Near 500 words: In Praise of the Working Class Superhero

In June 1938, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel launched Superman into the world in Action Comics # 1. This month is the eightieth anniversary of his first appearance. It was the beginning of the Golden Age of Comics.

Crash Test Dummies: Superman’s Song

Before Superman, there were superheroes. Hercules, Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan and Tarzan all fit the bill. With the exception of Peter Pan, they were the ultimate alpha males who beat up the bad guys, swung through the trees, and outthunk Doctor Moriarty. Or at least tried their best.

Superman was the new kid on the block. Like Douglas Fairbanks, he could fly or at least do a reasonable facsimile. Like Paul Bunyan, his muscles had muscles, and they were muscles of steel. Like John Henry, he was not a blue blood but a working class fellow.

He was Introduced in DC’s Action # 1 June 1938 comic book issue. From the beginning, he had a real job like all the working stiffs. Growing up on a farm, he learned good values. Hard work seemed to be in his DNA.

Clark Kent may have been a superhero on weekends. But still the rent had to be paid. He had to wake up early Monday morning, crawl out of bed and eat his Wheaties so he was ready for the rat race of the day ahead. Unlike those billionaires Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark, unlike the godlike Wonder Woman and Thor who came along later. And he never ever sold his superhero skills for payola.

In his free time, we never found Superman hanging out with the other superheroes like some. For many of them, humanity they loved, but people they couldn’t stand. Sure, he joined the Justice League of America but that was only a part-time gig.

In a lot of ways, Superman was just a regular joe, a man of the people. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, he often faced down the bad guys with truth and justice. Like Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, he stood up for the little guy.

And when he went out for an afterwork drink, he never schmoozed with the bosses. Not even with Perry White, Editor Extraordinary. It was Jimmy Olsen you’d find him with down at the local watering hole. They were real tight. So much so that later Clark was the godfather to Jimmy’s twins. Lois Lane was the godmother.

And Jimmy returned the favor for his friend. He was best man at Clark and Lois’ wedding. Lucy Lane was the maid of honor. It took Lois sixty years to land her guy. As we all know, persistence does pay off. It wasn’t that Clark Kent was slow. He was a workaholic and had very little time for a social life. No matter. Superman was always her knight in shining armor and Prince Charming combined. And she knew eventually she would catch him in a weak moment.

Now I know there are some of you out there, saying that Superman’s alter ego wasn’t the only alter ego who had to work for a living. But the thing is he was first. And Lois Lane was a career woman at a time when women didn’t have careers.

So let’s celebrate the workingman’s superhero and his buddies. No matter how bad things get, it’s always nice to remember Superman is on our side.

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