seinfeld with references to the character and in 1997 asked for Superman to co-star with him in a commercial for American Express. The commercial aired during the 1998 NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl, Superman animated in the style of artist Curt Swan, again at the request of Seinfeld.[201] Superman has also been used as reference point for writers, with Steven T. Seagle's graphic novel Superman: It's a Bird exploring Seagle's feelings on his own mortality as he struggles to develop a story for a Superman tale.[202] Brad Fraser used the character as a reference point for his play Poor Super Man, with The Independent noting the central character, a gay man who has lost many friends to AIDS as someone who "identifies all the more keenly with Superman's alien-amid-deceptive-lookalikes status."[203] Superman's image was also used in an AIDS awareness campaign by French organization AIDES. Superman was depicted as emaciated and breathing from an oxygen tank, demonstrating that no-one is beyond the reach of the disease, and it can destroy the lives of everyone.[204]

Superman is also mentioned in several films, including Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin, in which Batman states, "That's why Superman works alone ..." in reference to the many troubles caused by his partner Robin, and also in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, in which Aunt May gives her nephew Peter Parker a word of advice not to strain himself too much, because, "You're not Superman, you know", among many others.

Critical reception and popularity

The character Superman and his various comic series have received various awards over the years.

Literary analysis

Superman has been interpreted and discussed in many forms in the years since his debut. The character's status as the first costumed superhero has allowed him to be used in many studies discussing the genre, Umberto Eco noting that "he can be seen as the representative of all his similars".[216] Writing in Time in 1971, Gerald Clarke stated: "Superman's enormous popularity might be looked upon as signalling the beginning of the end for the Horatio Alger myth of the self-made man." Clarke viewed the comics characters as having to continuously update in order to maintain relevance, and thus representing the mood of the nation. He regarded Superman's character in the early seventies as a comment on the modern world, which he saw as a place in which "only the man with superpowers can survive and prosper."[217] Andrew Arnold, writing in the early 21st century, has noted Superman's partial role in exploring assimilation, the character's alien status allowing the reader to explore attempts to fit in on a somewhat superficial level.

Clark Kent yelling "Good Grief!"
Clark Kent, argued by Jules Feiffer to be the most innovative feature of Superman

A.C. Grayling, writing in The Spectator, traces Superman's stances through the decades, from his 1930s campaign against crime being relevant to a nation under the influence of Al Capone, through the 1940s and World War II, a period in which Superman helped sell war bonds,[218] and into the 1950s, where Superman explored the new technological threats. Grayling notes the period after the Cold War as being one where "matters become merely personal: the task of pitting his brawn against the brains of Lex Luthor and Brainiac appeared to be independent of bigger questions", and discusses events post 9/11, stating that as a nation "caught between the terrifying George W. Bush and the terrorist Osama bin Laden, America is in earnest need of a Saviour for everything from the minor inconveniences to the major horrors of world catastrophe. And here he is, the down-home clean-cut boy in the blue tights and red cape".[219]

An influence on early Superman stories is the context of the Great Depression. Superman took on the role of social activist, fighting crooked businessmen and politicians and demolishing run-down tenements.[152] Comics scholar Roger Sabin sees this as a reflection of "the liberal idealism of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal", with Shuster and Siegel initially portraying Superman as champion to a variety of social causes.[220][221] In later Superman radio programs the character continued to take on such issues, tackling a version of the Ku Klux Klan in a 1946 broadcast, as well as combating anti-semitism and veteran discrimination.[222][223][224]

Scott Bukatman has discussed Superman, and the superhero in general, noting the ways in which they humanize large urban areas through their use of the space, especially in Superman's ability to soar over the large skyscrapers of Metropolis. He writes that the character "represented, in 1938, a kind of Corbusierian ideal. Superman has X-ray vision: walls become permeable, transparent. Through his benign, controlled authority, Superman renders the city open, modernist and democratic; he furthers a sense that Le Corbusier described in 1925, namely, that 'Everything is known to us'."[225]

Three men seated onstage, flanked by Superman material
The Library of Congress hosting a discussion with Dan Jurgens and Paul Levitz for Superman's 80th anniversary and the 1,000th issue of Action Comics.

Jules Feiffer has argued that Superman's real innovation lay in the creation of the Clark Kent persona, noting that what "made Superman extraordinary was his point of origin: Clark Kent." Feiffer develops the theme to establish Superman's popularity in simple wish fulfillment,[226] a point Siegel and Shuster themselves supported, Siegel commenting that "If you're interested in what made Superman what it is, here's one of the keys to what made it universally acceptable. Joe and I had certain inhibitions ... which led to wish-fulfillment which we expressed through our interest in science fiction and our comic strip. That's where the dual-identity concept came from" and Shuster supporting that as being "why so many people could relate to it".[227]

Ian Gordon suggests that the many incarnations of Superman across media use nostalgia to link the character to an ideology of the American Way. He defines this ideology as a means of associating individualism, consumerism, and democracy and as something that took shape around WWII and underpinned the war effort. Superman he notes was very much part of that effort.[228]

An allegory for immigrants

Superman's immigrant status is a key aspect of his appeal.[229][230][231] Aldo Regalado saw the character as pushing the boundaries of acceptance in America. The extraterrestrial origin was seen by Regalado as challenging the notion that Anglo-Saxon ancestry was the source of all might.[232] Gary Engle saw the "myth of Superman [asserting] with total confidence and a childlike innocence the value of the immigrant in American culture." He argues that Superman allowed the superhero genre to take over from the Western as the expression of immigrant sensibilities. Through the use of a dual identity, Superman allowed immigrants to identify with both their cultures. Clark Kent represents the assimilated individual, allowing Superman to express the immigrants' cultural heritage for the greater good.[230] David Jenemann has offered a contrasting view. He argues that Superman's early stories portray a threat: "the possibility that the exile would overwhelm the country."[233] David Rooney, a theater critic for The New York Times, in his evaluation of the play, Year Zero, considers Superman to be the "quintessential immigrant story ... (b)orn on an alien planet, he grows stronger on Earth, but maintains a secret identity tied to a homeland that continues to exert a powerful hold on him even as his every contact with those origins does him harm."[234]

Religious themes

Some see Judaic themes in Superman. Simcha Weinstein notes that Superman's story has some parallels to that of Moses. For example, Moses as a baby was sent away by his parents in a reed basket to escape death and adopted by a foreign culture. Weinstein also posits that Superman's Kryptonian name, "Kal-El", resembles the Hebrew words קל-אל, which can be taken to mean "voice of God".[235] Larry Tye suggests that this "Voice of God" is an allusion to Moses' role as a prophet.[236] The suffix "el", meaning "(of) God", is also found in the name of angels (e.g. Gabriel, Ariel), who are airborne humanoid agents of good with superhuman powers. The Nazis also thought Superman was a Jew and in 1940 Joseph Goebbels publicly denounced Superman and his creator Siegel.[237] However, Martin Lund argues that the evidence for Jewish influence is circumstantial, and notes that Siegel was not a practicing Jew and that he never acknowledged the influence of Judaism.[238]

Superman stories have occasionally exhibited Christian themes as well. Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz consciously made Superman an allegory for Christ in the 1978 movie starring Christopher Reeve: baby Kal-El's ship resembles the Star of Bethlehem, and Jor-El gives his son a messianic mission to lead humanity into a brighter future.[239]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d National Allied Publications was founded in 1934 by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Due to financial difficulties, Wheeler-Nicholson formed a corporation with Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz called Detective Comics, Inc. In 1937, Wheeler-Nicholson sold his stake in National Allied Publications and Detective Comics to Donenfeld and Liebowitz as part of a bankruptcy settlement. On September 30, 1946, these two companies merged to become National Comics Publications. In 1961, the company changed its name to National Periodical Publications. In 1967 National Periodical Publications was purchased by Kinney National Company, which later purchased Warner Bros.-Seven Arts and became Warner Communications. In 1977, National Periodical Publications changed its name to DC Comics, which had been its nickname since 1940. Since 1940, the publisher had placed a logo with the initials "DC" on all its magazine covers, and consequently "DC Comics" became an informal name for the publisher. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "dccomicshistory" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  2. ^ Daniels (1998) wrote that the second version of Superman in 1933 had no fantastic abilities. Tye (2012) writes that he did, citing Siegel's memoir, Creation of a Superhero. It is likely that Daniels never had access to this memoir. Since 1998, the estate of Siegel has released additional material from this era, notably for evidence in lawsuits.
  3. ^ Consolidated Book Publishers was also known as Humor Publishing. Jerry Siegel always referred to this publisher as "Consolidated" in all interviews and memoirs. Humor Publishing was possibly a subsidiary of Consolidated.


  1. ^ a b The copyright date of Action Comics #1 was registered as April 18, 1938.
    See Catalog of Copyright Entries. New Series, Volume 33, Part 2: Periodicals January-December 1938. United States Library of Congress. 1938. p. 129. 
  2. ^ a b Daniels 1998, p. 11
  3. ^ Rhoades, Shirrel (2008). Comic Books: How the Industry Works. Peter Lang. p. 72. ISBN 0820488925. 
  4. ^ Holt, Douglas B. (2004). How Brands Become Icons: The Principles of Cultural Branding. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. p. 1. ISBN 1-57851-774-5. 
  5. ^ Koehler, Derek J.; Harvey, Nigel., eds. (2004). Blackwell Handbook of Judgment and Decision Making. Blackwell. p. 519. ISBN 1-4051-0746-4. 
  6. ^ Dinerstein, Joel (2003). Swinging the machine: Modernity, technology, and African American culture between the wars. University of Massachusetts Press. p. 81. ISBN 1-55849-383-2. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Ricca (2014)
  8. ^ Jerry Siegel (under the pseudonym Herbert S. Fine). "The Reign of the Superman". Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization #3. January 1933
    Summarized in Ricca (2014), p. 70-72.
  9. ^ Siegel in Andrae (1983), p. 10: "Obviously, having him a hero would be infinitely more commercial than having him a villain. I understand that the comic strip Dr. Fu Manchu ran into all sorts of difficulties because the main character was a villain. And with the example before us of Tarzan and other action heroes of fiction who were very successful, mainly because people admired them and looked up to them, it seemed the sensible thing to do to make The Superman a hero. The first piece was a short story, and that's one thing; but creating a successful comic strip with a character you'll hope will continue for many years, it would definitely be going in the wrong direction to make him a villain."
  10. ^ Tye (2012), p. 17: "The version he was drafting would again begin with a wild scientist empowering a normal human against his will, but this time the powers would be even more fantastic, and rather than becoming a criminal, the super-being would fight crime “with the fury of an outraged avenger.”"
  11. ^ Jerry Siegel. Creation of a Superhero (unpublished memoir, written c 1978; Scans available from Dropbox and Scribd). Cited in Tye (2012):
    "The hero of "THE SUPERMAN" comic book strip was also given super-powers against his will by a scientist. He gained fantastic strength, bullets bounced off him, etc. He fought crime with the fury of an outraged avenger."
  12. ^ Daniels (1998), p. 17: "... usually [Shuster] and Siegel agreed that no special costume was in evidence, and the surviving artwork bears them out."
  13. ^ Siegel and Shuster in Andrae (1983), p.9-10: "Shuster: [...] It wasn't really Superman: that was before he evolved into a costumed figure. He was simply wearing a T-shirt and pants; he was more like Slam Bradley than anything else — just a man of action. [...]
    Siegel: In later years - maybe 10 or 15 years ago - I asked Joe what he remembered of this story, and he remembered a scene of a character crouched on the edge of a building, with a cape almost a la Batman. We don't specifically recall if the character had a costume or not. [...] Joe and I - especially Joe - seem to recall that there were some scenes in there in which that character had a bat-like cape."
  14. ^ Daniels (1998), p. 17
  15. ^ The copyright date of Detective Dan Secret Operative 48 was registered as May 12, 1933.
    See Catalog of Copyright Entries. New Series, Volume 30, For the Year 1933, Part 1: Books, Group 2. United States Library of Congress. 1933. p. 351. 
  16. ^ Scivally (2007): "Detective Dan—Secret Operative 48 was published by the Humor Publishing Company of Chicago. Detective Dan was little more than a Dick Tracy clone, but here, for the first time, in a series of black-and-white illustrations, was a comic magazine with an original character appearing in all-new stories. This was a dramatic departure from other comic magazines, which simply reprinted panels from the Sunday newspaper comic strips."
  17. ^ Jerry Siegel. Creation of a Superhero (unpublished memoir, written c 1978; Scans available from Dropbox and Scribd):
    "I do recall, though, that when Mr. Livingston visited Cleveland, Joe and I showed "THE SUPERMAN" comic book pages to Mr. Livingston in his hotel room, and he was favorably impressed."
  18. ^ Beerbohm, Robert (1996). "Siegel & Shuster Presents... The Superman". Comic Book Marketplace. No. 36. Gemstone Publishing Inc. pp. 47–50. :
    "So this early "Superman" cover was done, replete with a "10¢" plug... and was placed on an entire comic book, written, drawn, inked, and shown to the Humor people by Jerry and Joe when they happened to come through Cleveland (trying to shop Detective Dan to the NEA newspaper syndicate)."
  19. ^ Ricca (2014), pp. 97-98
  20. ^ Tye (2012): "Although the first response was encouraging, the second made it clear that the comic book was so unprofitable that its publishers put on hold any future stories."
  21. ^ a b Ricca (2014), p. 99: "Jerry was convinced, just as he was in those early pulp days, that you had to align yourself with someone famous to be famous yourself. [...] Over the next year, Jerry contacted several major artists, including Mel Graff, J. Allen St. John, and even Bernie Schmittke [...]"
  22. ^ Jerry Siegel. Creation of a Superhero (unpublished memoir, written c 1978; Scans available from Dropbox and Scribd). Quoted in Tye (2012), p. 18: "When I told Joe of this, he unhappily destroyed the drawn-up pages of "THE SUPERMAN" burning them in the furnace of his apartment building. At my request, he gave me as a gift the torn cover. We continued collaborating on other projects."
  23. ^ In an interview with Andrae (1983), Shuster said he destroyed their 1933 Superman comic as a reaction to Humor Publishing's rejection letter, which contradicts Siegel's account in Siegel's unpublished memoir. Tye (2012) argues that the account from the memoir is the truth, and that Shuster lied in the interview to avoid tension.
  24. ^ Tye (2012):"Next on the list was Leo O’Mealia, who drew the Fu Manchu comic and soon found in his mailbox Jerry’s more fully developed script for Superman."
  25. ^ Jerry Siegel. Creation of a Superhero (unpublished memoir, written c 1978; Scans available from Dropbox and Scribd).:
    "Leo O'Mealia's first letter to me was dated July 17, 1933"
  26. ^ Tye (2012), p. 18
  27. ^ Jerry Siegel. Creation of a Superhero (unpublished memoir, written c 1978; Scans available from Dropbox and Scribd).:
    "I no longer have a copy of the script of that particular version of "Superman". [...] I never saw [O'Mealia's] Superman drawings. He did not send me a copy of it."
  28. ^ Jerry Siegel. Creation of a Superhero (unpublished memoir, written c 1978; Scans available from Dropbox and Scribd). Extract filed under Exhibit A (Docket 184) in Laura Siegel Larson v Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., DC Comics, Case no. 13-56243:
    "In a letter dated June 9, 1934, he wrote back expressing interesting in the possibility of our teaming-up together on a newspaper syndication comic strip. [...] Russell Keaton's letter to me of June 14, 1934 was very enthusiastic. He stated that in his opinion "Superman" was already a tremendous hit, and that he would be glad to collaborate with me on "Superman"."
  29. ^ Jones (2004), p. 112-113
  30. ^ Ricca (2014), p. 101-102
    See also Exhibit A (Docket 373-3) in Laura Siegel Larson v Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., DC Comics, Case no. 13-56243.
    Summary of Jerry Siegel and Russel Keaton's Superman collaboration (Archived at Dropbox).
  31. ^ Ricca (2014): "Jerry tried to sell this version to the syndicates, but no one was interested, so Keaton gave up."
  32. ^ Jerry Siegel. Creation of a Superhero (unpublished memoir, written c 1978; Scans available from Dropbox and Scribd). Extract filed under Exhibit A (Docket 184) in Laura Siegel Larson v Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., DC Comics, Case no. 13-56243:
    "Keaton's next letter to me, sent November 3, 1934, stated "Superman" was in a locker in a bus station, and that he was going to show the feature to Publisher's Syndicate, after that weekend. [...] I got a brief note from Russell Keaton. He wrote that he was completely withdrawing from any participation at all in the "Superman" comic strip and that as far as he was concerned: "the book is closed". Unhappily, I destroyed the letter."
  33. ^ Interview with Joe Shuster by Bertil Falk in 1975, quoted in Alter Ego #56 (Feb 2006):
    "SHUSTER: [...] I conceived the character in my mind’s eye to have a very, very colorful costume of a cape and, you know, very, very colorful tights and boots and the letter “S” on his chest.
    FALK: You did that, not Siegel?
    SHUSTER: Yes, yes. I did that, because that was my concept from what he described, but he did inspire me [...]"
  34. ^ Daniels 1998, p. 18
  35. ^ Over the years, Siegel and Shuster made contradictory statements regarding when they developed Superman's familiar costume. They occasionally claimed to have developed it immediately in 1933. Daniels (1998) writes: "... usually [Shuster] and Siegel agreed that no special costume was in evidence [in 1933], and the surviving artwork bears them out." The cover art for their 1933 proposal to Humor Publishing shows a shirtless, cape-less Superman. Siegel's collaboration with Russell Keaton in 1934 contains no description nor illustration of Superman in costume. Tye (2012) writes that Siegel and Shuster developed the costume shortly after they resumed working together in late 1934.
  36. ^ Siegel's unpublished memoir, The Story Behind Superman (Archived September 13, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.), as well as an interview with Thomas Andrae in Nemo #2 (1983), corroborate each other that Clark Kent's timid-journalist persona and Lois Lane were developed in 1934.
  37. ^ Wheeler-Nicholson offered Siegel and Shuster work in a letter dated June 6, 1935. See Ricca (2014), p. 104.
  38. ^ Henri Duval and Doctor Occult in New Fun Comics #6 (cover-dated Oct 1935). See Ricca (2014), p. 104.
  39. ^ Letter from Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson to Siegel and Shuster, quoted in Ricca (2014), p. 146: " would be much better off doing Superman in full page in four colors for one of our publications."
  40. ^ Tye (2012): "But the boys were alarmed, less by the request that they release their rights than by the mounting evidence that the Major was running out of money. So while they continued to write and draw for him, and to live off what payments they got, they determined not to trust him with their prize possession."
  41. ^ Jerome Siegel, in a sworn affidavit signed 1 March 1973, filed in Jerome Siegel & Joseph Shuster vs National Periodical Publications et al, 69 Civ 1429:
    "In 1935 Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, a publisher of comic books, expressed interest in Superman and tried to persuade us that the property would be more successful if published in comic book form where it would be seen in color, than it would be in a black and white daily strip. Our experience with him had been such that we did not conisder him the publisher to entrust with the property and his proposal was rejected."
  42. ^ Tye (2012): "His launches of books like Detective Comics were delayed. Promises of 15 percent of profits and half of syndicate sales remained promises. Some checks that were due never came, and one bounced."
  43. ^ J. Addison Young, "Findings of Fact" (April 12, 1948), in Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster vs. National Comics Publications Inc. et al. (New York Supreme Court 1947) (Scan available on Scribd):
    "In the latter part of 1937, Nicholson Publishing Company went out of business and DETECTIVE COMICS, INC. acquired some of its magazine properties."
  44. ^ Jerry Siegel. Creation of a Superhero (unpublished memoir, written c 1978; Scans available from Dropbox and Scribd).:
    "On January 5, 1938 Liebowitz wrote to me [...] that the Nicholson Publishing Company had been petitioned into bankruptcy by its creditors. [...] On January 10, Vin Sullivan wrote to me that Nicholson Publishing Company was in the hands of receivers [...] and that "Detective Comics" was being published by the firm for which Liebowitz was the manager."
  45. ^ J. Addison Young, "Findings of Fact" (April 12, 1948), in Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster vs. National Comics Publications Inc. et al. (New York Supreme Court 1947) (Scan available on Scribd):
    "On December 4, 1937, defendant LIEBOWITZ, representing DETECTIVE COMICS, INC., met plaintiff SIEGEL in New York City."
  46. ^ Siegel, Jerry. Unpublished memoir "The Story Behind Superman #1", registered for U.S. copyright in 1978 under later version Creation of a Superhero as noted by Tye (2012), p. 309. P. 5. Memoir additionally cited by Ricca (2014), p. 148, and available online at sites including "The Story Behind Superman #1". Archived from the original on December 21, 2015. Retrieved December 20, 2015 – via  Note: Archive of p. 1 only.
  47. ^ Jerry Siegel. Creation of a Superhero (unpublished memoir, written c 1978; Scans available from Dropbox and Scribd).:
    "I received a telephone call early in January of 1938 from Gaines of the McClure Syndicate. This was a three-way call between Gaines, Liebowitz and myself. Gaines informed me that the syndicate was unable to use the various strips which I had sent for inclusion in the proposed syndicate newspaper tabloid. He asked my permission to turn these features, including "Superman", over to Detective Comics' publishers for consideration for their proposed new magazine, "Action Comics". I consented."
  48. ^ Via editor Vin Sullivan, in a letter to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, dated 10 January 1948. Quoted in Ricca (2014)
  49. ^ Jerry Siegel. The Life and Times of Jerry Siegel (unpublished memoir, written c 1946; Scans available at Dropbox and Scribd):
    "Joe and I talked it over, decided we were tired of seeing the strip rejected everywhere, and would at least like to see it in print. And so we pasted our samples of a SUPERMAN daily strip into comic magazine page form, as request, and sent it on."
  50. ^ Kobler, John (June 21, 1941). "Up, Up, and Awa-a-ay!: The Rise of Superman, Inc" (PDF). The Saturday Evening Post. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 13, 2016. :
    "[Siegel and Shuster], who by this time had abandoned hope that Superman would ever amount to much, mulled this over gloomily. Then Siegel shrugged, ‘Well, at least this way we'll see [Superman] in print.’ They signed the form."
    NOTE: The form mentioned refers to a contract of sale signed on March 1, 1938.
  51. ^ J. Addison Young, "Findings of Fact" (April 12, 1948), in Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster vs. National Comics Publications Inc. et al. (New York Supreme Court 1947) (Scan available on Scribd):
    "Defendant THE MC CLURE NEWSPAPER SYNDICATE, then submitted to DETECTIVE COMICS, INC. the SUPERMAN comic strip created by plaintiffs, which strip consisted of a few panels suitable for newspaper syndication [...] DETECTIVE COMICS, INC. examined the old material and returned it to plaintiffs for revision and expansion into a full length thirteen page comic strip release suitable for magazine publication. [...] Plaintiffs revised and expanded the said SUPERMAN material in complicance with the said request of DETECTIVE COMICS, INC. and on or about February 22, 1938 resubmitted such revised and expanded material to DETECTIVE COMICS, INC. [...] On March 1, 1938 [...] DETECTIVE COMICS, INC. wrote to plaintiff SIEGEL [...] enclosing a check in the sum of $412. which included $130. in payment of the first thirteen page SUPERMAN release at the agreed rate of $10. per page [...]"
  52. ^ a b c d e f g Sergi (2015)
  53. ^ a b Tye (2012)
  54. ^ J. Addison Young, "Findings of Fact" (April 12, 1948), in Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster vs. National Comics Publications Inc. et al. (New York Supreme Court 1947) (Scan available on Scribd):
    "The first thirteen pages of SUPERMAN material were published on April 18, 1938, in the June, 1938 issue of "Action Comics"magazine."
  55. ^ Andrae (1983): "...when I did the version in 1934, (which years later, in 1938, was published, in revised form, in Action Comics #1) the John Carter stories did influence me. Carter was able to leap great distances because the planet Mars was smaller that [sic] the planet Earth; and he had great strength. I visualized the planet Krypton as a huge planet, much larger than Earth; so whoever came to Earth from that planet would be able to leap great distances and lift great weights."
  56. ^ The History Behind Superman's Ever-Changing Superpowers Archived March 26, 2017, at the Wayback Machine.
  57. ^ Jerry Siegel. Creation of a Superhero (unpublished memoir, written c 1978;Scans available from Dropbox and Scribd).:
    "I had read and enjoyed Philip Wylie's book "The Gladiator". It influenced me, too."
  58. ^ Feeley, Gregory (March 2005). "When World-views Collide: Philip Wylie in the Twenty-first Century". Science Fiction Studies. 32 (95). ISSN 0091-7729. Archived from the original on April 3, 2013. Retrieved December 6, 2006. 
  59. ^ Jerry Siegel. Creation of a Superhero (unpublished memoir, written c 1978; Scans available from Dropbox and Scribd).:
    "Obviously, Samson and Hercules had a strong influence -- in fact, the cover of Superman Magazine No. 4 shows Superman tearing down some pillars"
  60. ^ Andrae (1983): "... I was inspired by the movies. In the silent films, my hero was Douglas Fairbanks Senior, who was very agile and athletic. So I think he might have been an inspiration to us, even in his attitude. He had a stance which I often used in drawing Superman. You'll see in many of his roles—including Robin Hood—that he always stood with his hands on his hips and his feet spread apart, laughing—taking nothing seriously."
  61. ^ a b c Andrae (1983)
  62. ^ Andrae (1983)
  63. ^ Jerry Siegel, quoted in Andrae (1983): "I loved The Mark of Zorro, and I'm sure that had some influence on me. I did also see The Scarlet Pimpernel but didn't care much for it."
  64. ^ Jerry Siegel. Creation of a Superhero (unpublished memoir, written c 1978; Scans available from Dropbox and Scribd).:
    "In movies, I had seen "The Scarlet Pimpernel", "The Mark of Zorro" and Rudolph Valentino in "The Eagle", and I thought that a mighty hero, who in another identity pretended to be an ineffectual weakling, made for great dramatic contrast. In addition, it would, in a comic strip, permit some humorous characterization."
  65. ^ Siegel: "We especially loved some of those movies in which Harold Lloyd would start off as a sort of momma's boy being pushed around, kicked around, thrown around, and then suddenly would turn into a fighting whirlwind."
    Shuster: "I was kind of mild-manned and wore glasses so I really identified with it"
    Anthony Wall (1981). Superman – The Comic Strip Hero (Television production). BBC. Event occurs at 00:04:50. Archived from the original on December 28, 2015. 
  66. ^ Andrae (1983): Siegel: "As a high school student, I thought that some day I might become a reporter, and I had crushes on several attractive girls who either didn't know I existed or didn't care I existed. [...] It occurred to me: What if I was real terrific? What if I had something special going for me, like jumping over buildings or throwing cars around or something like that? Then maybe they would notice me."
  67. ^ Shuster in Andrae (1983) "I tried to build up my body. I was so skinny; I went in for weight-lifting and athletics. I used to get all the body-building magazines from the second-hand stores — and read them...."
  68. ^ Andrae (1983): "I also had classical heroes and strongmen in mind, and this shows in the footwear. In the third version Superman wore sandals laced halfway up the calf. You can still see this on the cover of Action #1, though they were covered over in red to look like boots when the comic was printed."
  69. ^ Andrae (1983): "It was inspired by the costume pictures that Fairbanks did: they greatly influenced us."
  70. ^ Ricca (2014), p. 124: "The overall physical look of Superman himself is from Johnny Weissmuller, whose face Joe swiped from movie magazines and news articles. ... Joe just squinted the eyes like his idol Roy Crane [did with his characters] and added a Dick Tracy smile." Ricca cites Beerbohm, Robert L. (August 1997). "The Big Bang Theory of Comic Book History". Comic Book Marketplace. 2 (50). Coronado, California: Gemstone Publishing. 
  71. ^ Ricca (2014): "What the boys did read were the magazines and papers where "superman" was a common word. Its usage was almost always preceded by "a." Most times the word was used to refer to an athlete or a politician."
  72. ^ Flagg, Francis (November 11, 1931). "The Superman of Dr. Jukes". Wonder Stories. Gernsback. 
  73. ^ "His life work was one which called for the abilities of a superman, and Doc had been trained from the cradle, that he might have the strength to arise to any occasion."
    -Robeson, Kenneth (September 1933). "The Lost Oasis". Doc Savage Magazine. Street & Smith.
  74. ^ Jacobson, Howard (March 5, 2005). "Up, Up and Oy Vey!". The Times. UK. p. 5. : "If Siegel and Shuster knew of Nietzsche's Ubermensch, they didn't say..."
  75. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (July 2008). The Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television. McFarland & Co. p. 539. ISBN 978-0-7864-3755-9. Archived from the original on December 30, 2011. Retrieved May 31, 2011. 
  76. ^ Tye (2012): "Vendors had sold 130,000 comic books, or 64 percent of the print run. Anything over 50 percent constituted a success and guaranteed a profit. [...] Sales, meanwhile, continued to climb—to 136,000 for the second issue, 159,000 for the third, 190,000 for the fourth, and 197,000 for the fifth. Action No. 13, released on the first anniversary of the original, offered up 415,000 reasons to celebrate. National printed 725,000 copies of Action No. 16 and sold 625,000—an unheard-of success rate of 86 percent."
  77. ^ Tye (2012): "...readers were asked to list in order of preference their five favorite stories. [...] 404 of 542 respondents named Superman as tops, with 59 more listing him second.
  78. ^ Superman #1 (Summer 1939) Archived April 22, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. at the Grand Comics Database.
  79. ^ Action Comics Archived February 23, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. at the Grand Comics Database.
  80. ^ Superman Archived February 27, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. (1939–1986 series)] and Adventures of Superman Archived March 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. (1987 continuation of series) at the Grand Comics Database.
  81. ^ "Superman"-titled comics Archived March 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. at the Grand Comics Database.
  82. ^ "Marvel and DC sales figures". Archived from the original on April 5, 2016. 
  83. ^ Miller, John Jackson, ed. "Superman Annual Sales Figures". Archived from the original on March 14, 2016. 
  84. ^ Tye (2012): "Superman 75, the death issue, tallied the biggest one-day sale ever for a comic book, with more than six million copies printed."
  85. ^ Tye (2012): "Journalists, along with most of their readers and viewers, didn’t understand that heroes regularly perished in the comics and almost never stayed dead."
  86. ^ "2018 Comic Book Sales to Comic Book Shops". Comichron. Retrieved July 8, 2018. 
  87. ^ Tye (2012): "The remaining audience [by 2011] was dedicated to the point of fanaticism, a trend that was self-reinforcing. No longer did casual readers pick up a comic at the drugstore or grocery, both because the books increasingly required an insider’s knowledge to follow the action and because they simply weren’t being sold anymore at markets, pharmacies, or even the few newsstands that were left. [...] Comic books had gone from being a cultural emblem to a countercultural refuge."
  88. ^ a b Eury (2006), p. 18: "In 1948 Boring succeeded Shuster as the principal superman artist, his art style epitomizing the Man of Steel's comics and merchandising look throughout the 1950s."
  89. ^ a b Daniels (1998), p. 74: "...Superman was drawn in a more detailed, realistic style of illustration. He also looked bigger and stronger. "Until then Superman had always seemed squat," Boring said. "He was six heads high, a bit shorter than normal. I made him taller–nine heads high–but kept his massive chest."
  90. ^ a b Curt Swan (1987). Drawing Superman. Essay reprinted in Eury (2006), pp. 58: "For 30 years or so, from around 1955 until a couple of years ago when I more or less retired, I was the principal artists of the Superman comic for DC Comics."
  91. ^ Tumey, Paul (April 14, 2014). "Reviews: Superman: The Golden Age Sundays 1943–1946". The Comics Journal. Archived from the original on May 29, 2014. Retrieved March 1, 2016. ...Jerry Siegel had his hands — and typewriter — full, turning out stories for the comic books and the daily newspaper strips (which had completely separate continuities from the Sundays). 
  92. ^ Daniels (1998), p. 74
  93. ^ Cole, Neil A. (ed.). "Wayne Boring (1905–1987)". Archived from the original on October 8, 2016. Retrieved March 2, 2016. 
  94. ^ Cole, Neil A. (ed.). "Win Mortimer (1919–1998)". Archived from the original on June 30, 2014. Retrieved March 1, 2016. 
  95. ^ Younis, Steven, ed. "Superman Newspaper Strips". Archived from the original on March 26, 2015. Retrieved February 28, 2016. 
  96. ^ Tye (2012): "Initially Harry [Donenfeld], Jack [Liebowitz], and the managers they hired to oversee their growing editorial empire had let Jerry [Siegel] do as he wished with the character..."
  97. ^ Tye (2012): "Neither Harry [Donenfeld] nor Jack [Liebowitz] had planned for a separate Superman comic book, or for that to be ongoing. Having Superman's story play out across different venues presented a challenge for Jerry [Siegel] and the writers who came after him: Each installment needed to seem original yet part of a whole, stylistically and narratively. Their solution, at the beginning, was to wing it..."
  98. ^ Daniels (1998), p. 42: "...the publisher was anxious to avoid any repetition of the censorship problems associated with his early pulp magazines (such as the lurid Spicy Detective)."
  99. ^ Tye (2012): "Once Superman became big business, however, plots had to be sent to New York for vetting. Not only did editors tell Jerry to cut out the guns and knives and cut back on social crusading, they started calling the shots on minute details of script and drawing."
  100. ^ Daniels (1998), p. 42: "It was left to Ellsworth to impose tight editorial controls on Jerry Siegel. Henceforth, Superman would be forbidden to use his powers to kill anyone, even a villain."
  101. ^ Tye (2012): "No hint of sex. No alienating parents or teachers. Evil geniuses like the Ultra-Humanite were too otherworldly to give kids nightmares... The Prankster, the Toyman, the Puzzler, and J. Wilbur Wolngham, a W. C. Fields lookalike, used tricks and gags instead of a bow and arrows in their bids to conquer Superman. For editors wary of controversy, 1940s villains like those were a way to avoid the sharp edges of the real world."
  102. ^ Tye (2012): "Before Mort came along, Superman’s world was ad hoc and seat-of-the-pants, with Jerry and other writers adding elements as they went along without any planning or anyone worrying whether it all hung together. That worked fine when all the books centered around Superman and all the writing was done by a small stable. Now the pool of writers had grown and there were eight different comic books with hundreds of Superman stories a year to worry about."
  103. ^ Tye (2012): "But Weisinger’s innovations were taking a quiet toll on the story. Superman’s world had become so complicated that readers needed a map or even an encyclopedia to keep track of everyone and everything. (There would eventually be encyclopedias, two in fact, but the first did not appear until 1978.) All the plot complications were beguiling to devoted readers, who loved the challenge of keeping current, but to more casual fans they could be exhausting."
  104. ^ Tye (2012): "Weisinger stories steered clear of the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution, the black power movement, and other issues that red the 1960s. There was none of what Mort would have called "touchy-feely" either, much as readers might have liked to know how Clark felt about his split personality, or whether Superman and Lois engaged in the battles between the sexes that were a hallmark of the era. Mort wanted his comics to be a haven for young readers, and he knew his right-leaning politics wouldn’t sit well with his leftist writers and many of his Superman fans."
  105. ^ Daniels (1998), p. 102: "One of the ways the editor kept in touch with his young audience was through a letters colum, "Metropolis Mailbag," introduced in 1958."
  106. ^ Tye (2012): "It did work. In 1960, the first year in which sales data was made public, Superman was selling more comic books than any other title or character, and he stayed on top through much of the decade. The Man of Steel was at the front of a charge that saw superheroes taking over from western and romance-themed comics. Some of that was a dividend from an easing of the comics scare and other, broader forces, but Weisinger’s reinventions were key ingredients in Superman’s comeback. "Mort kept it alive," says Carmine Infantino, a National Comics artist who would rise to editorial director, then publisher. "He was a damn good editor. Damn good.""
  107. ^ Comichron. Comic Book Sales By Year Archived July 23, 2016, at the Wayback Machine..
  108. ^ Tye (2012): "He admitted later he was losing touch with a new generation of kids and their notions about heroes and villains."
  109. ^ Julius Schwartz, quoted in Daniels (1998): "I said, 'I want to get rid of all the kryptonite. I want to get rid of all the robots that are used to get him out of situations. And I'm sick and tired of that stupid suit Clark Kent wears all the time. I want to give him more up-to-date clothes. And maybe the most important thing I want to do is take him out of the Daily Planet and put him into television.' I said 'Our readers are not that familiar with newspapers. Most of them get their news on television, and I think it's high time after all these years.'"
  110. ^ Harvey (1996), p. 144: "Artistic expressiveness of a highly individualistic sort had never been particularly welcomed by traditional comic book publishers. The corporate mind, ever focused on the bottom line of the balance sheet, favored bland "house styles" of rendering..."
  111. ^ Tye (2012): "Max and Dave [Fleischer's] composers knew what Superman, Lois, and the others should look like, thanks to model sheets provided by Joe Shuster."
  112. ^ Wandtke (2012)
  113. ^ Tye (2012): "[Harry Donenfeld] drafted Maxwell into Superman, Inc., first to oversee the licensing of toys and other products, then to bring the superhero into the world of broadcast."
  114. ^ Scivally (2007): "Superman was brought to radio by Allen Ducovny, a press agent with Detective Comics, and Robert Maxwell (the pen name of Robert Joffe), a former pulp fiction author who was in charge of licensing the subsidiary rights of the company's comic book characters."
  115. ^ Rossen (2008), p. 3: "Ten weeks in, [The Adventures of Superman] had become the highest rated of any thrice-weekly entertainment series on air."
  116. ^ Pointer (2017): "...the budget for each short – an astonishing $30,000..."
  117. ^ Dave Fleischer, quoted in Daniels (1998), p. 58: "The average short cost nine or ten thousand dollars, some ran up to fifteen; they varied."
  118. ^ "Superman Movies at the Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on August 26, 2014. Retrieved July 24, 2016. 
    Superman (1978) made $134,218,018 in North American theaters, which is about $503,591,482 when adjusted for inflation. By comparison, Batman v Superman (2016) made only AFI $336,864,790.
  119. ^ Scivally (2007), p. 77: "Under the terms of the deal, Warners would have budget and casting approval and the right of first refusal for Superman films made by the Salkinds, but otherwise the financing and production of the films was up to the producers."
  120. ^ Zemler, Emily. "Henry Cavill on the secrets of Superman's return in 'Justice League'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 20, 2017. 
  121. ^ Scivally (2007): "...Robert Maxwell hoped for an adult time slot, so he made Superman an adult show, with death scenes and rough violence."
    "In May of 1953, script conferences began for the second season of Adventures of Superman. The program was now under the supervision of a new producer. Robert Maxwell was out, National Comics' editorial director Whitney Ellsworth was in."
  122. ^ Jenette Kahn: "We have approval rights to everything, the casting of Superboy/Clark Kent, approval of the synopses, the scripts and revised scripts. We even have the right to be on the set as the show is being shot to oversee the revisions being made during shooting."
    McDonnell, David; Dickholtz, Daniel (1988). "...And the Adventures of Superboy". Comics Scene. No. 5. O'Quinn Studios, Inc. 
  123. ^ (June 16, 2016), "Supergirl casts Teen Wolf star as Superman Archived June 19, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.," Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 23, 2016)
  124. ^ Ricca (2014): "It was then Donenfeld who not only now owned the property, but received the lion's share of the profits; whatever Jerry and Joe got was parsed out by him."
  125. ^ Ricca (2014): "[Harry Donenfeld] knew readers had become accustomed to Siegel and Shuster’s work, and he didn't want to risk upsetting a secret formula that he still didn't completely understand, especially when it was selling so well."
  126. ^ Tye (2012): "In the ten years from 1938, when the first Action was published, to the filing of the suit in 1947, Jerry and Joe were paid [...] a total of $401,194.85. That was a king’s ransom—more than $5 million in today’s terms"
  127. ^ Exhibit Q (Docket 353-3) in Laura Siegel Larson v Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., DC Comics, Case no. 13-56243 (Scans available from Dropbox and Scribd). Originally submitted as an exhibit in Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster vs. National Comics Publications Inc. et al. (New York Supreme Court 1947)
  128. ^ Jerry Siegel. The Life and Times of Jerry Siegel (unpublished memoir, written c 1946; Scans available at Dropbox and Scribd):
    "While I was in service, the majority of SUPERMAN's adventures were ghost-written by writers employed by DETECTIVE COMICS, Inc.
  129. ^ Jerry Siegel, in a 1975 interview with Phil Yeh for Cobblestone magazine. Quoted in Siegel and Shuster's Funnyman by Tom Andrae and Mel Gordon on page 49.:
    "While I was in the service they started ghosting the Superman scripts, because obviously I couldn't write them while I was away in the service."
  130. ^ Ricca (2014): "Jerry felt angry and instantly very isolated: Harry had gone ahead and okayed the title without telling him—or paying for it?"
  131. ^ Ricca (2014): "Jerry and Joe got a final check—and were promptly shown the door by National."
  132. ^ This term was spelled out in an October 19, 2001 letter Archived February 15, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. from the lawyer representing the Siegel heirs.
  133. ^ Sergi (2015)
    See also USC Title 17, Chapter 3, § 304(b)
  134. ^ Scott Niswander (July 22, 2015). Why Isn't SUPERMAN a PUBLIC DOMAIN Superhero?? (YouTube video). NerdSync Productions. Event occurs at 3:03~3:33. Archived from the original on November 22, 2016. Retrieved May 21, 2016. 
  135. ^ The Marvel Family #89. Copyright date registered as 25 September 1953.
    See Catalog of Copyright Entries, Third Series, Volume 7, Part 2, Number 1: Periodicals, Jan-Jun 1953. United States Library of Congress. 1954. p. 268.
  136. ^ Superman comic strip, January 16, 1939 Archived October 8, 2016, at the Wayback Machine., reprinted at "Episode 1: Superman Comes to Earth". Archived from the original on March 6, 2016. Retrieved March 27, 2016. 
  137. ^ Lowther, George (1942). The Adventures of Superman. Per Ricca (2014): "The book is also the first time that Superman's parents are named "Jor-el" and "Lara"—a slight spelling change that would stick."
  138. ^ Second panel of Action Comics #1
  139. ^ The Secret Rocket per Lantz, James. "Superman Radio Series – Story Reviews". Archived from the original on June 26, 2016. 
  140. ^ Jackson, Matthew (December 17, 2012). "The campaign to make a real Kansas town into Superman's Smallville". (Syfy). Archived from the original on March 22, 2016. Retrieved March 22, 2016. Decades of comic book mythology and a hit TV series have made Superman's hometown of Smallville, Kan., one of the most famous places in America. 
  141. ^ Mankiewicz & Crane (2012), p. 203
  142. ^ The Meteor From Krypton (June 1943). Per Hayde (2009): "Only one arc in 1943 managed to transcend its era: "The Meteor from Krypton." Debuting on June 3, it marked the debut of kryptonite..."
  143. ^ Superman #61 Archived April 27, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. at the Grand Comics Database. "Indexer notes ... Green Kryptonite introduced in this story."
  144. ^ Scivally (2007): "The episode also introduced Julian Noa as Clark Kent's boss, whose name had evolved from Paris White to Perry White. White's newspaper changed from The Daily Flash to The Daily Planet. Soon after the radio show appeared, the comic books also changed their Daily Star editor George Taylor to Daily Planet editor Perry White..."
  145. ^ Daniels (1998)
  146. ^ "If Lois should ACTUALLY learn Clark's secret, the strip would lose about 75% of its appeal—the human interest angle. I know that a formula can possibly prove monotonous through repetition but I fear that if this element is removed from the story formula that makes up SUPERMAN, that this strip will lose a great part of its effectiveness." Siegel, in his script notes, quoted in Ricca (2014).
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Further reading

External links