01 March 2012

Overblown with Religious Undertones

More and more I have been starting to notice ethical purposes and morality placed in comic books, but Simcha Weinstein makes this point even more clear by not only suggesting Superman was Jewish, but had traits similar to prophets, holy people and the messiah! What a thought! Apparently this thought has been suggested by many other authors.
It is apparent that Stan Lee is jewish, but I had no idea that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster where
Orthodox Jews.
So many connections are made between the bible and Superman that it started to frighten me. Some of the initial connections Weinstein makes show's the connection between a celebration in the name o f Superman and the Orthodox Jewish practice of The Passover Seder. It gets even more tantalizing.
The relation between Moses and Clark Kent is established as well, showing the similarities of how he was abandoned by his parents due to their planet facing impending doom and how he was raised by countryside people. Sounds very similar to the story of Moses being sent down a river by his mother to avoid the atrocities of the Egyptian king (yah know killing first born sons). As time progresses and the content of the comics became more than fighting villians who antagonized the inner city, the references made in each comic became more and more fleeting as far as having Jewish morality saturated in each page. This whole idea of sending your child away for hopes of a safer life also occurred right before the heavy onsets of Anti-Semitism in the early thirties. Parents would attempt to transport their children to other countries (usualy the United Kingdom) so that their child would not have to be raised in a slavish mentality or witness the genocide of his culture.

Another interesting correlation with Superman and Old Testament stories was how Superman was raised to be modest about his inhuman power but also understood that one day it would become necessary for him to use his ability to better man kind. In the Superman comic, his adoptive father tells him this lesson, while the story of Moses communicating to God through a burning bush communicates the same idea of staying humble about his tremendous abilities.

Superman gets into sticky-er situations with villians, especially with Aryan White Supremicist Nazi's. This notion doesn't become apparent within the first 50 series of comics or so, but by the time the 10th issue of superman was released, already a Nazi bad guy is introduced to Superman's agenda. Well, maybe more fascist blonde-haired pompous athletes instead of Nazis, but still a line is made! Superman humiliates the fascists competitors and continues to hold this very pristine image of a superhero.

Just the original birth name Superman is granted, Kal-El, could suggest religious influence in this comic book. The interesting commonality presented by Weinstein is the fact that the sufix"El" is holy in context and many religious figureshad this suffix following their name, including the battle-hardened arch-angel Micha-el.

What really started to sway my opinion of possible religious influence throughout Superman comics, be it intentional or not, was all of the Samson references made about Kal-El. In the seventh issue published in Action Comics of Superman, a metaphor about having the strength of "a dozen Samsons". This reference simply implies the prior knowledge of a biblical nature that further implies notions of religious bias. This similarity is actually relates back to the second issue Superman where Kal-El encounters a scientist who has created a deadly gas and it happens to fall into enemy hands (pretty gnarly holocaust reference if you ask me). Then these two ideas blend beautifully when Superman must crush these gargantuan pillars in order to defeat the gas-spreading evil masterminds. Superman actually says "A guy named Samson once had this idea", how direct is that reference?
Skip forward a few dozen comics and it is plain to see how prevalent this Jewish idea has been slowly submerged into this comic. In the 81rst issue of Superman, Clark Kent is sent on a mission to inspect the real travesties of Poland and how the Nazi's have occupied the space. Kal-El actually has to help bury bodies in a mass grave in order to get information and stay low-key in this issue of Superman. What a tragic notion! This just further proves that both the creators had a very moral tone that was to be assigned to this superhero, but what super hero doesn't have some sort of outlook on humanity and the afterlife? Some superheros could even fiddle with evil in order to pursue what was important to them (Ehhhem Spawn, Hellboy, ect). Some superheroes where accustomed to encountering Nazi criminals as well (Ehhhem Hellboy, Captain America, The Escapist, ect). It just goes to show that it is nearly impossible to separate your beliefs from what you create.


  1. Great post, Rob. But how does this relate to another text we've read? And watch your spelling!

  2. If you really think about it what you believe in, or religion, is such a large part of our daily lives it would be hard for a writer or artist or comic creator to leave it out of his work. It could even be subconscious or unintentional that the religious views of the creator made it in there at all. I don't think it's the case with Superman but it's a theory?