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.

Superhero’s Meeting

Ratman was at the bar, nursing his drink. Supercharger walked over and sat down on the stool beside him and ordered a beer.

Then he turned to Ratman and said, “You look pretty down in the mouth. You okay?”

“Yeah. My wife says I have to go on a diet.”

Superduper Woman joined them. She ordered her usual scotch.

“Hey, Ears,” she said to Ratman. Ears was what she called Ratman because he had big ears. They were his super power. They were like wings he used to fly with. “What’s up?”

“Oh, the usual, Mabel.” Mabel was Superduper Woman’s civilian name.

Supercharger leaned over and said, “He’s getting fat. His wife says so.”

Mabel slapped Ratman on the back. “Ratz, you’re not getting fat. Oh sure, you could use some slimming. It’s that darn costume you’re wearing. It’s shrunk. What you need is a new costume. What do you think of mine?”

Mabel jumped off the stool and turned around. Supercharger hadn’t noticed but now he saw Mabel in a whole new light. The reds were reds, not rust. The yellows were bright and the greens, they were green.

“Wow. I like,” both Supercharger and Ratz said.

“Don’t you think it accentuates my amazing figure?”

“I must say that your butt is nice and firm. You may just win the superhero butt contest at the convention this year. Who did this?”

“Jimmy Olson, fashion designer to the superheroes. Actually he’s done a name change. He’s Jimmy O.”

“Jimmy Olson?” Ratz asked.

“Yeah. He was a cub reporter. He went and took some aptitude tests and found out he was a fashion designer trying to get out. He had always worried about being gay because he paid a lot of attention to Superman’s clothes. He had a real thing for the cape. Hated it. Now he’s set up shop. You should go see him.”

Supercharger piped in, “And me too.”

“Nothing can help you, S.C.,” Mabel said, then she gave it a bit of thought. “Well, maybe some bubble wrap.”

Mr. Smith Teaches a Superhero Class

Mr. Smith stood before seven students on the roof of a twenty-story building.

“For today’s lesson, we are going to fly. Not learn to fly. But fly. Jimmy, you had a question.”

Jimmy, the one with his hand raised, nodded yes. “We’re not birds. We can’t fly.”

“No, we’re not birds. We’re superheroes.”

Emily raised her hand and asked, “Will there be a net?”

“No, Emily, there won’t be a net.”

Jason, the kid with the glasses, didn’t raise his hand. He just asked, “Are you sure? I’ve never flown before. I tried jumping off my dad’s barn. If I hadn’t fallen on a load of hay, I would have broken something.”

“Jason,” there was frustration in the teacher’s voice. “You can’t break something. You’re a superhero.”

Margaret looked scared. “Are you sure, Mr. Smith?”

“Of course, I am sure. I’ve been teaching twenty years and I’ve never lost a student. Now, class, step up to the edge.”

The seven twelve-year-olds turned and stepped onto the ledge. They looked down. It was a long way to the concrete below.

“Now jump off. And don’t forget to land on your feet.” Mr. Smith stepped behind each of his students, confident that they were going to fly.

Well, you’ve heard the old saying that turkeys can’t fly. Mr. Smith’s class couldn’t fly. His students hit the concrete below. And they hit it hard. When he heard the splats below, Mr. Smith’s mouth dropped open. What happened?

Just then, Miss Pettigrew, his assistant, rushed into the classroom. “Mr. Smith, what happened?”

She took the clipboard from his hand and read it, then she looked up at his face. “Didn’t you read this? It says here that this class is the X-ray vision class.”

He took the clipboard and read. The script was blurry. He squinted. Yep, it said “Flying”. He was sure of it. He looked down at the pavement below and said, “Darn kids.” Then he ripped off the page and handed it to Miss Pettigrew. He looked at the next class roster. “Well, it’s not my fault that they didn’t fly. Now, on to the Able-to-jump-tall-buildings class.” He passed the clipboard back to Miss Pettigrew.

She read the class title to herself. “No, Sir, it’s the Shapeshifting class.”

He grabbed the clipboard from his assistant and read, then he looked up at her. “Miss Pettigrew, do not argue with me. It’s the Able-to-jump-tall-buildings class.” There was a lot of frustration in his voice. He was starting to turn blue. When he went dark blue, all hell broke loose.

To calm him down, she said, “Yes, Sir. You’re right.”

Her soothing words brought him back to a state of calm and his body went back to its normal tan. Then he said, “Miss Pettigrew, I think you need some glasses.”

As he left the room, Miss Pettigrew said under her breath, “We know who needs the glasses.”