29 February 2012

Jesus is Superman? Now Life Makes Sense!


               If the world is not the way you want it...invoke Superman! In the introduction and first chapter of Up, Up and Oy Vey! by Simcha Weinstein, the essence of Superman is described from its roots. The tragedies that were still being tolerated by European Jews, inspired the need for heroes that would protect the innocent and conquer the evil. Very similar to already existing heroes from the bible, these superheroes personified the figures that existed in jewish tradition. Weinstein exposes the involvement of Jews not only in film, theatre, music and comedy but also their important creation of many all-american superheroes. The story of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster who were the creators of Superman in the mid 1930’s, is introduced as an act of frustration and imagination that lead to the great all-American superhero. At a time with incredible anti-Semitism, jews were not hired in newspaper or advertising agencies so they turned to comics which did have jewish authors. The birth of Superman went from authors with concealed identities and sketches on cheap brown wrapping paper to eventually reaching great fame. Concepts such as Superman’s double identity, his journey and his defeats of evil enemies represent many of the struggles that jewish people had in the stories of the bible but also in reality at that given time. Even the story of the creation of superman by the two authors Siegel and Shuster was turned into an issue of Superman thereby exposing their life story within a comic. Numerous similarities are found in comparing Superman’s issues to jewish culture and therefore people such as Josef Goebbels attacked the comic and its ethnic undertones. Superman was also the inspiration for songs, radio series, animated and movie series but the subliminal connection with the jews still maintained the same throughout all those mediums. 
       Superheroes are now days seen as a joke or fictitious characters that are not accepted socially for their childish essence. It is interesting to see how Weinstein goes back to the initial time when people such as Moses, Samson, and Elijah were considered heroes but that title was not specifically given to them. People such as Siegel and Shuster were suffering and needed an escape from all their tragedies. Their passion for science fiction gave them the initiative to express their feelings through art in the form of comics. Just as Scott McCloud explains in his text Understanding Comics, “Art provides an outlet for emotional imbalances aiding humans with their mental survival” (167). Art was the mean these two young authors turned toward when it was impossible for them to express freely.  Anti-Semitism was a powerful emotional strain for the jewish americans that were going about their daily lives in a place where they did not feel completely accepted. Not only did Superman fill in the gap for a hero that would most definitely fight against evil and protect the innocent, but Superman also allowed these jews to create a medium that would reach out to many other people. Even if the message in this medium was subliminal, they could express to all the comics readers what they went through and how they needed something that would make everything better. Maybe an actual superhero was not what they really wanted to find, but at least they were being hopeful for something good to come and somehow create awareness to more people of this situation. 

2 comments:

  1. Great post! I thought your reference back to Understanding Comics was really good and so true. Comics were definitely an emotional outlet for Siegel and Shuster.

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  2. Agreed! You make an excellent connection here.

    Just watch you're proofreading. Religious denominations should be capitalized as proper nouns.

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