22 March 2012

Superman: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster wasted no time in building up the character of Superman. In the first comic of Superman we are introduced to him as Krypton is exploding and his scientist father places him in a spaceship which crash lands on Earth. The comic fast forwards to Superman the hero. He busts into the Governor’s house and proves the innocence of a woman sentenced to death. This is when all his incredible powers like flight, super strength, and his bullet proof skin are shown. The next day we meet Clark Kent, Superman’s secret identity. Clark is a nervous and shy reporter for a newspaper and is desperate to keep his two lives separate. Clark is sent to report on a domestic violence call and upon arriving he switches to Superman and saves the woman from her raging abuser and promptly changes back to Clark Kent before the police arrive. That night he goes dancing with Lois Lane, his co-worker who he likes, but the night is cut short when Lois storms out because Clark would not stand up for himself or her when a man forced his way in between Lois and Clark. The men go after Lois, but before any harm befalls her superman shows up to save her. The next day Clark apologizes, but Lois does not listen. Then Clark is sent to Washington DC where he discovers that a Senator is talking to an infamous lobbyist. Superman then confronts the lobbyist and takes him on an extreme excursion over buildings and telephone wires and arrives at Washington DC and that is where comic one of Superman concludes.
It cannot be denied that while reading Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud closure was definitely employed, but I would say that it is a much smoother process while reading a “true blue” comic like Superman. Understanding Comics, despite McCloud’s efforts, communicates its points through its words; the pictures where somewhat random and did not connect to following panels. It was the words that needed closure in order to express McCloud’s ideas. Reading Superman it was easier to follow and see how closure works because the pictures were telling the story and words enhanced it. It helped to refine my understanding of closure and its importance in comics.
I really loved the first installment of Superman. Not really the story, but how Siegel and Shuster put together Superman with such limited resources and how this one idea turned into such a phenomenon. There really is not character development; they go from baby Superman to grown up Superman in a matter of just a few panels and this is why Smallville was such a success because we finally got to see Clark grow up and see how he became Superman. The comic took off like it did, as discussed, because of its timing with the changing political climate in Europe and America’s need for a charge of patriotism in the 1930s. I think the comic has lasted because Superman represents the good that most every person wishes they could do themselves. Superman only uses his powers for the common good of man, and it proves the ability people have to do good.


  1. Good post, Claire! I'm glad you didn't just write that Superman relates to McCloud by using closure, but instead explained how much better the closure works in a "real" comic :-)

  2. Excellent post about superman and the origins of the comic book about the superhero. The part that i like the most about your post is that of Scott McCloud's Book of "Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics,"is that closure of the character of "Superman" and the meaning behind the pictures in short.