01 March 2012

Superman: A Son of David

In the first chapter of Up, Up, and Oy Vey! written by Michael Chabon, we are introduced to the very beginning of Superman, a hero concocted by two Jewish boys from Ohio, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Shuster and Siegel were two boys, of the 1930’s, who collaborated on school news papers and were very interested in both science fiction and cheap pulp comics. They were two boys who, like many Jewish artists, were very eager to make their mark on the newborn industry of comic books. Due to the unfortunate anti-Semitism in America of that period, Shuster and Siegel had almost no chance of real success using their talents other than in the comic book industry, which hired Jews regularly. The boys struggled early in their careers, during the Great Depression, where they hardly had enough money to mail their cheaply made comics, and where their ideas were frequently rejected. Eventually they saw some success with the invention of Superman, a character thought up by Jerry Siegel on a hot, sleepless, night. The boys sold their character to Action Comics, a new magazine, for $130. The duo, in a feat of genius, gave Superman the secret identity of Clark Kent, a love stricken klutz. This alter ego was inspired by the actual social lives and experiences of Shuster and Siegel. Shuster and Siegel began writing patriotic comics with perfect timing, two years before America entered WWII. The boys go on to write comics that paralleled real world events, in which Superman always comes to the rescue. A majority of these happenings had to do with the war against Germany, which angered the Germans. Throughout Shuster and Siegel’s stories of Superman it is evident that Superman is modeled with impeccable Jewish principles. Superman also seems to have an extremely similar storyline to that of Moses, from the Bible. The names of the people from Superman’s old planet also model names of the bible, all ending in ‘el’ which means God. Another man from the Bible that Superman has similar attributes to is Sampson. Sampson has incredible strength, but only if his hair isn’t cut. Superman also has a weakness, Kryptonite, which renders him defenseless when exposed. By selling their rights to their character, Shuster and Siegel basically got no credit for their creation until the 1970’s.

In this first chapter of Up, Up, and Oy Vey we are introduced to a deep connection between Superman and his creator’s culture and religion. It seems to me that Shuster and Siegel basically wrote a comic about what they wished that they could be. This obvious creation of a perfect other life reminds me of the movie Fight Club. In this movie the unnamed protagonist, unknowingly creates a split life where in his waking hours he is living his own, self loathing, life and in what he thinks are his sleeping hours he is living the life of his perfect (perfect in his own mind) friend Tyler Durden. The only difference between the unnamed protagonist from Fight Club and the creators of Superman are that the unnamed protagonist is insane enough to actually live in his perfect alter ego, while the creators of Superman simply write about theirs. This reading is very interesting to me, and it makes me wonder whether Joe Shuster and jerry Siegel made all of these seemingly obvious relations purposely or subconsciously.

1 comment:

  1. Good summary, Lucas.

    But Chabon didn't write Up, Up, and Oy Vey. And where's your connection to another text we've read?