I saw a brief post earlier today, announcing that today is Superman Day, in recognition of the man from the planet Krypton. I smiled. I have fond childhood memories of this particular superhero, however I had no intention of writing about the Man of Steel. Guess what? I’ve thought about Superman most of the day.
Superman Day was created by DC Entertainment on June 12, 2013, in honor of one of the world’s most famous superheroes and two days ahead of the release of the film “Man of Steel”. Henry Cavill put on the red cape in that DC Universe reboot.
Superman was originally created in 1933, by writer Joe Shuster and artist Jerry Siegel, with a featured role in Action Comics #1. With his blue suit, red cape and stylized S on his chest, Superman soon became one of the most recognized figures in the world. He was awarded his own line of comics in 1939.
For the next 79 years, Superman would continually save the world in comics, movies, and television shows. George Reeves portrayed the hero on television from 1951 to 1958. Christopher Reeve brought the Man of Steel onto the big screen in three films, from 1978 to 1983. Dean Cain played the dual roles of Clark Kent and Superman in the New Adventures of Superman, airing on tv in the 90s, while Tom Welling played a young Clark Kent for ten years in the series Smallville. Brandon Routh played Superman in one film in 2006, before Henry Cavill stepped solidly into the role in 2013. He continues as Superman, most recently starring in the first Justice League movie.
Although the series ended the year I was born, I watched George Reeves as Superman, in reruns, throughout my childhood. However, it was through comic books that I really got to know the character. I’d pick up a new comic on Saturdays, for a dime or 12 cents, climb a tree or seek out one of my hiding places, and read about the adventures of Superman, Lois Lane, Batman and Robin. By my teen years I had switched to Archie comics, but as a kid, hands down my favorite stories featured the caped man from Krypton.
That’s what I’ve thought about today. Why was I so drawn to Superman? What was it about him that captured my interest?
I believe my fearfulness as a child caused me to gravitate toward larger than life heroes. But it was more than that. Superman had two identities…human looking Clark Kent, and Kal-El, who came from another planet, sent to earth by his parents before Krypton was destroyed. Clark was raised by human parents in a small farming community. But he knew he wasn’t human. He knew he was other. His life was divided between pretending to be someone he wasn’t and using his gifts and abilities to save the world.
Perhaps as a child I both identified with Superman’s duality and felt sympathy that he had to hide so much of who he was. I hid who I really was too. I envied Superman his abilities to fly, exhibit incredible strength and use x-ray vision. Me…I struggled with living in dual worlds. The veil between this world and the spirit world was extremely thin for me. I didn’t want to see what I could see or hear what I could hear. I wished I could leap over buildings and fly instead!
I learned important lessons from the Man of Steel. Superman taught me that no one is who they appear to be, and that good wins over evil and that people can be fooled by a disguise as simple as a pair of glasses. It bugged me that no one seemed to see that Clark was Superman. As an adult, I realize that people see what they want to see.
Superman embodies the best in humanity, although he is not human. He displays strength tempered by compassion. He offers to others without expecting anything in return. He faces adversity and emerges stronger. And in many ways, in spite of Lois Lane, he lives as a solitary man. Those are all traits I appreciate about Kal-El.
The red S on the blue uniform doesn’t stand for Superman. It is a symbol, a coat of arms for the house of El. He says, “It’s not an S. On my world it means hope.” Hope. Turn it upside down and it represents Resurrection. I like that about Superman most of all. I’m glad there’s a day to celebrate this hero.