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    Sman new Sman new Presentation Transcript

    • What Makes Superman So Darned American?
    • Superman’s Origins  Action Comics #1 (June 1938)  probably the most famous comic book cover of all time • certainly one of the most expensive  marked the debut of the worlds greatest hero -- Superman.
    • "Man of Steel"  Both Jewish  Invented Superman as a typically Jewish mythical hero  Hitler oppressed the Created by Jerry Jews, and Superman Siegel and Joe was their answer to Shuster* while still in Hitler. high school in Cleveland *Canadian relatives
    • Several Historical Perspectives Stock market collapse in 1929 Beginning of the Great Depression: • millions out of work • bread lines and soup kitchens The Great Plains Drought • Overworked and overgrazed land began to erode • Farm topsoil blew in huge clouds turning the sky brown
    • The Thirties and Nazism In the late 1930s, Nazi war machine spread across Europe Hitler was the ultimate villain Oppressor of the weak, defenseless and those deemed "racially impure"
    •  Superman was an overnight success The "champion of the oppressed" became a comfort, particularly to children during the hard economic times and the threat of World War Reality was becoming ever grimmer Superman became their light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel
    •  While heroes may change superficially over the centuries, the basic tenets of heroism don’t change: • the self-sacrifice • the need to help • the desire to right wrongs, defend the weak, and vanquish evil
    • What Makes Superman so Darned American? “Superman is the American hero” (Gary Engle 333/739). Superman achieves truly mythic stature by interweaving • a pattern of beliefs • literary conventions • cultural traditions
    • What is the Superman Story? An orphan rocketed to Earth when Krypton explodes Raised by Jonathon and Martha Kent, a childless couple from Smallville Hides his “Superpowers” As an adult moves to Metropolis and assumes the identity of Clark Kent - reporter
    • The Eternal TriangleWhile defending America/World/Universe from Evil As Clark Kent he hopelessly pursues Lois Lane Lois hopelessly pursues Superman Lois must prove herself worthy of Superman by falling in love with Clark
    • 1. Superman is an Orphan Emphasizes themes of Dislocation, Mobility and Displacement • USA is an orphan separated from parent countries. Alone: Superman & the World • USA‟s social consciousness imbed the imagery of passage form one identity to another: Mayflower • Past is left behind: Must constantly move Superman reinvents himself for the future • “This makes the orphan a potent symbol of the American character. Orphans aren‟t merely free to reinvent themselves. They are obliged to do so” (337/741)
    • Individual Mobility/Frontier Superman can fly at great speeds - He is mobile and can fly whenever and wherever he wants • “His incredible speed allows him to be as close to everywhere at once as it is possible to be. Displacement is, therefore, impossible” (337/740)
    • Superman resembles Mythic Figures Greek messenger god Hermes; Roman god Mercury Zetes, the flying Argonaut Hercules
    • 2. Superman is an Immigrant Superman is an alien in a new land • underneath Clark‟s all American exterior he is always Superman: very visible minority • Superman undresses unlike other superheroes who don their costumes – e.g. Batman • “Superman‟s powers - strength, mobility, x-ray vision and the like are the comic-book equivalents of ethnic characteristics” (334/739)
    • The Immigrant Dilemma Clinging to Old World identity meant • isolation in ghettos • confrontation with a prejudiced mainstream culture • second-class social status • impoverishment Assimilation into the New World meant • loss of culture, language, tradition, soul • struggle for identity: drowning in the melting pot Generational rift
    • The Immigrant Dilemma mirrors the Western Myth Civilization vs Wilderness “The Mythic frontier represented an attempt to embody the perfect degree of assimilation in which both the old and new identities came together” (339/742) Lone Ranger and Tonto
    • 3. Dual Identity solves the dilemma Engle: „Kent‟ makes the myth work (342/744) Improvement on Western Myth: • “optimistic myth of assimilation, but with an urban, technocratic setting” Disguise is a moral act to protect parents
    • Clark Kent: the Alter Ego • bumbling • weak • immobile • wimpy A symbol of cultural assimilation of the immigrant • “He is the epitome of visible invisibility, someone whose extraordinary ordinariness makes him disappear in a crowd” (341/744)
    • Duality SUPERMAN  CLARK KENT Real Identity  Illusion; unreal Unique, powerful  Assimilated; weak Above society and  Blended into society culture and culture Represents heroic past  Represents everyman and gods and the present
    • 4. Superman is an Angel The Cape • “…a veritable growth from behind his pectorals and hangs, when he stands at ease, in a line that doesn‟t so much drape his shoulders as stand apart from them and echo their curve, like an angel‟s wings” (342/744) A divine saviour of mankind “An American boy‟s fantasy of a messiah” (343/745)
    • Superman etymology Kal-El • Similar to Micha-El, warrior archangel • Maybe Hebrew for “all that God is” K-N-T = “I have found a son” (342/745) The Passion of the Clark
    • 5. Superman is a religious myth An ET from heaven to supply a gap in American mythology/iconography “America has no national religious icons nor any pilgrimage shrines” (343/745) Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
    • Engle’s 5 Points1. Being orphaned, Superman taps into the Western‟s mythology of dislocation, constant moving, and re-identification2. Being an immigrant/alien, Superman represents the American dichotomy: fitting in or standing apart
    • Engle’s 5 Points3. His dual identity resolves the assimilation/ isolation dilemma: he‟s a righteous wolf in cheap clothing4. Superman is an angel: his powers are heaven sent5. The Superman myth is religious– especially Judeo-Christian–at its core