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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
This page is divided into the following sections:
- Introduction / Superman's religious affiliation
- The religiosity of Clark Kent on the 1980s Superboy TV series
- The religiosity of Clark Kent on the Smallville TV series
- More about Superman's Kryptonian religious beliefs
- Additional published excerpts from Superman comics illustrating the character's religious background
- The wedding of Clark Kent and Lois Lane
- Batman asks Superman about his death and subsequent resurrection
- Additional articles about Superman's Jewish roots
- Superman as Nietzsche's Ubermensch
- Additional articles about Superman's religious affiliation
- Superman's politics
- Discussion and opinion
- Related Articles on Other Websites
Introduction / Superman's religious affiliation
Superman is the archetypal costumed super-hero. He is clearly the most influential character in the comic book super-hero genre. The character was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster [often mis-spelled "Joe Schuster"], both of whom were Jewish. The character of Superman, however, has always been depicted as having been raised with a solidly Protestant upbringing by his adoptive Midwestern parents - Jonathan and Martha Kent. Of Clark's parents, Martha is the more devout churchgoer.
Clark Kent was raised as a Methodist. While growing up in Smallville, Kansas, Clark Kent attended Sunday church services at the local Methodist church with his mother, Martha Kent, every week until he was fourteen years old. These aspects of the character are not speculative, but are canonical - established by in-continuity published DC Comics. Action Comics #850 (August 2007), for example, identifies Methodism by name as the denomination that Clark Kent and his mother attended.
Jonathan also raised his adopted son with staunch Protestant values, but Jonathan has never been much of a churchgoer. Clark stopped attending church services when his super-hearing, X-ray vision and other super senses began developing. As Clark later told his wife, Lois Lane, he stopped attending services becaues he "knew too much about their lives -- their problems -- their lies... [he] was afraid" that he might lose his faith in people. So he decided to distance himself from such close-contact, frequent congregational worship and put his faith in "the best that humanity has to offer" (Action Comics #849, July 2007).
As shown in a number of published comics, including Superman: A Man For All Seasons, the adult Clark Kent continued to visit and consult with the minister at his family church, even after he had begun his career as Superman. This does not mean, however, that the adult Superman attends weekly church services (he does not). If asked if he is a Methodist, the adult Superman would not answer "no," but he would defer answering such a pointedly denominational question by suggesting that he respects people of all faiths and backgrounds and considers himself a servant of all humanity.
Superman's Moses-like origin and his Midwestern WASP-ish (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) persona are widely regarded as a symbol of Jewish assimilation. Children of immigrant Jews, Siegel and Shuster were not unlike many in their generation in their desire to fit in to the general goyim population. The creation of Superman and his alter ego Clark Kent was a manifestation of the desire by Siegel and Shuster to "pass" in mainstream population and also to assert control in a world that had often left them feeling powerless, such as when Siegel's father was murdered.
As is often the case with a character or franchise of extraordinary longevity, Superman has been reconceived multiple times ("retconned" in comic book parlance). Throughout all of his incarnations, Superman has maintained his rural Midwestern Protestant upbringing, although rarely have the words "Protestant" or "Christian" been explicitly attached to his background.
Superman is sometimes spoken of as being "Jewish." This may be an attempt to honor the fact that the writer and artist who created the character were Jewish. However, no textual support exists in any of the published comics, novels, films or TV series episodes to support the notion that the character of Superman is actually Jewish.
Above: Influential Superman writer/artist John Byrne rather overtly invoked the character's strongly Protestant Christian background in this scene. Jonathan Kent, the father of Superboy, tells his son that he prayed for him during a recent crisis. The father and super-powered son are framed in front of a Christian church (note the cross on the tower or steeple in the background). Later on this same page, Superman mentions "the solid, moral foundation my foster parents gave" him.
Elliot S! Maggin, an observant Jew who is one of Superman's most popular and influential contemporary chroniclers, stated in a 1998 interview that Clark Kent and the entire family are Methodists. Although possibly not "canonical" at the time that Maggin gave this interview, this notion appeared already to have widespread support and subsequently grew in popularity. Many writers and fans believed this denominational affiliation best captures and explains the character as he has been portrayed over the years. For example, popular comic book writer Mark Millar (Superman Adventures; Superman: Red Son) has written that Superman is a Methodist. Curt Swan, one of the best-known and most influential Superman artists, was raised Presbyterian but also attended Methodist churches while growing up (see: http://theages.superman.ws/swan.php). With the publication of Action Comics #850 in June 2007, the Methodist denominational affiliation of the Kent family was explicitly and overtly established, if it had not already been so.
Above: Superman with artist Curt Swan. From: "I Flew With Superman!", published in Superman Annual #9, DC Comics: New York City (1983), page 7; written by Curt Swan, Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin; art by Curt Swan.
Maggin also said that Superman adheres to "a Kryptonian-based belief system centered on monotheistic philosophy." There is widespread agreement that, based on the lack of any depiction of congregational membership or church activity in his comic stories, Superman has not been a regular churchgoer as an adult. Superman has, however, occasionally visited clergymen of various Christian denominations for purposes of counsel, guidance, or confession. As an adult, Superman has been depicted many times praying. You can get Superman Costumes online.
Action Comics #s 848-849 (June-July 2007, written by Fabian Nicieza) proivde a good overview of many of Superman's feelings about religion in contemporary comics. Not only does this two-part story explicitly point out that Superman attended weekly church services with his mother at a Protestant church in Smallville until the time he was fourteen years old, this story also reveals many other thoughts Superman has about religion. In battling "Redemption (a.k.a. Jarod Dale, a super-powered Protestant missionary), Superman thinks to himself (Action Comics #849, page 6):
I would really rather not turn this into me vs. God. I don't like those odds. This is about a good -- if misguided -- young man who needs to control his actions. . . even if those actions are guided by his beliefs . . . No. I have no problem with relgion. I have a problem with abusing one's power in the name of anything.
Later in this same story, Superman seeks advice from an old friend: Barbara Johnson, a devout Protestant woman who runs the Community Angels Outreach Center in Metropolis, and he prays that Jarod Dale and his family will make the right choice about what to do next (Action Comics #849, pages 10-11, 16). In talking with Barbara Johnson, Superman explains how his experiences has shaped some of his thinking about faith:
...religions have different tenets of belief... The things I've seen . . . The places I've been . . . It enables me -- forces me -- to put certain things into perspective... [things such as] the beliefs of one faith over another. Out there was a planet named Tamaran. They worshipped the goddess X'hal. There is a planet called Rann. They believe science answers all questions. I've fought against and alongside beings who call themselves "New Gods" as well as "old gods" of Greek myth . . . Ares and Zeus. The very gods who were worshipped for centuries by countless thousands . . .
Above: Superman leads a prayer and reads from the Bible at the funeral of a friend: "Into thy hands we commend his spirit!"
(This funeral is for Larry Lance, who was the husband of Superman's JSA teammate Dinah Lance, a.k.a. "Black Canary." Larry was killed trying to protect his wife from an attack by the space-creature Aquarius.)
[Image source: comic book panel posted at http://www.superdickery.com/oneshot/7.html.]
From: Bruce Bachand, "Interview: Elliot S! Maggin", published in Fanzing (The Independent Online DC Comics Fan Magazine) Issue #9, August 1998 (http://www.fanzing.com/mag/fanzing09/iview.shtml; viewed 6 December 2005):
Elliot S! Maggin was the principal scriptwriter for DC Comics' Superman titles during the 1970's up until the mid-1980's. He has written two Superman novels (Last Son Of Krypton and Miracle Monday, both which are currently out of print) as well as numerous other stories, articles, interviews and projects. One of his most recent publications is the novel KINGDOM COME (which is available through Warner Books) which came out in February 1998. It is based on the very successful DC comic book mini-series KINGDOM COME by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. (It is well worth mentioning that Ross contributes a number of new painted illustrations to the Maggin novel!). Sales have been steady for the Maggin novelization. It is over one hundred thousand words full of action, characterization, and plot sculpting.
BRUCE BACHAND [interviewer]: Do you see Superman as a man who prays and/or worships God regularly? If so, what would the Man of Steel pray about from your perspective?
Elliot S! Maggin: I give all my characters religions. I think I always have. It's part of the backstory. It's part of the process of getting to know a character well enough to write about him or her. Jimmy Olson is Lutheran. Lois is Catholic. Perry is Baptist. Luthor is Jewish (though non-observant, thank heaven). Bruce and Batman are both Episcopalian and I said so in the text though it was edited out erroneously. Clark - like the Kents - is Methodist. Superman is something else, but I never did buy all that Kryptonian "Great Rao" nonsense. I do think Superman essentially adheres to a kind of interplanetary-oriented Kryptonian-based belief system centered on monotheistic philosophy, and I've got some ideas about it that I haven't yet articulated other than as backstory. I think Superman is too humble to ask for things in prayer, but I think he prays by rote, and constantly, the way some of us talk to ourselves in the shower.
From: Mark Millar, "Superman: Red Son", published 27 April 2003 in Sunday Times in Scotland (http://toothwatch.tripod.com/redson1.html; viewed 10 January 2006):
Mark Millar wrote a feature article about his upcoming three part prestige format Elseworlds mini series Superman: Red Son, published by DC Comics.
I started at the beginning and went straight for the jugular. Instead of Superman's rocket ship crash landing in the wheat fields of Kansas, Superman: Red Son details his landing on a Soviet collective farm somewhere in Ukraine. Instead of being raised by simple, Methodist farming folk, he is raised during the cold war with an appreciation for Karl Marx and a devotion to Comrade Stalin. Instead of making his big trip to the fictional New York of Metropolis, he makes his way to Moscow to become not only the darling of the 1950s communist elite, but also the country's primary defence initiative...
Writing such a story, which starts with a simple high concept in the 1950s and brings us up to date (where Superman narrates the whole thing shortly before his suicide), was always going to be a laugh. Playing around with reversals on this kind of scale was really my only original intention, but events in the real world were having a bigger influence on my plans. People say that all the best science fiction is really a commentary on how we live today, so this alternate history I was creating was becoming more and more about what America was becoming, particularly in light of a few hanging chads in a Florida polling booth. Here was a country that had become an empire. Like Superman's fictional Soviet Union, it was making pre-emptive strikes on infinite targets until the whole world bowed before the orthodoxy of its single religion and nobody was powerful enough to stand in its way. Just as Superman's existence causes Stalin to proclaim that there was only one real superpower now, events in the real world created a hyper-powered America, which, I fear, might only just be beginning to flex its muscles. The more I was writing, the more I realised this was a cautionary tale for America... Superman: Red Son had become an Orwellian fable of what happens when too much power ends up in one pair of hands and when huge power goes unchecked. In the series, we lament the cold war stalemate because the zealotry of an individual nation was always neutralised by the nuclear triggers of the enemy. But how do you stop a man who could take a Polaris missile on the chin? Similarly, how do you stop a man who declares a war on evil when he's backed up by more weapons than the rest of the world combined?
From: Joe Williams, "A Super Symbol", published 25 June 2006 in St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/entertainment/stories.nsf/movies/story/8618BC11277299708625719600324FB8?OpenDocument; viewed 25 June 2006):
Like Elvis Presley, he's a pop-culture icon that can be stretched to fit different points of view. Because Superman was created by two Jews, and the character fought against the Nazis before the United States officially entered World War II, some academics have interpreted him as a modern Moses or a golem, a mythical creature that will rise up to save the Jewish people from annihilation.
Others counter that Superman is the very embodiment of Midwestern values and probably a Methodist.
Above: Although he comes from a Protestant background, Superman is apparently flexible in his Christianity. In the story arc "Superman: For Tomorrow," which appeared Superman issues 209 through 215, Superman spends considerable time visiting a Catholic priest for confessional and later returning to further counsel with the clergyman. The image on the left above, depicting Superman standing before a statue of Jesus Christ on the cross in a Catholic church, is from Superman issue #209, published by DC Comics: New York (2004), page 13. The issue was written by Brian Azzarello, with pencils by Jim Lee and inks by Scott Williams. The image on the right, depicting Superman with the priest he has come to confide in, is from page 28 of the same issue. From: Action Comics #591, DC Comics: New York City (August 1987), written and illustrated by John Byrne, page 20; reprinted in Superman: The Man of Steel, Vol. 4 trade paperback, DC Comics: New York City (2005), page 133.
Superman's religious affiliation was mentioned in Newsweek. (Steven Waldman and Michael Kress, "BeliefWatch: Good Fight", published in Newseek, cover-dated 19 June 2006, page 12):
From: Jake Tapper, "'How Gay is Superman?' Or Jewish. Or Christ-Like. The Battle to Claim Superman as an Icon", published 19 June 2006 on ABCNews.com website (http://sendtofriend.abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=2094503; viewed 20 June 2006):
...truth be told, Superman in the comics has always been vaguely Methodist, recently marrying Lois Lane in a church.
From: Julia Baird, "A Sunday sermon from Superman", published 22 June 2006 in The Sydney Morning Herald (http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/a-sunday-sermon-from-superman/2006/06/21/1150845241006.html; viewed 21 June 2006):
Some say [Superman] is Jewish, as he was created by two Jewish cartoonists and could be viewed as part of the golem myth...
The scholarly consensus, though, seems to be that he must be Methodist, largely because Clark Kent was brought up in the American Midwest...
Like Maggin, John Byrne is one of Superman's most popular and influential chroniclers. It was Byrne who was charged with the re-creating Superman from the ground up for post-Crisis continuity. Byrne's take on the character is an influential one. Byrne's description of Superman's religiosity is an attempt to distill how this aspect of the character has been portrayed over many decades, and not an attempt to inject anything new or different. From: "Religious Beliefs of Marvel Characters" forum discussion page, started 20 October 2004, on Comic-Forum.com website (http://www.comic-forum.com/marvel/Religious_beliefs_of_Marvel_characters_397905.html; viewed 10 January 2006):
14 May 2004 at 4:31 am
There are no specific editorial instructions, that I am aware of, dictating the religiosity of characters -- but I would assume the populations of the imaginary worlds are religious in the same numbers, the same faiths, as here. Superheroes would therefore be no different.
Raised in the Bible Belt, for instance, I always imagined Superman to have a fairly matter-of-fact attitude toward faith -- he believes in God, but he does not make a big deal about it. Wonder Woman obviously believes in her gods, since she has met them! (That is a central theme of my novel, Wonder Woman: Gods and Goddesses.)
From: Michael C. Lorah, "Doug TenNapel on Black Cherry" (interview), published 16 May 2007 on Newsarama (http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=112821; viewed 28 June 2007):
NRAMA: Faith and mentors seem to be big themes in much of your work, and it looks like Eddie has both in Father McHugh. [Editor: "Eddie" and "Father McHugh" are two of the central characters in Black Cherry] Why do find these themes continually inspiring?
DT [Doug TenNapel]: Ask any person about what they think about God and you will get an amazing story. It won't just be any old story either, it will likely cut straight to the core of who that person is. It's so bizarre to me that this most personal, dramatic, amazing story device is getting pressure to be removed by story-telling industries... including the supposedly progressive comics industry.
The fact that Superman was born and raised in Kansas by conservative farmers yet he never even talks about the Bible stinks to high hell to me. It's idiotic and it ends up making these characters less human instead of more. Superman has exactly dick to do with any "Smallville" I've ever been to. This is why I actually LOVED the Red Son Superman so much; they finally gave us a contrast of what would happen if Superman didn't carry Kansas in his worldview. More of this! Less of draining worldviews and philosophies out of comics! Especially worldviews that are considered "anti-comic" like certain conservative ones.
It is the pulp nature of comics that makes is such an incredibly powerful medium. I don't think you could get funding to make a Red Son Superman movie with a 250-million-dollar budget, but you could do a limited-run book series to explore a philosophy... no harm done.
It's why I laugh so hard at a vocal minority in comics that just freaks out if my characters bring up Jesus Christ. They don't freak out if a character says the word "____" or decides to be gay in a series, but if Spiderman ever converted to Christianity these critics would have a period. I thought we were farther along than that in the discussion and debate department of comics. I'm shocked at the level of groupthink within a medium that should be anything but a monolith of worldview. There should be a robust debate of worldviews within comics... it's why I so look forward to Frank Miller's Batman vs. Islamic terror. That kind of material should be the norm not the controversial rarity that it is.
[From reader comments section:]
05-16-2007, 06:15 PM
Doug wasn't saying Supes should be preachy or something, just some small acknowledgement by those who produce his works, that Christianity plays a part in his upbringing, especially being from where he was raised in Kansas, and since we know he never had issues with the beliefs of his human step-parents. I thought Superman for all Season was cool in this respect, showing Supes at church and getting help from a preacher. Is it a sin for Supes to be shown once in a while carrying or reading a bible for instance? I think ASM 3 as well as in the previous two showed good scenes incorporating religion, so its not all hopeless.
I mean, what's so bad showing a superhero of reciting the Kaddish at a funeral, or a Roman Catholic Latin Rite Mass, or a Moslem during daily prayers, and prostrating himself, or a Buddhist performing his rituals and burning insense...
So many superhero stories take place in Tibet, yet no one ever goes to a temple to take part in ritual. Ironically the Dalai Lama has been forced out of Tibet by the communists and yet no comic book stories ever address this fact. very sad that this is so ignored. All religions practice a form of meditation yet one mostly sees eastern forms of meditation and never western forms of meditation.
What the heck is everyone so afraid of anyway? That's what the BIG PICTURE is folks.
From: "Doug TenNapel on Black Cherry" forum discussion, started 16 May 2007 on "The Engine" website (http://the-engine.net/forum/lmessages.php?webtag=ENGINE&msg=8767.1; viewed 28 June 2007):
[Discussing the interview conducted by Michael C. Lorah with comic book writer Doug TenNapel for Newsarama, 16 May 2007, posted here: http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=112821]
From: ivan brandon
16 May 17:39
...in general I think he's [Doug TenNapel] right on most of it, otherwise. I'm not religious, but people get ridiculously uncomfortable with Christian anything in comics, which is odd. I can see being anti-propaganda, but why a character shouldn't have different religious views than a reader... I dunno - Superman probably WOULD be raised Christian. But the other side to that, which he's not taking into account is, not everyone raised Christian IS Christian (or whatever else) forever.
16 May 18:06
I think he [Doug TenNapel] makes some valid points there.
As for Superman though, it reminds me of a friend of mine. He grew up in a very small town in Wisconsin. When he took me there I was amazed at how small and redneck the place was. But, unlike a lot of his friends from there who are the typical small town types, my friend's parents took him around the world (his dad was from India to start off with, so that alone set him apart from everyone). Superman is the same way, while he may have a conservative Christian background, traveling around the world and the cosmos would change one's "worldview."
But, I would like to see a character go the complete opposite. Say Reed Richards coming out as an atheist. Would TenNapel be willing to accept that is what I wonder?
From: Skipper Pickle
16 May 18:59
re: Say Reed Richards coming out as an atheist. Would TenNapel be willing to accept that is what I wonder?
Given that he [Doug TenNapel] professes an appreciation for Superman: Red Son [which depicts Superman being raised as a devout Communist], I would think so.
From: Rantz Hoseley (RANTZ)
16 May 20:24
...Yeah I agree in that it depends on how it's done. I grew up in a nutjob extreme fundamentalist environment, with all of the horrors that implies, so I tend to have a admittedly knee-jerk reaction when it comes to Christians as an organized religon.
That said, Terry Moore's depiction of David in Strangers in Paradise struck me as well done because his fath was simply an aspect of who he was. It wasn't a screed bound for converting the masses, and it didn't make him perfect, or unable to have the pleasures of the flesh be appealling... it was 'organic' for lack of a better word. So many times, these things get made into issues that it BECOMES the character, rather than adding a facet to him/her/it.
I agree that it is very odd that in Superman's upbringing in rural America, there's no church potlucks, no church on Sundays... that's part and parcel of small town life in America. And, like I was saying, faith could be yet another layer of naturalistic realism, rather than being a propaganda tool.
From: Jonathan Hickman (JHICKMAN)
16 May 20:35
Well, considering he's a Christ archetype to begin with, those small town churches better be glad he didn't show up or he'd have eyebeamed that place sraight to hell... MONEYCHANGERS!
And I was raised Southern Baptist, so I got the good stuff early on. LOL.
From: Russell Lissau
16 May 20:43
Stories waiting to be told, I suppose...
From: Matthew Craig
16 May 21:05
...There's a difference between Survivor's Guilt ("I shouldn't be here") and Catholic Guilt ("Everything's My Fault").
Hasn't six years of "Spider-Man: Addle-brained Prophet Of The Spider-God OMM" taught us ANYTHING?
Isn't it ENOUGH that these characters - and I include Uncle Ben, Pa Kent, Martha Wayne, etcetera etcetera etcetera in this - are great humanitarians? Great believers in the brotherhood of Man?
I mean, surely some of them - and yes, I'm thinking of Spider-Man in particular, and I'm aware of the irony in being evangelical about the character - are ALL THE BETTER for not being tied down to narrow notions of - of - of ANYTHING?
From: Chris Farnsworth
16 May 21:37
There's a great sketch (somewhere, I can't find the thing now) of how Superman started out as Moses/David in the Golden Age -- Jewish orphan becomes warrior-king -- and by the Silver Age, had turned into Christ -- Jewish child of foster parents becomes savior of the world.
But I would say it's not too surprising that you don't see more of Superman's Christianity because of his upbringing. As WE remarked with The High in Stormwatch, people forget that farmers are political, too. There was a very strong progressive streak in rural politics, and it still comes out occasionally. (My grandfather, for instance, was a rancher and cattleman, and yet was a committed progressive in a town of fewer than 100 people.)
That said, there are some stories from the 70s and 80s -- Sword of Superman comes to mind -- where the connection between Superman and the Judeo-Christian God is made explicit.
From: Alex Cox
17 May 1:30
Er, having come from Smallville (and one even deeper in the Bible Belt than Kansas), I have to take issue with the assertion that everyone who grows up on a farm is supposed to walk around talking about Jesus all the time.
Even if he was raised in a church, there's a nice tradition of not evangelizing (or discussing faith at all) among a lot of rural folk.
You can use me as an example of that phenomenon.
From: Jared Good (JAREDGOOD1)
17 May 16:41
I'll second that. I grew up on a family farm in Wyoming with the nearest town's population being just shy of 500. Most of the neighboring farmers were not the stereotypical rural church goers. I think the main reason for this is that Sunday is just another work day for most farmers. We really couldn't justify losing much of the work day to church.
The town folk were another story. They fit much more into the rural stereotype then the farmers/ranchers (but that's something you can do when you have a 9-5 Monday-Friday job).
From: Jason A. Quest (JAQ)
17 May 2:56
Coincidentally, there's a bit in today's issue of a certain long-running series [referring to Action Comics #849], in which the hero [Superman] and his mother talk briefly about when he stopped going to church with her and his father, at the age of 14. Also a bit of bland ecumenical "all faiths are true if you're true to your faith" pablum.
From: Tom Muller (HELLOMULLER)
17 May 15:53
Not to sound rude or anything... But How would Superman be a Christian when he's an alien that crash landed on earth? Surely if his parents were Christian, the simple fact that an ALIEN FALLS IN YOUR BACKYARD is reason enough to go "waitaminnit! This wasn't in the Bible!"
And besides - there's been enough Superman comics where Kryptonian legends/religions are mentioned, which he's more likely to believe...
From: Jack Feerick (JACKFEAR)
17 May 16:49
re: Surely if his parents were Christian, the simple fact that an ALIEN FALLS IN YOUR BACKYARD is reason enough to go "waitaminnit! This wasn't in the Bible!"
Some other things that aren't in the Bible: democracy, the internal combustion engine, sushi, grand pianos, SCUBA gear, the printing press, microscopes, performance art, antibiotics, transistors, mass communications, TNT, lacy underwear, Texas barbecue, and comic books.
The existence of these things, and countless others, doesn't seem to shake the worldview of most Christians. Might I suggest that perhaps they're a bit less fragile than you've been led to believe?
From: Tom Muller (HELLOMULLER)
17 May 17:07
Yes. But now add alien beings to that list, and then it gets interesting. As far as the Bible is concerned we're all alone. [Editor: The Bible doesn't say this at all. This poster seems to have an extremly limited knowledge of the Bible and Christian belief.] The insertion of an alien kind of undermines that idea, no?
I can understand talking about Spider-Man or Daredevil being religious, but Superman - how messianic he might seem as an alien from another planet.
I'm just asking myself (out loud on the engine): If Ma and Pa Kent were Christian and all of a sudden they find an alien, how their religion would cope with that?
And yes, Red Son is an excellent "What If?" story that somewhat addresses these issues.
From: Mike Tymczyszyn (MIKETYMCZYSZYN)
17 May 17:32
I think if they were going to introduce any sort of religion into the Superman mythos, it might be simply the "Church of Superman." He's already fairly messianic, running around saving the world over and over, didn't they point to this in Kingdom Comes? What's to prevent someone, good intentioned or otherwise, from creating a faith based around Krypton's favorite son?
The issue of whether he was raised Christian or not is possibly interesting territory for a story, but to have him espouse right wing views at every turn would be a marked departure from his belief that everyone is worth saving, not just the members of a "Terran" belief construct.
I was raised Christian (or at least my mom tried) I don't consider myself to be one any longer, in truth I don't think I ever did, and I haven't seen a fraction of a percentage of what Kal El sees daily. Belief in an archaic control mechanism (my personal view of all organized religions) would have to be shot to hell by being able to fly, wouldn't it? He might believe in a higher power, but certainly I think planting him within an established religion, any religion would sound phoney. Agnostic views are probably as strong as he can get, given that he must have some idea that he suffers from a Savior Complex. Unless he wants to start thinking Jor El was God, he has to see some problems with these notions.
I mean to offense to anyone on this board, and certainly do not hope to instill any personal bias I may have on anyone else. Just wanted to toss in my 2 cents.
From: Jason A. Quest (JAQ)
17 May 18:16
re: I'm just asking myself...: If Ma and Pa Kent were Christian and all of a sudden they find an alien, how their religion would cope with that?
The same way earlier Christians coped with the discovery of people living on the other side of the world, who seemingly could not have descended from Adam. Or archaeological evidence that humans were descended from ape-like creatures. Or that the Earth was a 4-billion-year-old rock orbiting a star. Or that most diseases were caused by microorganisms. Or that recently-dead people could be revived. Or that people can be inherently homosexual. Or any of countless other discoveries that were alien to their pre-existing worldview.
Historically, they've either accepted new information and incorporated into their concept of a universe that God created, or they've denied that it was really true. Christians (and Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc.) are all pretty good at coping with challenges of this sort to their faith. And I have little doubt that many Christians would respond to the discovery of intelligent alien life with an expanded admiration for the wonders of God's Creation, and a fervent desire to share with these people the good news of His promise of salvation. It might shake their beliefs, but it wouldn't necessarily break them.
From: Alex Cox (ALEXCOX)
17 May 19:58
I'm gonna have to bust out a serious nerdgasm on y'all, but Superman, for the better part of the fifties up through Crisis, worships the Kryptonian Sun God RAO.
From: Garrett_Farrelly (GARRETTFARRELLY)
17 May 20:11
Here's the thing about superhuman characters and religion. By their very nature as "more than man" I think they'd develop religious followings. Why pray to some ancient god of the Old Testament when Superman is saving you RIGHT NOW? I know there's occasionally some story about some misguided soul founding a "Church of Superman" or whatever in the comics, but they're always portrayed as complete crazies. There would be a religion devoted to Superman.
And not just him. Look at urban legends, urban mytho-constructs like "Bloody Mary" and the homeless children's religions in Miami. You think there wouldn't be mystical devotion and focus around a character like Batman?
If more superhero stuff dealt with those topics as well as approached religion, and the lack thereof, in mature ways I'd be more inclined to read it.
From: Bru (EDBRUBAKER)
17 May 20:26
Having actually lived on a farm in the middle of nowhere for years, I call bullsh--.
Being a farmer from Kansas doesn't automatically mean you grow up Christian. Most of the farm kids I saw were growing up a--holes, honestly, and just wanted out of [that small town]. There's a lot of religion out there in the sticks, for sure, but it's not as pervasive and crammed down your throat as you'd think.
18 May 7:04
I only skimmed through the comments here. Sorry, I'm a lazy reader. So excuse me if anyone brought up anything I say below.
There seems to be some kind of separation put between Gay and Christian by TenNapel. It isn't a choice of one or the other, you can be a homosexual and love Jesus. Albeit a character in a comic book with superpowers that is a gay Christian is less likely to receive the same level of damage their real world counterpart gets. Sexuality and Religion are forever linked by this Red and Blue mentality where one this is right, one thing is wrong and there exists no compromise.
I wouldn't have a problem with a comic character being Christian. What I'd have a problem with was a comic character being the type of Christian that forces it down your throat. An example would be if Superman went around quoting scripture before he punched out a bad guy and while said bad guy is lying limp on the ground he would crack a one-liner such as, "If you had believed in Jesus this would have never happened." Something of that zealous nature would make me throw up a little in my mouth and go back to the comic store demanding a refund. If Supes walked into a church and prayed in a pew, or if it was revealed he prayed to Mecca that wouldn't bother me one bit.
Bringing something to public discussion by way of a comic storyline is fine, but what it should not be is active recruitment propaganda as if preaching one right answer to the question of religion. A lot of people seem to think there is one right answer, and that is when trouble starts.
Just to frame my comments my own religious background is that I was raised Christian. Sunday school and church every week, all the way up to Confirmation. However by that point I had developed into ever the cynical little bastard and was muttering to myself throughout the ceremony what a crock this was and wanted to get home to play video games and out of the stupid robe. It should be obvious at that point I switched into Atheism but I owe some percentage of my moral values to Christianity. I'd say only 3% the other 97% was shaped by my mother.
From: jason (JASONACASKEY)
18 May 10:07
I remember that in the Byrne-run of Superman the theory the Kents had formed was that the baby in the rocket might be an alien, or it might actually be some sort of sick Soviet experiment, so I don't think that such an incredible event would nessesarily cause them to question whatever faith they held.
I live in a tiny Midwestern town in Iowa, very much like Smallville. I can say with authority that while many people here are Christian, its not so strange to find someone who isn't. It's kind of narrow minded to assume that if we live in the Midwest we MUST be Christian.
From: Justin Jordan (JUSTINJORDAN)
18 May 13:03
It'd make sense that people would establish the Church of Superman, absolutely.
"I haven't seen a fraction of a percentage of what Kal El sees daily"
See, there's a thing about religion and the DC (or Marvel) universe; Superman has gotten in fistfights with Angels. Reed Richards has stormed Heaven to grab his buddy.
While there's an argument to be made that the individual characters might not worship a particular god, they'd have to be reasonably mental not to believe they exist.
From: Ken McFadden (CAMYNNEK)
18 May 13:53
I always enjoy TenNapel's work and will be picking this [Black Cherry] up when it comes out, regardless of Superman's religious leanings.
From: Steven Waldman and Michael Kress, "Beliefwatch: Good Fight", published in Newsweek, 19 June 2006 issue (posted online on 12 June 2006: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13249146/site/newsweek/; simultaneously posted on BeliefNet.com under headline "Holy Superheroes": http://www.beliefnet.com/story/193/story_19306_1.html; viewed 14 June 2006):
[Sub-heading:] With a new Superman movie due out soon, the pressing question is: What faiths do our comic-book heroes practice?
June 19, 2006 issue - Is the Man of Steel a man of faith?
The upcoming "Superman" movie has sent fans picking over primary sources. Jews have often claimed the archetypal superhero as their own. Superman sprang from the imaginations of two Jewish cartoonists, and scholars have compared him to the golem myth -- the supernatural creature who vanquishes the Jews' enemies (early on, Superman battled the Nazis directly).
Most fans believe the man from Krypton is a Methodist, an opinion divined from Clark Kent's Midwestern upbringing. But there's another possibility. In the original 1978 movie and the new one, the superhero's father tells him: "They can be a great people ... They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all -- their capacity for good -- I've sent them you, my only son."
Yes, Superman is a Christ figure.
"A heavenly father sends his only son to save the Earth; in his mission or ministry, he will fight for truth and justice; he will die and be resurrected; he will ascend into heaven, and now is the time of his second coming," says Stephen Skelton, author of a new book "The Gospel According to the World's Greatest Superhero." "This is the story of Superman."...
[Photo Caption:] Super Religious: Some say Superman's a Christ figure ... or Jewish
It should be emphasized that the classification of the "Superman" character as a Methodist is in no way based on the fact that actor Brandon Routh, who played "Superman in the 2006 feature film, is a Methodist. This is simply an irrelevant coincidence. The most one could say about this is that director Bryan Singer sensed in Routh a person with the same vibe or essence that he felt when reading about Superman in the comic books. The identification of a comic book character's religious affiliation is never based on the religious affiliation of the actors who portray the character. Nor is the religious affiliation of the writers who chronicle the character's stories a determining factor, although it may be informative.
Above: Scene from Action Comics #1 (June 1938), page 4. It is interesting to note that the very first comic book ever to feature Superman - Action Comics #1 - features a Christian clergyman. The clergyman appears in one panel in a scene in a prison where Superman has managed to get the governor to stop the execution of an innocent woman. Although there are no recorded cases of an innocent person being executed by the U.S. legal system in the 20th Century, this was clearly a topic on the mind of Siegel and Shuster. It is not clear whether Superman can be considered a death penalty opponent here. He might be, or he might simply be preventing the execution of an innocent.
Incidentally, there were no Jews (rabbis, clergy or otherwise) depicted in Action Comics #1. Even Jewish names were studiously avoided in all of the early issues of comics featuring Superman. Siegel and Shuster instead populated these comics with characters with Italian, Irish, Christian, English, Protestant, Scottish, German, Catholic, etc. names.
From: Christopher Sannes, review of Superman for all Seasons (written by Jewish writer Jeph Loeb, art by Tim Sale), posted on "Christopher Sannes' Virtual Reading List & Blog" website (http://www.chris.sannes.net/posts/00000035.html; viewed 1 December 2005):
Superman for all Seasons delivers on this promise surprisingly well, granting the reader an inside look into the tale of a superhero who comes of age, told from the point of view of Jonathan Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luther, and Lana Lang. The graphic novel is divided into four parts, named after each season of a year, and metaphorically representing the seasons of our lives.
Part 1, Spring is narrated by Pa Kent and outlines his struggle in coming to terms with his special adopted son. In this version Clark slowly comes into his powers and is actually relatively normal until his senior year of high school. Thus it's a slow discovery that the whole family learns to cope with. Like in the Smallville TV series, Clark learns of new abilities rescuing someone from a tornado.
After the twister, Clark feels he should have done more to save the town from destruction. He talks to his pastor, Pastor Linquist, posing the question --"Pastor, what if one man --just one man-- could've stopped all this destruction? And he didn't..." (p. 41) His pastor somewhat dismissively replies that we each respond according to our gifts, but that in the end when God sets a course no one can stop it. This provides a rare glimpse into the spirituality of the Kents, and paints a kind of generic Protestant religious background. Slightly earlier in the narrative, we find out that Martha is the devout one in the family, while Jonathan "didn't put too much stake in being a churchgoing sort." (p. 29)
Spiritual or not, Clark really grapples with the question of how best to use his gifts. In this story, Clark confides in Lana and tells her of his super-powers. The revelation is bittersweet however, since Clark's conviction that he must use his gifts for good means that he will leave her, and leave Smallville...
In [the Part 2, Summer] section of the story, we discover that Clark's Fortress of Solitude is Smallville. He flies home to spend time with his parents and regroup. Ironically, Clark is famous in Smallville for being Clark, not Superman. As Pastor Linquist relates to Clark in a kind moment, "We're probably the only town in Kansas that gets The Daily Planet every morning at the general store... Nobody from Smallville has done what you've done." (p. 92)...
Part 4, Winter is told by Lana Lang. In this chapter we discover that Lana's dream had been to marry Clark --finding out his secret and his plans to leave crushed her dreams. Having previously left home to wander the world alone, she returns to Smallville and helps Clark come to terms with his limitations and his gifts. The graphic novel truly transcends the genre here as the real struggle is won when Clark takes action to save his parents and Lana from a flood that hits Smallville. Adding a spiritual dimension, the family attends a vigil where Pastor Linquist reflects on the seasons of a life, their meaning, and how our choices define our lives...
PUBLISHER: DC Comics, New York, 1999. ISBN: 1-56389-529-3.
One of the few instances in comics in which Superman has been explicitly shown to be a Protestant Christian was in the influential "Superman For All Seasons" story. From: Terry Mattingly, "Comic book visionaries", nationally syndicated "On Religion" column, 5 November 2003 (http://tmatt.gospelcom.net/column/2003/11/05/; viewed 1 December 2005):
From: Michael Hutchison, "Never Discuss Religion or Politics: A rebuttal to 'The Mount'", published in Fanzing #52, January/February 2003 (http://www.fanzing.com/mag/fanzing52/feature7.shtml; viewed 22 May 2006):
"Anyone who knows where to look can find plenty of examples of faith in the comics and the culture that surrounds them," [Leo Partible, an independent movie producer, graphic artist and writer] said. "There is darkness there, but lots of light, too."
Thus, in the influential "Superman For All Seasons," a young Clark Kent turns to his pastor for help as he struggles to discern what to do with his life and unique abilities.
...merely by observation you cannot deduce Superman's politics. On the one hand, he comes from a two-parent churchgoing family in the midwest, reared with love for mom, the flag, rhubarb pie and hot dogs...
From: Alex Johnson, "At the comics shop, religion goes graphic: Judeo-Christian themes woven into comic books you might not expect", published on MSNBC.com, 25 April 2006 (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12376831/; viewed 2 May 2006); re-posted by Worldwide Religious News (http://wwrn.org/article.php?idd=21302; viewed 2 May 2006):
Superman, for the record, is probably Methodist, while Batman is most likely a lapsed Catholic or Episcopalian.
From: Ted Olsen, "Weblog: Sure, Superman's Protestant, But What's Batman", published in Christianity Today, 7 February 2000 (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/106/13.0.html; viewed 3 June 2006):
Is Batman Catholic, Episcopalian, or Presbyterian? [link to news article in Houston Chronicle: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/religion/446482.html]
Superman is most assuredly a Protestant, writes Andrew Smith, who pens a "Captain Comics" column for the Scripps Howard News Service. But there's a lot of debate over Batman (I've read enough of his pontificating over man's fallen nature to swear he's some breed of Calvinist). Overall in Smith's rundown of superhero religion, Judaism comes out on top. "Captain Comics" doesn't note that this makes more sense when you consider the "fathers" of the modern comic superhero, Superman's Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were both Jewish.
From: Andrew A. Smith (Scripps Howard News Service), "Comics superheroes of many faiths", published 3 February 2000 by The Houston Chronicle (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/religion/446482.html; viewed 30 November 2005):
So, if you were going to dress up like a bat and fight crime, what church would you attend?
That was the question put to Captain Comics a few weeks ago, and after much thumb-sucking, he decided Batman was probably Catholic. His reasoning was (A) Bruce Wayne's parents were accepted readily in wealthy East Coast social circles; (B) Batman's sense of guilt; (C) Superman, his polar opposite, is likely Protestant...
Elsewhere in funnybookland, Clark (Superman) Kent of Smallville, Kan., and Wally (Flash) West of Blue Valley, Neb., are almost certainly Protestants.
From: Paul O'Donnell, "Look! Up in the Air! A Methodist!" posted 28 April 2006 on "Idol Chatter: Religion and Pop Culture Blog" website (http://www.beliefnet.com/blogs/idolchatter/2006/04/look-up-in-air-methodist.html; viewed 12 May 2006):
A Jewish comedian claimed not long ago that he grew up thinking that all the comic-book superheroes were Jewish, because, like, say, Goldman and Federrman, all their names end in "man": Spiderman, Batman, Superman...
A report on MSNBC [link to: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/12376831/] this week examined more seriously the topic of religion in comics, which are growing more concerned with faith, according to the story. The American superhero's origin in Judaism have been explored, both in fact (click here [http://www.ariekaplan.com/kingscomicspart1.htm] for an essay on Superman and the Golem) and fiction, most famously in Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, "The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay." MSNBC's reporter interviews several academics who point out the growing interest comic-book writers have taken in religion, to gratify an their audience that is increasingly adult, and, like the country as a whole, increasingly religious.
The theme pops up too on Progressive U., a national student blog, in an interesting essay [http://www.progressiveu.org/023135-on-the-importance-of-comic-books] about the essential religious nature of comics. The author portrays comics as modern pop mythologies--you know, the boogie-man stories equivalent to cave paintings that we flatter ourselves our society doesn't indulge in anymore. Comic books, the essay claims, allows us to feel awe--mostly concocted but sometimes taking a share of reality, as in the nearly wordless 9/11 installment of "The Amazing Spiderman."
For the record, with due respect to my Jewish brothers and sisters, Batman was an Episcopalian, and Superman a Methodist, as you can read here [http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_collage.html].
From: Tom Heinen, "God comics: Illustrated fiction spreads word on religious ideas", published in Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 11 March 2006 (http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=407297; viewed 8 May 2006):
Delve more deeply into comic book metaphysics, and you can explore the actual or surmised religious affiliations of dozens of superheroes by clicking on the "Comic Book Characters" link at www.adherents.com. Or visit its image-packed companion page, www.ComicBookReligion.com.
Superman is a Methodist and Jimmy Olsen is Lutheran? The Thing is Jewish? Elektra is Greek Orthodox? The X-Men's Nightcrawler is a devout Catholic who once wanted to be a priest? Batman is either a mostly lapsed Catholic or a mostly lapsed Episcopalian?
Yes . . . or more often, maybe.
There have been reverent comic books about Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa, but secular publishers - especially the two dominant ones, Marvel Entertainment and DC Comics - have often avoided or only hinted at their superheroes' faith lives.
From: Soleine Leprince, "Discussing the origins of religious belief" in Daily Princetonian, 13 March 2007 (http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/archives/2007/03/13/opinion/17697.shtml; viewed 23 April 2007):
Even comic-book heroes are painted as religious: Suppositions have been made that Superman Methodist, Spiderman is Protestant, The Thing is Jewish...
The religiosity of Clark Kent on the 1980s Superboy TV series
The 1980s Superboy TV series does not measure up to the later Smallville TV series in terms of writing, production values and other qualities. Yet it was a remarkably successful series which would have lasted longer than its mere three years except for the fact that there were legal entanglements with ownership of the film and TV rights to the character.
The Superboy TV series begins in its first season with Clark Kent, Lana Lang and Lex Luthor all as college students at Shuster University in Florida. (The series was filmed at the Disney Universal Studios location in Orlando, which is why the stories are set in Florida.) The moral values of Clark Kent in Superboy are closer to the way Clark Kent was depicted in comics. Rather than losing his virginity to Lana Lang soon after high school graduation, Clark Kent maintained his moral purity in his college years, apparently intending to wait until marriage before having sex. This is exactly what Clark Kent did in the DC Comics depiction of the character as well as on the TV series Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
Episode 2 of season 1 of Superboy pointedly addressed the topic of just how far Clark Kent was willing to go in sexual matters: not very far. Beyond a "passionate kiss" at her door, Clark Kent simply does not fool around, even with his Mafia princess girlfriend on the night of her 18th birthday when she begs him to go to bed with her.
Clark Kent's desire to remain morally chaste as a college student Superboy can be explained by his conservative Protestant Christian upbringing.
Superboy Season 1: Episode 2: "A Kind of Princess"
Original airdate: 15 October 1988
Story by Howard Dimsdale
Teleplay by Michael Morris
[Timecode: 41 seconds. Immediately after the opening credits. College student Clark Kent (who is secretly "Superboy") is having lunch in a nice outdoor cafe with his beautiful blonde girlfriend, Sara Danner (played by actress Julie McCullough). The location is on the college campus or near campus. Sara is not a recurring character. This is the only episode of "Superboy" she appears in. But as this episode opens, it appears that Sara and Clark have been steadily dating at least for a little while. The couple appears to be quite comfortable as they eat lunch.]
Sara Danner: Daddy wanted me to have the party at the Olympia Hotel. Now that would have been a bit much. But a little birthday celebration in the school gym . . . It's so modest it's almost tacky! [Smiles and snickers slightly.]
Clark Kent: I'm sure it'll be a neat party.
Sara Danner: Ah, if it's neat I'll kill myself. I want it to be unique and thrilling and exciting. Eighteen is a special year for a girl. And I'm looking forward to a very special present from you.
[Sara reaches over the table and takes Clark's hand in her own. Sara seems to be implying that she hopes there will be some sort of sexual intimacy between herself and Clark on 18th birthday - something that has not yet happened between them. Clark smiles shyly but in a good-natured and innocent way. Clark may very well not know what she means.]
Clark Kent: I put a money down on a two dollar birthday card. If I can make the payments, it's yours.
Sara Danner: Clark, the only thing that I want from you . . . is you.
[Clark smiles shyly and looks away slightly.
New camera shot: We see Clark Kent's friends Lana Lang and T.J. observing Clark and Sara from a slight distance.]
Lana Lang: Look at Clark! Is that enough to make you sick?
T.J.: What, the tuna melt?
Lana Lang: Not what he's eating, dummy. What he's looking at, and how.
[T.J. walks up to the table that Clark and Sara are sitting at.]
T.J.: Hey, Clark! Hi.
Clark Kent: [Smiles at T.J. and presumably sees Lana a ways back as well.] Dudes.
[T.J. chuckles, seeing that he would be interrupting Clark's conversation with Lana. He walks away without saying anything else. T.J. sits down at the table next to Clark's. We later can see that Lana Lang sits down next to T.J.]
Sara Danner: I really like Lana.
Clark Kent: Yeah, she's great.
Sara Danner: But she sure doesn't like me. It's too bad. My daddy always said that if you wanna be somebody in this world, you have to make everyone you meet either love you or hate you.
[The look on Clark's face indicates he's not sure what to make of such a statement. He's not sure he agrees with it. An outdoor bell chime can be heard, indicating the time.]
Sara Danner: Oops! Daddy will be hear any minute now. Ohh! And I'm in my leotard. It's so old-fashioned.
[Sara picks up the check for their meal, intending to pay. Clearly she comes from a very wealthy family. Clark stops her, taking the check away from her.]
Clark Kent: Oh, no, no. Let me take care of that. Come on.
Sara Danner: [Chuckles.] Well, tell you what. Give me 10 minutes, and send him over to the Siegel Center, and tell him I'll meet him there. Okay?
[Sara Danner points in the direction of a building on campus which is, of course, named after Superman co-creater Jerry Siegel, although she doesn't know that.]
Clark Kent: Okay, great. What does he look like?
Sara Danner: Um, just, he'll be in a silver limo, and that's my daddy.
Clark Kent: Okay, great.
Sara Danner: Thanks.
Clark Kent: Bye.
[Clark takes one last swig of his drink of pop as he stands up and walks away. While passing T.J. he hands his friend the check.]
Clark Kent: T.J., take care of that for me.
T.J.: What!? [Looks at the check.]
[The next scene involves some "Superboy" action. Clark is heading to meet Sara Danner's father when he sees a would-be assassin plant a bomb in a car parked on the street where he knows Matt Danner will soon pass by. Clark Kent turns into Superboy and stops Matt Danner's car, pushing it backwards away from the parked car so that nobody is hurt when the car explodes. After that, Clark Kent tries to get statements from people involved for the college paper. Police officer Detective Harris arrives and tells Matt Danner that he doesn't want him in his town. The detective tells Matt Danner that this is a college town and he doesn't want kids getting hurt in Danner's organized crime turf battles. When Clark Kent finally gets a chance to ask the detective what's going on, the detective asks, "And you call yourself a reporter." The detective explains that Matt Danner is head of one of the biggest organized crime syndicates on the coast. Clark Kent had NOT known that Sara Danner was the daughter of the famous organized crime boss Matt Danner. We see some other intrigue related to Matt Danner and his rival Casey, and their plans to kill each other.]
[Timecode: 7 minutes, 55 seconds. Next scene: the 18th birthday party for Sara Danner, held in the gym on the college campus. Sara's bodyguard, a 40-ish heavyset man wearing a suit, overlooks the scene. Everybody is dressed in clothes amazingly reflective of 1980s pouplar fashion. Well, except Clark, who just looks very much like . . . well, the stereotypical comic Salkind vision of nerdish, nebbish Clark Kent. This is very much pre-Smallville Clark Kent. He wears a barely-acceptable suit coat with a too-busy plaid pattern, white shirt, black tie and of course his thick, heavy-framed glasses.]
[Sara Danner, wearing a stunning red dress, sees Clark Kent before he sees her. She walks up from behind him and surprises him.]
Sara Danner: What's your name, good-lookin'?
[Clark grins sheepishly and apologetically.]
Sara Danner: It's been so long I almost forgot.
Clark Kent: Sorry I'm late, I had to put the paper to bed. You know, big-time reporter stuff.
Sara Danner: Ahh...
[Sara grabs Clark's hand and leads him to the dance floor. They dance and talk at the same time.]
Clark Kent: Who's that big guy over in the corner, uh, to my right?
Sara Danner: My bodyguard.
Clark Kent: Your bodyguard!?
Sara Danner: Well, what can I say? Every time there's an attempt on Daddy's life I always end up with a bodyguard.
Clark Kent: You never told me that your father is, uh, Matt Danner.
Sara Danner: So? I never told you that Roz Danner is my mother. Or that Gloria, Lavinia and Clare are my first cousins. I love my father and I'm proud of him.
Clark Kent: The paper paints a pretty grim picture of him.
Sara Danner: They call him head of a crime syndicate. You know what I think is criminal? Is people building a hydrogen bomb that can destroy the world. Or how about those creeps who are polluting our environment? Clark, my dad may bend the law every now and then, but what he does is nothing compared to the self-righteous, hypocritical politicans who rob us deaf, dumb and blind.
Clark Kent: I don't know. You're a great attorney for the defense, but . . . I have to think about it.
Sara Danner: Okay.
[Sara smiles broadly and puts her arms around Clark's neck. Cut to shots of Lana Lang dancing with some uber-80s "Miami Vice"-dressed guy and then a shot of T.J. dancing with some girl. Cut back to Clark Kent and Sara Danner, as they walk away from the dance floor to the refreshment table. Sara offers Clark a drink in a flute glass.]
Sara Danner: I could dance all night!
Clark Kent: I can't stay that long. I have a sociology paper that I have to write before I hit the sack.
Sara Danner: [shaking her head, a bit dismayed] I don't believe you.
[Clark Kent leans over and kisses Sara lightly on the side of her forehead.]
Clark Kent: Good night, Sara.
[Sara's face shows a bit of shock, disappointment and puzzlement. Clark turns and walks away. Sara walks after him.]
Sara Danner: Clark! Clark! [Sara grabs Clark by the elbow and turns him to face her.] Don't leave me yet. You still owe me . . . my birthday present.
[Sara smiles at Clark. She is clearly optimistic and hopeful about something happening between them. Clark grins and says nothing, but allows Sara to lead him off the dance floor. Cut to lobby of dorm bulding or small apartment building or something. Actually, it looks more like the lobbby of a dentist's office, but it isn't supposed to be. A small "Shuster U." banner indicates that this is a place where students from the college live. Sara is still holding Clark's hand, leading him through the lobby. Clark and Sara walk across the lobby and into a dorm hallway. Sara's bodyguard enters the lobby and sits in a comfortable cushioned chair in the lobby. Magazines are on coffee tables in front of the chair and a matching sofa. The bodyguard sits down. He can monitor access to Sara's dorm room from here. He pulls out a newspaper and pencil so he can work on a crossword puzzle. Cut to interior of the hallway.
We see Sara hurridly leading Clark down the hall to her dorm room door. Sara opens the door and starts to enter. Clark braces himself against the door frame, intent on getting nowhere even close to setting a foot inside Sara's dorm room.]
Sara Danner: Clark.
[Sara puts her arms around Clark's neck and begins to kiss him passionately. Clark quickly pulls away.]
Sara Danner: That was a C-minus. Think we can try it with your arms around me this time?
[Clark puts his arms on Sara's shoulders and allows her to kiss him again. He pulls away after a couple seconds.]
Sara Danner: [Smiling.] That was an A-minus. If you hold me a little tighter maybe we can get an A-plus.
Clark Kent: When I get passionate I'm an animal. I might cause you bodily harm.
Sara Danner: A little pain never hurt anyone.
[Clark kisses Sara on the cheek gently.]
Clark Kent: Good night, Sara.
[Clark turns and walks away. Sara stands there stunned.]
Sara Danner: I can't believe this is happening to me. Not in the 20th Century.
[Cut to lobby. We see Clark Kent exiting the hallway, a perturbed look on his face. He grabs the door knob of the door to the hallway as he passes, crushing it in his super-strong grip and tearing it from the door. He drops the deformed door knob in an ash tray on a coffee table as he passes the bodyguard, still doing a crossword puzzle. Clearly a part of Clark would have liked to succumb to his girlfriend's enticements. From what Clark said, we can infer that he was worried about actually harming her with his super strength. But is that really the only reason he didn't go along with what she wanted? Surely he has enough control over his own body, a body he can use to type and eat and dance closely with people, that he could have done SOMETHING with her and not been fearful of hurting her. In watching this scene, I believe there is a strong element of moral reticence on Clark's part. He knows what Sara wants and he knows that is not something he wants to do, on moral and religious grounds. Whether his concerns are purely for Sara's physical safety or are also for his own moral purity, one thing is clear: College-age Clark Kent in this TV series has almost no experience whatsoever with physical intimacy with a girl. He is a virgin and intends to remain that way.]
[After Clark leaves, men working for rival crime boss Casey knock the bodyguard out and kidnap Sara Danner. Much Superboy-style adventure and intrigue ensues. Superboy saves Sara Danner from being kidnapped and held for ransom and possibly blown up by her father's rival.]
[Timecode: 19 minutes, 16 seconds. Scene: Outside Sara Danner's dorm building. She is preparing to leave campus. She was saved by Superboy and now Sara is talking with Clark Kent again. She does not suspect that Clark is really Superboy.]
Clark Kent: I wish you weren't leaving school.
Sara Danner: I need to get away and get my head straight.
Clark Kent: I'm gonna miss you.
[Clark kisses Sara on the lips. A silver limo pulls up with Sara's father in it. He gets out.]
Sara Danner: What do you think you're doing?
Matt Danner: [To Clark] Please, leave us alone. Please.
[Clark walks away and walks over to a nearby suburban vehicle where we see Lana Lang, T.J. and T.J.'s girlfriend waiting.]
Matt Danner: [To his daughter] Sara, you can't leave me.
Sara Danner: You left me first. I was almost murdered. If it wasn't for Superboy I would've been dead.
Matt Danner: No, no, no. We-- We would have made some arrangement sooner or later.
Sara Danner: "Sooner or later". How comforting. I want you out of my life, Dad!
Matt Danner: Where-- Where are you going?
Sara Danner: Someplace. Any place. It doesn't matter. Goodbye, Dad.
[Sara looks over to where Clark is standing. She waves at him gingerly. He waves back sadly. Lana looks on. Sara gets in a waiting taxi and drives off. Cut to Lana and Clark, as they walk away from T.J. and his girlfriend.]
Lana Lang: You really liked her, didn't you?
Clark Kent: Yeah, I liked her.
Lana Lang: Did you guys, um, ever spend the night together?
Clark Kent: That's sick! What kind of question is that!?
Lana Lang: It's very rude. I'm sorry. You don't have to answer it.
Clark Kent: I won't. But if you really want to know--
Lana Lang: No, I don't!
Clark Kent: No, I'm gonna tell you any way . . . It never went beyond a passionate kiss.
[Lana, hearing this, looks relieved that Clark has not spoiled his moral purity. She gives him a friendly kiss on the cheek and then hugs him. End of scene. End of episode.]
Superboy, Season 1: Episode 11: "The Invisible People"
Airdate: 21 January 1989
Written by Mark Evanier
[Timecode: 7 minutes, 5 seconds. Scene: A makeshift community of tents occupied by homeless people, on a Florida beach next to a fancy restaurant and real estate development. College student Clark Kent and his friends T.J. White and Lana Lang are helping distribute food to the jobless people who are eking out a living on the beach while looking for work.]
Clark Kent: I know you don't have any money, but don't you have friends, relatives, somebody that can help?
Alice (a leader of the homeless community): None of us are from around here. We've come from all over on the promise of jobs.
Lana Lang: Obviously you didn't get them. Who promised these jobs?
Alice: Our "savior" Mr. Manfred. He was going to re-open a factory. Television sets. Tape recorders. That's what we all worked on before the industry went sour in America.
Clark Kent: What happened? Why didn't he open it?
Alice: He built a factory in Korea, instead.
T.J. White: Huh. So much for "made in the U.S.A."
Alice: Those of us who could went back home. The rest of us were so demoralized. And then Damon showed up from out of nowhere and said we had to fight, make Manfred come through with his promises. Keep sticking his nose in it until he makes restitution.
Young girl: [Voice heard from off-screen] Mama.
Alice: Excuse me.
[Alice walks away to attend to her daughter.]
Clark Kent: There but for the grace of God goes everyone's mother. Or father. Or us.
[Damon, a middle-aged black man, walks up to where Clark, Lana and T.J. are standing with a few boxes of food.]
Damon: Oh my Lord! What is all these goodies? Who do we owe this to?
[Clark Kent, Lana Lang and T.J. White shake their heads as if to say, "Aw, shucks, it was nothing."]
Damon: You guys did this?
The religiosity of Clark Kent on the Smallville TV series
Jeph Loeb, a Jewish writer from Connecticut, was one of the principle writers and a supervising producer of the TV series Smallville. Jeph Loeb is also the author of Superman for all Seasons, which features one of the most explicitly Protestant Christian portrayals of Clark Kent/Superman anywhere in canonical DC Universe comics. The creators of Smallville said on a DVD commentary for the series that Superman: for all Seasons was the principle model for the Smallville series. It is therefore ironic that Smallville's most explicitly Protestant religious character is Lex Luthor. Clark Kent's strong moral values and family life clearly reflect a Protestant Christian background, yet the series seemed to shy away from ever including any explicit acknowledgements of Clark Kent's religious affiliation. In contrast with Superman for all Seasons, we never see the Kents at church in the Smallville series. (Aside from their values, perhaps the closest one gets to an explicit acknowledgement of the Kents' religious background is the fact that they celebrate Christmas by enthusiastically embracing Christmas traditions and decorations, including an angel atop their Christmas tree.) Lex Luthor, on the other hand, is revealed to have been baptized as an infant, has a Christian marriage, and speaks explicit references to Old Testament and New Testament stories, passages and characters at least a dozen times.
Season 1: Episode 1: "Pilot"
Airdate: 16 October 2001
Written by: Alfred Gough and Miles Millar
One subtle indication of Clark Kent's religious upbringing happens in the pilot episode of Smallville (Season 1: Episode 1, title: "Pilot"; airdate: 16 October 2001; written by: Alfred Gough and Miles Millar). Clark Kent is a freshman in high school when his father finally reveals to him that he arrived on Earth from space in a spaceship. Upset at hearing this news, and upset that his parents had never told him this before, Clark rushes away from the storm cellar where his father was showing him the spaceship. Clark wanders to a cemetary, where Lana Lang has gone to visit her parents' grave. When Lana first sees Clark Kent, he is standing in front of a large statue of an angel, so that the wings of the angel frame Clark's body and appear to be his own wings. The message is clear, Clark is an angel.
Clark proceeds to fill this role by consoling Lana, who is feeling sadness about her parents' death and her subsequent life as an orphan. Clark listens as Lana speaks aloud to her deceased parents, addressing their headstone. Clark tells Lana that she is never alone, and that her mother is always watching over. This concept that a persons's deceased ancestors and family members watch over them is shared by members of many faiths, including Catholics, various Protestant denominations, Latter-day Saints, Chinese traditional religionists, etc. Frequently this concept isn't explicitly delineated as official denominational doctrine, but is promulgated as "folk belief." Whether Clark actually believes that Lana's mother is watching over her or not, he is clearly familiar with and comfortable with the concept.
[Timestamp: 28 minutes, 22 seconds. In the previous scene, Jonathan Kent told his adopted son Clark Kent about how clark really came to be in their family. Jonathan showed Clark, who is now sixteen years old, a metal object with Krytonian writing on it, and then showed him the spaceship that brought Clark to Earth. The ship had been stored by Jonathan in a storage cellar all these years, and he had never before shown it to Clark. Clark is upset that his adoptive parents had withheld this information for so long. He storms off. It is night time. We now see Smallville cemetary. Lana Lang rides a horses into the cemetary. She dismounts. She is carrying a small bouquet of flowers. Her horse is spooked and makes a sound that indicates its surprise. Lana notices, and realizes somebody else is present.]
Lana Lang (not a teenager): Who's there?
Clark Kent (also a teenager): It's me. Clark.
Clark takes a step closer to where Lana is standing. He thus positions himself in front of a large, life-size statue of an angel, an ornate grave marker. The scene is purposefully framed so that Clark now appears to have wings. Clark is in front of the head and body of the angel statue, but the angel statue's wings appear to Clark's wings. The symbolism is clear: Clark is an angel. Or at least, for this scene, Clark will be as an angel to Lana.]
Lana Lang: Clark Kent? What are you doing creeping around the woods?
Clark Kent: You'd never believe me if I told you. Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you.
Lana Lang: Clark, wait. Just wasn't expecting to see anyone out here. Are you okay?
Clark Kent: I'm hanging out in a graveyard. Does that strike you as okay behavior?
Lana Lang: Hey, I'm here too.
Clark Kent: Good point. What's your story?
Lana Lang: Can you keep a secret?
Clark Kent: I'm the Fort Knox of secrets.
Lana Lang: I... came out here to talk with my parents. You must think I'm pretty weird, you know, conversing with dead people.
Clark Kent: No, I-- I don't think you're weird, Lana. Do you remember them.
Lana Lang: They died when I was three.
Clark Kent: I'm sorry.
Lana Lang: It's not your fault, Clark. Come on, I'll introduce you. [Lana leads Clark by the hand, walking him over to her the headstone that marks the graves of her parents.] Mom, Dad. This is Clark Kent. Say hi.
Clark Kent: Hi.
Lana Lang: [Lana speaks directly to the headstone, pausing occasionally as if listening to her parents reply to her side of the conversation.] Yeah, he is kind of shy. [Pause.] How should I know? Mom wants to know if you're upset about a girl.
Clark Kent: [Clark shakes his head no.]
Lana Lang: Dad wants to know if you're upset about a guy.
Clark Kent: No, no.
Lana Lang: [Laughs at Clark's discomfort at that question.] He has a twisted sense of humor. Seriously, Clark. Why are you out here?
Clark Kent: Lana, you ever feel like your life was supposed to be something different?
Lana Lang: [Nods yes.] Sometimes I dream I'm at school, waiting for Nell to pick me up. But she doesn't come. So, my parents drive up and they're not dead, they're just really late. And I get in their car and we drive to my real life in Metropolis. That's usuallly when I wake up. And for a minute, I'm totally happy. Until I realize I'm still alone.
[Clark looks at Lana. He looks at the headstone. The top line reads "LANG". Beneath that are the names of Lana's parents, "LEWIS: 1957-1989" and "LAURA: 1959-1989". Below that the enscription reads, "Forever loved".]
Clark Kent: [Clark begins speaking to the headstone, as Lana had done.] What's that, Mrs. Lang? [Pause.] Yeah, I'll tell her. [Looks up at Lana.] Your mom wants you to know that you're never alone. That she's always looking over you. No matter what. [Pause.] What's that, Mr. Lang? [Pause.] Your dad thinks you're a shoe-in for homecoming queen.
Lana Lang: They really say all that?
Clark Kent: Oh, yeah. They're quite chatty once you get them started.
[End of scene. Timestamp: 32 minutes, 15 seconds.]
Further religious symbolism can be found in the pilot episode of Smallville when Clark Kent is tied to a cross. The Smallville football team, led by Lana Lang's boyfriend Whitney, ties Clark (incapacited due to a Kryptonite necklace they put around his neck) to the cross in a cornfield. This is part of a cruel "custom" that the football team has, in which they paint an "S" on the chest of an incoming freshman student and tie him to a cross. It is a somewhat bizarre and certainly unusual ritual. The writers' purpose for including this in specific "prank" in the pilot episode was to be able to feature the rather dramatic imagery of Clark Kent on a cross in a crucifixion-like pose.
Season 1: Episode 13: "Kinetic"
Airdate: 26 February 2002
Written by: Philip Levens
In "Kinetic" (Smallville season 1, episode 13), Lex Luthor warns Clark Kent that he can't save the world, and that if he tries to do so, all he will end up with is "a Messiah Complex and a lot of enemies." This line foreshadows Clark's eventual emergence as the superhero Superman, who literally does save the world many times. The "Messiah Complex" spoken of here can also refer to the adult Lex Luthor himself, who often views himself as the person who should reshape or run the world, if only Superman wouldn't stand in his way.
This line foreshadows what would become one of the adult Lex Luthor's primary motivations for wanting to destroy Superman: The adult Lex Luthor has sometimes been portrayed as wanting to destroy Superman because he resents the intrusion of Superman in the lives of normal people. This explanation holds that Lex Luthor believes having a super-powerful being constantly saving everybody lulls people into being idle rather than trying to save themselves.
"Messiah Complex" is certainly a term drawn from Judeo-Christian scripture, history and teaching. The Old Testament frequently refers to a Messiah who would come to save people, and the New Testament portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of these prophecies. The term is used generally in psychology (and particularly in "pop psychology"), and its use here, while interesting, does not by itself indicate a Christian or even Judeo-Christian background for Lex Luthor. Nevertheless, Lex Luthor's reference to a "Messiah Complex" instead of the use of a more secular synonym is certainly in keeping with the character's persistent use of Biblical stories, imagery and references.
[Timecode: 30 minutes, 59 seconds. Scene: Night time in Smallville. Clark Kent and Lex Luthor just parked on a city street and got out of Lex's car. They just came from an incident in which Lex Luthor was supposed to hand over cash to a small band of thieves who were blackmailing him, threatening to release confidential business data that belongs to Lex. Whitney Fordman, the current boyfriend of Lana Lang, had become involved with this band of thieves. Worried about Whitney, Clark had followed him and had observed him joining up with the thieves and going to the meeting with Lex. Clark asks Lex why he was there, and Lex explained. Now Lex asks Clark the same question.]
Lex Luthor: The question is, what were you doing there?
Clark Kent: I was following Whitney. He's been hanging out with those guys. I wanted to help him.
Lex Luthor: Is this because of Chloe?
[Before the thieves recruited Whitney to join them, they broke into Lex Luthor's mansion to steal some of Luthor's valuables. Chloe and Clark were there to tape an interview with Lex Luthor. The thieves threw Chloe out a window, injuring her severely. Clark's strength was hampered by the Kryptonite tattoos the thieves were using to grant them phasing powers and super strength. Clark felt very guilty about being unable to stop the thieves from hurting Chloe. In answer to Lex's question about if his trying to help Whitney is about what happened with Chloe, Clark says nothing. He averts his gaze slightly.]
Lex Luthor: Clark, you can't save the world. All you'll end up with is a Messiah Complex and a lot of enemies.
Clark Kent: I saved you didn't I? That turned out all right.
[Clark here is referring to the time that Lex Luthor ran into Clark Kent with his car, careening off a bridge. Clark pulled Lex from the vehicle and prevented the unconscious Lex from drowning to death. This was in the first episode of Smallville. In response to this statement, Lex Luthor smiles and chuckles ever so slightly, but says nothing.]
Clark Kent: What's your next move?
Lex Luthor: They're gonna learn that it doesn't pay to rob Lex Luthor.
Clark Kent: What about Whitney?
Lex Luthor: A man is measured by the quality of his friends. If the quarterback's with them, he'll have to face the consequences.
Smallville Season 1, Episode 19: "Crush"
Airdate: 7 May 2002
Written by: Alfred Gough and Miles Millar
[Timecode: 36 minutes, 14 seconds. Scene: hallway inside Smallville High School. Clark just witnessed Chloe kissing Justin in the offices of the Torch (the school newspaper). Justin was a Smallville High School student who was in an automobile accident. He ended up being away from school for six months while he was in the hospital recovering. Clark is worried because he thinks that Justin may have been involved in the death of the doctor who treated him after his accident. In fact, Justin's accident and recovery imbued him with telekinetic powers, and he did cause his doctor's death. But Clark has no knowledge of all these details yet, only suspicions without proof. He tries to warn Chloe about Justin. Chloe has recently been more forthcoming about her romantic feelings toward Clark, but - finding him emotionally unavailable because of his fixation on Lana Lang - she is looking for love elsewhere: with Justin. The title of this episode - "Crush" - refers to the crush that Chloe has on Clark.]
Clark Kent: Don't you think this Justin thing is moving a little too fast?
Chloe Sullivan: We've been emailing back and forth for six months. I know him better than I know you.
Clark Kent: Did he tell you what happened to his doctor?
Chloe: No. But he did tell me that you were talking about him behind his back.
Clark Kent: Just looking out for you, Chloe.
Chloe: What's with you, Clark? You have some sort of a Savior Complex? If I'm in trouble you'll rescue me. But other than that you remain emotionally unavailable.
Clark Kent: I just don't want you getting involved with Justin because you're mad at me.
Chloe: Believe it or not, Clark, my world does not revolve around you. Why can't you just accept the fact that I found someone special, and unlike you, I'm willing to take a chance.
[The school bell rings. Students start coming out of classrooms into the hallway. Chloe turns and walks away from Clark. Clark stands in the hallway looking perplexed and confused. End of scene.]
[Timecode: 54 minutes, 26 seconds. Outside at the Smallville Cemetery on a dark, stormy day. In the previous scene we learned that the father of Lana Lang's boyfriend, Whitney Fordman, died. Now we see the funeral of Whitney's father. The scene opens with Whitney's mother placing a bouquet of flowers on the casket. Mournful music plays: a version of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time." Whitney's mother buries her face in Whitney's chest and cries. Whitney turns to Lana for comfort. Clark Kent looks on. Lana Lang is sad. An Episcoplian clergymen conducts the ceremony.]
[Lana Lang looks meaningfully at Clark. What does this death mean for the relationship between Lana and Clark? Will the death of Whitney's father give Whitney some finality in his life, and let Lana feel like she no longer needs to stay with Whitney because she feels sorry for him over how he has to deal with his sick father? Or will this mean that Lana Lang moves closer to the grieving Whitney? Right now, Lana feels a sense of duty toward Whitney, and she leaves the funeral with him and his mother.]
[Clark is framed is shown standing next to a statue of an angel, perhaps the same angel statue he was shown in front of in the pilot episode of the series, when we first saw him interact with Lana Lang. Chloe sees Lana and Clark exchanging looks. Chloe is jealous of Clark's feelings for Clark, but what can she do?]
[Clark Kent walks away from the funeral alone, in a scene framed such that a large Christian cross grave marker is on one side of him and the statue of the angel is on the other side. The image is full of symbolism. Clark Kent's powers and sense of responsibility really do mean he has something of a "Savior Complex." He saves people, but he is also very alone. This closing scene illustrates that Clark Kent may be angel and a savior for others, but this leaves him emotionally isolated. This is the last shot of the episode.]
Smallville Season 2, Episode 1: "Vortex"
Airdate: 24 September 2002
Story By: Alfred Gough and Miles Millar
Teleplay By: Philip Levens
[Timecode: 23 minutes, 7 seconds. Scene: Interior of "The Talon," the coffee shop in downtown Smallville. Lana Lang runs the coffee shop and she has turned into a temporary resource center for emergency services in the aftermath of a devestating tornado that hit Smallville earlier. Lana Lang and Martha Kent are organizing boxes of donated food. Lana Lang watches television footage about her own story of tornado survival, a story that reminds her of how she was featured in the media after Smallville was hit by a freak meteor shower many years ago (as shown in the pilot episode of the Smallville TV series).]
TV News Anchorwoman: Here we see a terrifying example of the tornado's fury.
[On TV screen we see a pickup truck towing away a stripped frame of a pickup truck or farm truck that had been destroyed and blown around on a farm. The scene is in the middle of a corn field.]
TV News Anchorwoman: This truck was literally ripped apart. Incredibly, the young driver, Lana Lang, survived, reminding us that even in the midst of utter devestation, miracles can happen.
[Martha Kent walks up from behind Lana Lang. Martha Kent sees the tail end of this news story. She puts down the box of food she is carrying.]
Martha Kent: It must have been awful for you.
Lana Lang: Yeah . . . uh, I don't think I've ever been that scared in my entire life.
Martha Kent: I'm glad you're all right.
[Martha Kent and Lana Lang embrace each other in a warm hug.]
Lana Lang: Thanks for all your help, Mrs. Kent. I know it must be hard for you right now. [Martha Kent's husband, Jonathan Kent, is still missing in the aftermath of the tornado.]
Martha Kent: [joking] I'm a Saint. [serious] I just can't believe how familiar all of this feels.
Lana Lang: The meteor shower?
Martha Kent: Yeah, I remember it like it was yesterday.
Lana Lang: Yeah, me too.
Martha Kent: Oh, I'm sorry. I-- I didn't mean to dredge up bad memories.
Lana Lang: It's okay. For so long it seemed to define me: that fairy princess picture on Time Magazine.
Martha Kent: Well, if it makes you feel any better, you made one wish come true that day. Jonathan and I were in Nell's, buying flowers, right before the meteor shower, and you were sitting on the counter with your wings and wand. And you asked me if I wanted ot make a wish. So I did. And not long after that, Clark came into our lives . . . I've never even told Clark that story.
Lana Lang: Clark is so lucky to have you and Mr. Kent as parents. I've always been kind of envious. You seem so open.
Martha Kent: I'm glad that you and Clark have become close.
Lana Lang: Yeah. Me too.
[End of scene.]
Season 4: Episode 5: "Exposed"
Airdate: 3 November 2005
Written by: Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson
In this episode, Jack Jennings, an old friend of Clark Kent's father comes to visit the Kent farm. Jennings is an incumbent state senator preparing to run for re-electon. Lex Luthor has put his hat in the ring as a candidate trying to unseat Jennings. A stripper is found murdered and evidence points to a connection between the murder victim and Jennings. Jack Jennings is somebody that Clark Kent looks up to. Apparently Jennings has in the past been so close to the Kent family that he is like an uncle to Clark. Clark investigates this murder, thinking that Jennings is innocent of all wrong-doing and that maybe Lex Luthor is the architect behind an elaborate plot to defame Jennings, ensuring a Luthor win in the election. Lex Luthor proclaims his innocense and tries to help Clark's investigation.
[Timecode: 33 minutes, 13 seconds. Establishing shot: outside of the castle in Smallville where Lex Luthor lives. Cut to inside, in Lex Luthor's office within the castle. A campaign staffer is holding up a large campaign poster featuring Lex Luthor's face and the slogan: "Looking to the Future: Lex Luthor." Two other campaign staffers stand nearby. Lex has been meeting with these three campaign staffers, going over details of his fledgeling campaign for a state senate seat. Lex notices that Clark Kent is standing at the door to the office.]
Lex Luthor: [To his campaign staffers] We'll finish this later.
Clark Kent: I just wanted to say 'thank you.'
Lex Luthor: Y'know, when I asked you to stay out of trouble, I kinda thought that might include, uh, being caught under-age in a strip club, using my membership while I'm gearing up for a political campaign.
Clark Kent: I didn't mean to drag you into this.
Lex Luthor: C'mon, Clark. Who are you kidding? You had me masterminding this whole Jennings plot before you walked through those doors.
Clark Kent: I didn't think he was lying to me.
Lex Luthor: But you assumed I would.
Clark Kent: I can't believe that I looked up to Jack.
Lex Luthor: Tell me what you remember about King David. Humor me.
Clark Kent: King David. Slew Goliath. Saved his people.
Lex Luthor: And afterward, he saw a beautiful woman bathing and fell madly in love. Problem was, she turned out to be his best friend's wife. So you know what our great hero did? He sent his best friend off to die in battle so he could have her to himself.
Clark Kent: Kinda leave that part out, don't they?
Lex Luthor: We all need to believe in heroes, Clark. And even the best ones are far from perfect.
[End of scene.]
Superman actor also a Methodist
Brandon Routh was the essentially unknown actor tapped by director Bryan Singer to play "Superman" in the 2006 feature film "Superman Returns." This film does not not overtly identify Superman's religious denomination as specifically Methodist, although it does recapitulate all earlier versions of the character by showing that Clark was raised in a Protestant farming family in rural Kansas. Like the comic book character he plays, Brandon Routh is a Methodist. It is entirely possible that Routh's background contributed to the way that Singer felt the actor captured the essence of the comic book character, but Methodism was certainly not a requirement for getting this part. From: "Questions, Questions" page, posted 5 June 2006 on "House of El" website (http://www.kal-el.org/2006/06/questions-questions.html; viewed 13 June 2006):
Though Superman may not actually be a Methodist, at least Brandon [Routh] may probably be one. His parents Ron and Katie Routh are actively involved with Norwalk United Methodist Church in Norwalk, Iowa
(www.no-nukes.org/viapacis/nov02/nov02thankyou.html), and his sister,
Sarah, used to direct four church choirs at Immanuel United Methodist
Church in Urbandale, Iowa (http://www.sararouth.com/bio.html).
The following excerpt comes from the blog of a United Methodist clergyman. The comments about Superman being from Iowa are not meant to be taken seriously, but are simply a way of observing that two of the major actors who have portrayed Superman are from Iowa: George Reeves and Brandon Routh. This post also confirms that Brandon Routh ("Superman" in the 2006 feature film) comes from a devout Methodist family. From: John Battern, "Superman is an Iowan", posted 15 June 2006 on "Out the Door" blog website (http://outthedoor.typepad.com/out_the_door/2006/06/superman_is_an_.html; viewed 20 June 2006):
I bet you always thought that Superman barely escaped Krypton in a rocketship which his parents sped on its way to Earth landing in a Kansas field. And that this "strange visitor from another planet" got his superpowers from Earth's yellow sun.
I recently learn the truth. Superman is actually from Iowa. The small town of Woolstock is hosting a festival in honor of Superman (George Reeves, the original Superman) this coming weekend, June 16-18.
If that's not enough proof that Superman's an Iowan, here's more. In Superman Returns, Superman is another Iowan, Brandon Routh.
It's not the rays of the sun that give Superman his power, it's being raised on good corn-fed Iowa beef. So the next time you need a superhero, don't go looking for one in a big city, check out the great state of Iowa.
As an additional note, Superman is also a Methodist. This is according to Elliot S! Maggin, an observant Jew who is one of Superman's most popular and influential contemporary chroniclers. This is further confirmed by Rev. Charles Curl, pastor of the Norwalk, IA UMC, where Brandon Routh and his family have been faithful members for years.
More about Superman's Kryptonian religious beliefs
In some versions of the character, Superman has been portrayed expressing explicit belief in Kryptonian religion. Specifically, Superman worshipped the Kryptonian god Rao. References to Rao in Superman comics were apparently prevalent during the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s.
Prior to the 1986 "retcon" by John Byrne, Superman was imagined as having lived many years on Krypton before the planet of his birth exploded. This allowed for more Kryptonian cultural and religious influence on the character than has been seen since the 1986 Byrne version, which re-imagines him leaving Krypton in a "birthing matrix," remaining yet "unborn" until he arrived on Earth. Recent depictions of Superman have made no mention of Rao.
From: E. Nelson Bridwell, "The Krypton Glossary", 1981, posted on the "K-Metal" website (http://theages.superman.ws/Krypton/glossary.php; viewed 30 November 2005):
RAO - In the mythology of ancient Krypton, the sun-god, who was deemed the chief of all gods. So great was the respect for the red sun of Krypton that any soldier of Erok's time automatically became an officer if he had red hair. When Jaf-El preached the worship of the One god, he gave Him the name of Rao, though no longer identifying Him specifically with the sun. Note that in the wedding ceremony, the phrase used was "Rao, who kindled the sun," showing Him to be the sun's creator, but not the sun itself.
From: Elayne Riggs, "Things I hate in Superman stories", posted 4 February 2005 on Loonyblog blog website (http://www.loonyboi.com/blog/archives/000774.php; viewed 30 November 2005):
When Superman refers to Rao: Oy is this one ever annoying. It's been toned down in the last few years, but for a while there...yeesh. If you're unfamiliar, Rao is the Kryptonian sun god. Somewhere along the line (and it crept up so gradually, I never even noticed it until it was too late), Superman became a Raoist. Or something. Basically this resulted in things like "Great Rao!" as an exclamation. At least he's never said, "Rao be praised!" or "Blessed Rao!" or anything like that. I don't have a problem with depicting Superman's spiritual side, but it seems to me like it was tacked on a bit late, and never really seems to have developed into anything more than a goofy sounding exclamation.
A pre-Crisis "Superman" story from before the 1986 retcon involves a group of Kryptonians who worship Rao in an unorthodox way. From: Wallace Harrington, review of Superman Annual #11, cover date 1985, in "Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics" section of "Superman Homepage" website (href="http://www.supermanhomepage.com/comics/pre-crisis-reviews/pre-crisis-mmrs-intro.php?topic=c-review-pc-sa11; viewed 30 November 2005):
The next day, Kal-El visits his father, and is surprised to find Jor-El associating with the Sword of Rao sect, a group supporting the Old Krypton Movement. Bitter at being forced to resign from the science council for predicting the end of Krypton, the bitter man sees Krypton torn by drugs and racial strife and argues that the only solution is to return to the ways of "Old Krypton". Kal is so disappointed by his father's fatalistic beliefs that he can take no more. Turning to leave, Kal sighs. "Father, sometimes I wish you were right. I wish Krypton had exploded after all." In response, Jor-El angrily smashes one of the crystal trees growing on his balcony.
In "Endless Nights", an issue of the DC comic book series Sandman (set in the same DC Universe as Superman) there is a story about Rao. This Kryptonian god is depicted in this story (as elsewhere) as the personification of the Kryptonian sun. This particular story hints that the Kryptonian race and the survival of Kal-El (Superman) was not a mere coincidence, but was planned by Rao himself. On a related subject, the Superman comic story titled "Superman: The Last God Of Krypton" featured a battle between Superman and Cythonna, the Kryptonian Goddess of Ice. The story reveals how when Krypton was a primitive planet, there was a war between Rao and Cythonna, which was later known as "The Wars of Fire and Ice". Cythonna lost, and was imprisoned by Rao. In contemporary times she escaped her ancient imprisonment, and looked for Kal-El, "The Last Kryptonian" (and arguably a direct descendant of Rao himself). Cythonna intended to destroy Kal-El (Superman) in order to have her revenge against Rao. In a final battle between Superman defeats Cythonna during a battle in the sun, in which Cythonna is trapped. [See: http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-48463.html]
Additional published excerpts from Superman comics illustrating the character's religious background
As part of the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover storyline, DC Comics revamped and streamlined the entire DC Universe. The character of Superman was rebooted and streamlined as well, led by popular writer/artist John Byrne. As part of this storyline, Superman's history was re-written so that he had never donned his famous costume and made his existence known to the world until he was an adult. Yet even after this new history was introduced, stories were published featuring Superboy, i.e., Superman's costumed identity from when he was a teenager living in Smallville.
In order to deal with this obvious incongruity, a story arc was created in order to explain the presense of Superboy in many previous stories, and also eliminate the character from the DC Universe. This story arc centered on the future-based Legion of Superheroes (of which a time-travelling Superboy was a longtime member). The story explained that the Superboy who the Legion of Superheroes had encountered was not actually the younger version of the mainstream universe's Superman, but was in fact a denizen of a pocket universe created by the Time Trapper in order to fool the Legion. In Action Comics #591, written and pencilled by John Byrne, this "pocket universe" Superboy met the "real" Superman.
In one scene in this issue, Superman's strong Protestant Christian upbringing is rather overtly invoked. Standing in front of a Christian church with a cross on its tower or steeple, Superboy's Pa (Jonathan Kent) tells him that he prayed for the youth during a recent crisis. The mainstream Superman then mentions the "solid, moral foundation" that his foster parents gave him. From: Action Comics #591, DC Comics: New York City (August 1987), written and illustrated by John Byrne, page 20; reprinted in Superman: The Man of Steel, Vol. 4 trade paperback, DC Comics: New York City (2005), page 133:
Superman: It's all there, Superboy. I'd even be willing to bet you knew, somehow, that this Kryptonite wouldn't work on me. Am I wrong?
Jonathan Kent ("Pa"): Is he, son? Or . . . Or . . . Your Ma and I have prayed, every day since this madness got started . . .
Superboy (young Clark Kent): He . . . He's right, Pa. I fixed the stasis ray so it wouldn't last on Superman. I wanted him to come after me. It seemed like the only way I could escape from this nightmare! The only way I could save the Legion . . . without sacrificing everyone I've ever loved! If Superman could only defeat me in battle . . . But . . . How could you guess my plan, Superman? How could you be sure?
Superman: It wasn't all that hard. Once I had the chance to think about it . . Clark. Meeting your Ma and Pa Kent was really the clincher. They're not quite the same people who raised me, but they're from the same stock. I knew they'd have given you the same solid, moral foundation my foster parents gave me. I could never betray my friends. I knew you couldn't either.
Now we have some Legionnaires to defrost!
Below: Pages 6 through 13 from Superman issue #209, published by DC Comics: New York (2004), written by Brian Azzarello, with pencils by Jim Lee and inks by Scott Williams. The Catholic priest that Superman is shown visiting in these pages is featured prominently throughout the rest of this issue, and throughout the rest of the "Superman: For Tomorrow" storyline in Superman issues 206 through 215.
The interaction between Superman and the Catholic priest in the Azzarello/Lee "Superman: For Tomorrow" storyline is interesting. The super-hero and the priest have relatively involved, extensive discussions about religious and ethical topics in this storyline. A single excerpt of the text is below. This scene is particularly illustrative not of any specific theological beliefs on Superman's part, but on his clearly defined humility and willingness to submit to normal human authority. These are longstanding traits in the character, and are far more an overt, important part of his character than any specific religious affiliation.
From Superman #209, written by Brian Azzarello, pages 6 through 26:
[Father Daniel Leone is in the sanctuary of the Sacred Heart Church in Metropolis, the Catholic church at which he is the pastor. He looks up startled to see Superman floating in the air in the sanctuary above him. All around Superman one can see symbols of Catholic Christianity adorning the sanctuary: crosses, angels, candles, etc.]
After Superman tells Father Leone that he must go, he speeds away. The rest of Superman's confession and counseling with Father Leone waits is postponed until later. By saying that his sin was to "save the world," Superman was referring to what he did after the Vanishing, actions he will later recount to Father Leone. Superman went to an African country in the midst of a brutal civil war and he destroyed all the firearms in an area where there was violent conflict. This may have created further instability in the region, but more immportantly, these actions brought Superman into conflict with the new dictator of the country (formerly the rebel leader) and a super-powered mercenary named Equus, who was working for the dictator. It turned out that the device which caused the Vanishing had been created and utilized by the former leaders of this country. When Superman tried to confiscate the machine, Equus rebelled against the dictator's orders and tried to both kill the dictator and prevent Superman from taking the machine. Equus threw the dictator, and while Superman was catching the man, Equus triggered the device, causing 300,000 more people to vanish. Superman's guilt about his part in this is apparently the main reason he went to Father Leone to confess. This story, along with subsequent related events involving both Superman and Father Leone, is chronicled in the remainder of the "Superman: For Tomorrow" storyline.
FATHER DANIEL LEONE: Oh... My-- [Father Leone begins to kneel, perhaps out of a combination of shock and reverence toward Superman's majestic image.]
SUPERMAN: I don't think you want to do that.
[Superman lands and helps Father Leone back to a fully standing position, apparently uncomfortable at the priest's instinctive genuflection.]
SUPERMAN: Why am I here?
FATHER LEONE: You . . . can read minds too? ["Why is Superman here?" is exactly what Father Leone had been thinking at that moment.]
SUPERMAN: I'm not bad at reading expressions.
FATHER LEONE: I imagine the one you see most is fear.
SUPERMAN: Not enough . . . at least in the faces I'd like to see it in. And too much . . . in faces that have nothing to be afraid of. Do you know how many times I've flown over this church?
FATHER LEONE: More than you can count?
SUPERMAN: No. . . I must say, it's more impressive on the inside than the out. But then, anything full of secrets usually is.
FATHER LEONE: What secrets are you referring to?
SUPERMAN: The ones you keep.
FATHER LEONE: Me? I have secrets you're interested in?
SUPERMAN: Don't you? I thought it was part of your vocation. Other people's secrets.
FATHER LEONE: You mean confessions? . . . Jesus . . . If you're asking what I think you are--
SUPERMAN: --can you read minds?
FATHER LEONE: --to divulge any--
FATHER LEONE: --you won't?
FATHER LEONE: I can't. Not even to you. It's not about secrets--It's about trust--And I can't betray that.
SUPERMAN: Then I can trust you?
FATHER LEONE: You mean, you're here for . . .
[Father Leone at first thought, as Superman had intended him to think, that Superman was here to ask the priest to divulge some piece of information from a parishioner's confession. Father Leone now realizes that Superman had been testing him. When the priest made it clear he would not divulge any information from a confession, not even to Superman himself himself, he has passed Superman's test. Superman now knows he can trust in Father Leone to keep his confession secret. Upon realizing that Superman has come here to confide and confess in him, Father Leone is shocked once again. He feels suddenly weak and inadequate to the task, and falls to a sitting position on a pew.]
SUPERMAN: Can I get you some water?
FATHER LEONE: I'm all right.
SUPERMAN: Good. Is the world?
FATHER LEONE: What? Good?
SUPERMAN: No. All right?
FATHER LEONE: What kind of question is that?
SUPERMAN: That question is the reason I'm here. Is the world a better place than it was a year ago?
FATHER LEONE: You mean, since-- [Father Leone's unspoken reference is to "The Vanishing," an event in which one million people suddenly disappeared form the Earth without a trace. Nobody really knows yet what happened. Superman's response to this event, and his subsequent involvement in with the people and machinery that caused it, forms the rest of this issue and the rest of the "Superman: For Tomorrow" story arc.]
SUPERMAN: Of course I don't. I know the world is much worse off. I know that. I know mine is. [Superman's own wife, Lois Lane, disappeared during The Vanishing.] What I meant is . . . after. I wasn't responsible for what happened, but there have been events since . . . [Superman inadvertently was directly responsible for causing a second, lesser vanishing in which 300,000 people vanished from the Earth without a trace. Although not yet revealed in the storyline at this point, one of the reason's Superman has come to this priest is to confess this action. First, however, the priest asks a question about why the first Vanishing took place, and Superman recaps the event from his viewpoint, including explaining his frustration at having been unable to event it. Superman also expresses the nagging guilt he feels that maybe if he had been present at the time, he might have been able to do something about it, although, intellectually, he knows this is probably not the case at all.]
FATHER LEONE: Wait. Why did it happen?
SUPERMAN: You're asking, where was I?
FATHER LEONE: Are you sure you can't read minds?
SUPERMAN: I was a million miles away . . . chasing my holy trinity. Three words . . . "Superman . . . save me." [When Superman states these words, the panel shows a statue of Jesus Christ in the background. The visual metaphor inference here is that whereas the priest worships a Holy Trinity of the Father, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, Superman's "holy trinity" (i.e., that which is most important to him and which most motivates his actions) is helping people in need, symbolized by the three words: "Superman, save me."] When I heard them, I was in bed.
FATHER LEONE: You sleep?
[Superman pauses, looking down at the ground, thinking. He does not confirm that he was sleeping or that he sleeps at all. He simply restates that he was in bed. The most likely interpretation of this scene is that Superman was recalling to himself, but not divulging to the priest, the fact that he was not sleeping in bed, but was in bed with his wife, Lois Lane. This is a painful point for him to consider when he decides to not answer the priest's question, because his beloved wife was one of the people who disappeared during The Vanishing. Furthermore, Superman's dismay at her disappearance and his subsequent extreme and ill-fated actions are among the reasons he feels guilt and has come to counsel with the priest.]
SUPERMAN: I was in bed. And then . . . I was in the stars. If you ever get the chance . . . It's truly breathtaking . . . even though it's impossible to breath. "Superman, save me." The only thing I could hear. I imagine that for you it would be like a gnat, flitting just outside your ear. Barely a sound, but deafening. "Superman, save me." It was the Lantern. [Superman recalls how fellow super-hero Green Lantern was caught in some sort of alien trap out in space.] He's like me . . . with abilities . . . Actually, he's more like you.
FATHER LEONE: You mean human.
SUPERMAN: No. . . I left him there [after rescuing him from the trap or predicament he was in], free to fight his battle. He didn't need my help . . . and I came home. As I entered the atmosphere I gradually let myself hear what was being broadcast. To see if I was needed . . . If there was something I'd missed . . . And let me tell you, it's just as chilling for someone like me as it is for you. When every signal-- in every language-- is reporting exactly the same thing. I listened and I heard it all. The panic in the voices, the anguish in the sighs, the uncertainty in the calm . . . but I couldn't hear what I needed to. And for the first time, I was really afraid. Lost, without my rhythm. I searched everywhere, believe me . . . everywhere twice. But still, it was still. No rhythm. No heartbeat. None. My wife . . . was gone.
FATHER LEONE: I never knew you were [married]. . . But, was she . . . ?
SUPERMAN: Part of the Vanishing. What turned out to be a million people on earth . . . disappearing without a trace. And I was a million miles away when it happened. That's symmetry for you.
FATHER LEONE: But . . . You can't blame yourself. You asked me to hear your--
SUPERMAN: I asked you to listen. I regret I wasn't here when the Vanishing happened. I might have been able to prevent it. Might. But after . . . what happened. After what I did . . . My sin? Was to save the world.
[Suddenly, Superman hears something - a crisis he must leave to avert.]
SUPERMAN: I have to go.
The wedding of Clark Kent and Lois Lane
Both Clark Kent and Lois Lane are traditionally religious enough that they wanted to be married rather than cohabitate without legal and religious sanction.
As the wedding picture below shows, Lois Lane and Clark Kent were married in a church. The picture provides few clues about their religious/denominational affiliation, but the Superman: The Wedding Album comic published by DC Comics that showed their wedding in some detail showed what appered to be a Christian ceremony taking place at a Christian church, presided over by a Christian minister. Although the wedding was, overall, non-descript and generic with regards to any trappings tying it to a specific religious tradition, the whole event did strike most readers as Christian.
Interestingly enough, the minister who performed the wedding ceremony was a likeness of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, wearing a ministerial robe. Having Jerry Siegel, who was Jewish, dressed as a minister may have struck some readers as peculiar, but the point was to honor the creator of the character on the long-awaited blessed occasion of his marriage to Lois Lane.
From: "We're Back!", originally presented in Superman (volume 2) #151 (December 1999), page 15; written by Jeph Loeb, pencilled by Mike McKone, inked by Marlo Alquiza; reprinted in Superman: The Daily Planet (DC Comics: New York, 2006), page 185:
Batman asks Superman about his death and subsequent resurrection
In one of the most famous Superman stories ever published, Superman battled the vicious villain Doomsday, a fight that took so much out of him that he apparently died while delivering a decisive blow to Doomsday. Superman "died", but he believes that he did not truly die. Rather, his body entered into a death-like state.
Superman and Batman have long been close friends and colleagues. One natural contrast between the two characters is that Superman is generally more hopeful and spiritual, while Batman is typically more brooding and rationalist. Superman has no problem believing that traditionally religious or spiritual concepts such as God, eternal souls, life after death, Heaven, etc. are realities. Batman is typically more skeptical.
An interesting scene in the "Under the Hood" storyline displays this contrast, while at the same time turning the tables a little bit as Superman insists the he himself never really "died," while Batman suggests that maybe that's exactly what happened. This storyline rane in Batman #s 635-641 (2005). The story provides an excellent example of how Batman struggles with spiritual and religious concepts, typically refusing to accept such realities even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
This issues of Batman were written by Judd Winick, pencilled by Doug Mahnke and Paul Lee, and inked by Tom Nguyen and Cam Smith.
In this mult-part story, Batman encounters the mysterious "Red Hood," who unmasks to reveal that he is Jason Todd, who was previously Batman's sidekick, the second "Robin." Batman knows that Robin died at the hands of their arch-enemy, the Joker. So Batman wants to get to the bottom of this new mystery: Who is this person who claims to be Jason Todd? The last thing that Batman wants to do is accept the reality that this person is indeed the original Jason Todd, now resurrected and back from the dead. Such a thing flies in the face of Batman's typically materialist/non-religious beliefs.
Batman consults with mystics and asks them about the possibilities of people returning from the dead. To this end, he consults with his fellow Justice League teammate, Zatanna and world-renowned occult specialist Jason Blood (counterpart to Etrigan, the Demon).
Batman next visits his fellow Justice Leager the Green Arrow, who really did die, go to Heaven, and return. Batman knows this happened, and he was there for some of these events, but he seems completely incapable of grasping these facts.
Batman then visits his old friend Superman, who also "died," in a way, although Superman says that what happened to him was only a semblance of death.
In the wake of Jason Todd's return, Batman has begun to wonder if, as much as it doesn't make sense to him, people, including Superman, really were dead and then returned from death. Discounting Superman's explanation about being in a "death-like state," Batman tells his old friend: "It was easier to fall back on that than admit the harder truth... That it has nothing to do with science . . . or logic . . . You were dead, and you came back to life."
Superman doesn't agree with Batman's suggestion that he was truly dead. Still, Superman points out that they both know other people who really have died and returned: the aforementioned Green Arrow, as well as Metamorpho and Hal Jordan (Green Lantern).
Superman points out that this "isn't science."
Batman responds, "It has been for me.
Batman struggles with what to think about these events. He simply must be able to categorize even these extraordinary events in a scientific way. He tells Superman, "I've always had answers. The facts, for every one of them we lost, whether they thought it was about Heaven, or God, or even magic . . . Magic, mysticism . . . is just another realm's science. I know that, but . . . now . . ."
Batman is at a loss for words. Regardless of how he categorizes it, Batman does not want to accept the reality of such an ostensibly "religious" concept as life after death, resurrection, or an eternal spirit or soul. He seems desperate to avoid considering the possibility that "religious doctrines" such as this may have some basis in empirical reality.
Right: This panel aptly captures the general differences in the philosophical and religious thinking of Batman and Superman. Encountering a certain mystery, Superman here suggests a mystical explanation. Batman tells him to "not go off the deep end" and insists there must be a "simple answer", by which he means a "scientific" or materialist explanation.
Superman and Batman are the world's best known superheroes. As is the case in this example, Superman is typically portrayed as more religious and Batman is portrayed as more secular. Superman more readily accepts the reality of magic, mysticism and religious concepts. In fact, he is keenly aware that magic is one of his major weaknesses. Batman might view Superman's perspective as more "naive." Batman is more skeptical about things that he can't apply a scientific explanation to. In fact, Batman is sometimes portrayed as skeptical to the point of narrow-mindedness. Batman's inability to accept the reality of things that might be traditionally classified as "religious" or "supernatural" has even been portrayed in some stories as one of his greatest weaknesses. Superman's typically "hopeful" demeanor and Batman's dour "realism" are other manifestations of this dichotomy.
[Source: "The Cape and Cowl Crooks" in World's Finest #159, published by DC Comics (August 1966), page 14; written by Edmond Hamilton, pencilled by Curt Swan, inked by George Klein; reprinted in Superman/Batman: The Greatest Stories trade paperback, DC Comics (2007), page 60.]
Additional articles about Superman's Jewish roots
From: Simcha Weinstein ("The Comic Book Rabbi"), "Is it a bird, is it a plane ... it's you know who!" (article presented here in its entirety by permission of the author, 16 June 2006):
Over twenty years since he last flew across the big screen, a beloved superhero finally comes home this summer with the release of the blockbuster movie, Superman Returns.
In this latest installment, the man in tights comes back to Metropolis at the end of a cosmic quest, investigating the facts behind the destruction of his home planet, Krypton. And things at home have changed. Lois Lane, the love of Superman's life, has moved on in his absence. Worse, his old nemesis, Lex Luthor, is plotting to render the Man of Steel powerless once and for all -- then destroy the helpless world.
Superman Returns is being called one of the most expensive movies ever made, with a budget in excess of $200,000,000. It's a long, long way from 1938, when a couple of Jewish boys from Ohio were paid $130 for the very first Superman story. (Today, a mint condition copy of that comic book, if you're lucky enough to find one, will set you back almost a half-million bucks).
The 1930s and 1940s were arguably the most anti-Semitic period in American history. The German-American Bund marched legions of rabid followers through many cities, including the hometown of those two young men, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, in response - the writer and illustrator invented the most famous comic book superhero of all time.
From the very beginning, the Superman mythos reflected his creators' Jewish backgrounds. For example, the superhero's origin story (as fans refer to it) bears more than a passing resemblance to the great Exodus tale. Jochebed places Moses in a reed basket and sets him afloat on the Nile before he can be killed by the Pharaoh's henchmen. Likewise, Superman's father Jor-El launches a little rocket ship containing his son into outer space when he realizes Krypton is about to disintegrate. That symbol comes full circle in the new film, when Superman journeys back to earth in the very same type of space pod.
Superman and his nebbish alter ego Clark Kent are now recognized, in retrospect, as a complex symbol of immigrant identity and assimilation -- the embodiment of the American Dream, as imagined by two second generation Jewish kids. Howard Jacobson of the London Times has called Superman, "the boy with the Kabbalistic name, the boy from the shtetl. Superman might be Jewish, but it's only so long as no one knows he's Jewish that he is capable of performing wonders. And you can't get more Jewish than that."
Superman's ethics are Jewish ethics. Like all of us, Superman is called to "perform wonders", to repair order and balance in the world. We may not do it while wearing a cape and a big "S" on our chests, but universal messages of duty and justice still come across clearly, via the unlikely vehicle of a comic book for kids.
According to the sages, we all have a double identity, too. Man is the fusion of matter and spirit, a body and soul. The body cleaves to this physical world, while the soul longs for the spiritual. Likewise, Superman often wants nothing more than to retreat to his aptly named mountain hideaway, the Fortress of Solitude. And who wouldn't want to meditate up in the alps, far from mundane cares, at least once in a while? Especially after a long, hard day of leaping tall buildings in a single bound.
But in reality, God created the world so He would "have a dwelling in the lower realms." (Hebrew: dira b'tachtonim). Superman knows he's got a tough job to do in those "lower realms", fighting for what's right, without getting much credit. The "real world" may not live up to your expectations: your long lost love ran off with someone else, your nemesis is out to get you, your boss doesn't give you much credit, and the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Yet, you are right where you need to be.
That's Superman's dilemma, and ours, too - no wonder this unlikely comic book story has enchanted millions of readers for decades. This summer, Superman Returns will introduce the Man of Steel (and his very Jewish story) to a whole new generation.
Rabbi Simcha Weinstein is the founder of the Jewish Student Foundation of Downtown Brooklyn, an educational and cultural center that strives to ignite pride and commitment through innovative educational and social experiences in an open environment. He is also the author of the new book Up, Up and Oy Vey! How Jewish History, Culture and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero (Leviathan Press). For more information, visit www.upupandoyvey.com.
From: "Jewish Comics Exhibit Notes" webpage, last updated 5 December 2004 (http://www.geocities.com/hadassahfink/comicexhnotes.htm; viewed 4 July 2007):
Superman: The Man of Steel #82
Superman, thrown into the past, helps save Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto in the 1940s, before being flung back into 1998. An illustration in the middle of page 5 is a reproduction of a photo from the Stroop Report http://www.holocaust-history.org/works/stroop-report/jpg/img014.jpg)
From: Rebecca Salek, "Spirituality In Comics", on "Sequential Tart" website (http://www.sequentialtart.com/archive/dec03/tth_1203.shtml; viewed 27 June 2007):
For many people. December is a month which contains celebrations of religious, spiritual or cultural significance. For many people. December is a month which contains celebrations of religious, spiritual or cultural significance. In recognition of that, this month the Tarts pick out what they consider to be the best representations of spirituality in comic books...
Barb: ...my people on my mother's side of the family are Jewish, but they were Jews that became Christians. So, I missed out on an absorbing and wise faith system when that happened. Consequently, I am fascinated by Jewish mythology, the Old Testament, the Kaballah, commentary on the Torah, et cetera. Heck, I even wrote a Golem story for my comic, Gun Street Girl, because I'm so fascinated by stories about the supernatural and Judaism. Actually, as a side note about comics and Jewish mythology, there's a classic old film called The Golem, which is rumored to have partly inspired Superman, of all things. I've seen the flick. If I'd been a young Jewish guy watching that film during that time, heck, I might have created the Man of Steel myself! What's interesting is how the arcane in Jewish mythology is interwoven into the spirituality, accepted as an almost mundane part of life, and isn't openly demonized the way that the more radical Conservative Christians sometimes do to anything outside their philosophy...
From: Regie Rigby, "The question of religion" article, "Fool Britannia" column, posted on "Silver Bullet Comics" website (http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/fool/111010997522360.htm; viewed 22 December 2005):
As I write, I'm listening to a documentary on BBC Radio 4 which is discussing whether Superman is Jewish. It should be available online for the next week or so if you fancy a listen. The case is convincing.
"The Jews", the bloke on the radio tells me, "are a dyasphoric people - for generations they had no homeland and were viewed as outsiders". Kinda like Superman really, when you think about it. He is, the radio insists "the ultimate immigrant" coming as he does not from a distant land, but a distant planet. The fact that he was saved from a cataclysmic event because his parents placed his infant form into an escape capsule and sent him out into the unknown is more than a little reminiscent of the story of Moses in the Bulrushes, particularly when you consider that the infant Moses grew up to be a great leader of his people and Kal-El also grew up to be special.
As I said, there is a convincing case to be made. It's funny, because I remember a discussion at the Comics Festival a couple of years ago about the lack of Jewish Superheroes. At the time the only ones we could think of were Ragman and "That Israeli kid out've that Blasters team that came out of DC's Invasion crossover". Sitting in the bar we came to the conclusion that this was odd, when you take into account the fact that comics creators from a Jewish background aren't exactly thin on the ground.
I mean, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Will Eisner, oh, and Siegel and Shuster.
And then it occurs to me "why are we even asking the question?"
Setting aside the pedantic point that Superman can't be Jewish because his mother wasn't Jewish, and (so far as we know) he hasn't converted. But his creators were Jewish. They came from a Jewish culture and so naturally any character they created would reflect that culture. To be honest, I fail to see how it could be otherwise... It strikes me as a no-brainer that Superman must surely be culturally Jewish.
Admittedly, there are religious themes from outside Judaism built into the character too. It has become fashionable in recent years to think of the Boy Scout in terms of a sun god (which of course is why Ellis named the Authority's version of him "Apollo") and the whole "Death of Superman" travesty ended with a rather messianic sequence of events in which his body vanished from the tomb before he was resurrected into life. Then again, Christ Himself was Jewish, so having Superman imitate the resurrection doesn't disqualify him from a Jewish heritage.
The fact remains, that whether Radio 4 was right or not there is a lot of religious imagery, a lot of religion in the character... is Superman Jewish? Are any of the characters we read about followers of a religious creed?
They'll tell us if we need to know. Otherwise they'll just go on living their lives, and we'll go on watching the interesting bits.
From: Lisa Keys, "Stereotype this! Introducing ethnic superheroes", published 26 April 2006 in Voices That Must Be Heard, Edition 218 (http://www.indypressny.org/article.php3?ArticleID=2635; viewed 27 June 2007):
Abraham begat Isaac. Isaac begat Jacob. Eventually, Noah begat Shem and, in due course, nerdy Jewish kids begat superheroes.
In 1933, two nebbishes named Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel created Superman (birth name "Kal-El," Hebrew for "All God"), and since then it's been a source of pride that Jews created the culture of comic book superheroes.
And yet, Jewish superheroes themselves have been few and far between...
From: Leah Finkelshteyn, "Thwak! To Our Enemies", published in Hadassah Magazine, June/July 2003 Vol. 84 No. 10 (http://www.hadassah.org/news/content/per_hadassah/archive/2003/03_JUN/art.htm; viewed 19 June 2007):
From: Menachem Wecker, "On the Strange Relationship Between Religion and Comics", in World And I: A Chronicle of Our Changing Era, April 2007 (http://www.worldandi.com/subscribers/feature_detail.asp?num=25511; viewed 23 April 2007):
Colorful, powerful and generally over-the-top - superheroes are a surprising manifestation of the venerable Jewish tradition of repairing the world.
The peace is broken at the X-Men's center of operations in Professor Charles Xavier's mansion. Dracula hovers over a beautiful woman. As he moves in for the kill, Katherine "Kitty" Pryde leaps to the rescue, cross in hand. The vampire laughs - the cross has no power over him.
He grabs Pryde by the neck, but her necklace, silver with a Magen David charm, repels him and his hand bursts into flame. Pryde, the super-hero also known as Shadowcat, is Jewish, and only a talisman of her own faith can defeat the monster.
Shadowcat is far from the only Jewish superhero found in the pages of comic book adventures. Colossal Boy's problems include grappling with whether he should be dating an alien instead of a nice Jewish girl, and Sabra, outfitted in blue-and-white, is Israel's defender.
Over the years, comic book characters have thrown back their hoods and cowls to reveal a Jewish face. That this colorful, often sensational, storytelling medium has a Jewish connection is an open secret. Jews have been creative forces in the field since 1938 with the first appearance of the now famous "S," fueling imaginations and providing role models for generations of boys and, yes, even girls.
"It wasn't Krypton Superman came from, but the planet Minsk," said acclaimed cartoonist Jules Feiffer about the creation of Cleveland-born sons of immigrants Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. And DC Comic's Superman is far from the only icon of American pop mythology sprung straight from the Jewish zeitgeist. The fertile, some say aberrant, imaginations of Jack Kirby (Jacob Kurtzberg), Stan Lee (Stanley Lieber), Bob Kane (Bob Kahn), Joe Simon, Gil Kane (Eli Katz) and more have brought to life Captain America and Spider-Man (both Marvel Comics), Green Lantern and Batman (both DC), as well as Daredevil, the Hulk and X-Men (all Marvel) - characters that in the past months have battled baddies on the big screen.
"It is almost genetic in the Jewish mind and soul to deal with storytelling," says veteran comic artist and novelist Will Eisner, who revolutionized the comic book industry with his work on The Spirit, a noir-inspired series about a blue-suited vigilante-detective. And this predisposition, combined with what Eisner calls the "American culture of images," has helped create an ever evolving field that at its best entertains and informs with a visual punch that reaches straight to the subconscious and at its worst (though still entertaining) glorifies a lurid, puerile fantasy world.
Today, there may be fewer Jewish comics creators than in the past, but they are still making their mark in what has become an American institution struggling for legitimacy. The hot list - talents whose names on the cover are likely to ensure a title's popularity - includes writer Peter Allan David (Supergirl, DC, and The Incredible Hulk, among others); British import Neil Gaiman, writer of the award-winning The Sandman (Vertigo, a DC imprint), a series subtly peppered with midrashim; and author-illustrator Brian Michael Bendis, who in an article on his Web site, www.jinxworld.com, talks about coming up with ideas for his crime-noir titles on Passover.
"My Jewishness has insinuated itself into my writing," admits David, a 20-year comics veteran. In the 1990's, he reworked the Supergirl character. She became an angel whose abilities come from the Shekhina, the Hebrew term for the feminine aspect of God's presence.
"[Supergirl's] plots keyed off themes of redemption and explorations of spirituality," says David. "There was even a story set in the Garden of Eden."
Gaiman's Sandman series received the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story in 1991 for "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which made the series the first monthly comic to win a literary award.
Sandman gives flesh to concepts like dream, desire and destiny, but it is really about stories and the people who tell them. "Three Septembers and a January," a tale about not giving in to despair, stars Abraham Joshua Norton, self-proclaimed Emperor of the United States of America and part of San Francisco legend. A perky anthropomorphized female Death, based on a kabbalistic description of the Angel of Death, comes to claim the Jewish Norton at the end of the story: "They say the world rests on the backs of... 36 unselfish men and women," Death, a popular character in an extremely popular series, tells him. "Because of them the world continues to exist."
Sometimes the Jewish influence is more subtle. According to Jewish educator and comics fan and writer Alan Oirich, artist Gil Kane based his design of the large-headed, balding Guardians of the Universe in DC's Green Lantern on David Ben-Gurion. The President of Earth was also Jewish - and a woman - adds Oirich. Her son, Colossal Boy from DC's Legion of Superheroes, identifies as Jewish, he says, and so does she.
Besides stewarding the universe, Jews have also been at the helm of the two major comic book companies. Stan Lee has held the top position at Marvel since the 1940's and the company's start as Timely Comics. Today he is chairman emeritus. Julius Schwartz revamped DC in the 1960's. Jenette Kahn, daughter of a Reform rabbi, also served as DC president and editor-in-chief.
Nevertheless, "Jewish work has gone unrecognized," says Trina Robbins, who has worked in comix (alternative comics) for years. In the 1970's she wrote and drew an adaptation of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire for Lilith magazine. Robbins hopes that more attention will be paid to Jewish contributions, as well as to another unacknowledged group - women.
"Mainstream comics are totally male dominated," Robbins asserts. "Where girls fit in is comix, self-published books." She also looks for stronger female characters, girls and women who are more than busty victims. Her new title, Go Girl! (Image Comics), aimed at ages 10 to 13, features the high-flying teen Lindsay Goldman - "simply a nice Jewish girl," says Robbins.
"I've always felt that comics should appeal to girls even more than boys - statistics show that girls are more avid readers," says Jordon B. Gorfinkel, who during his eight years as an editor at DC worked on all of the Batman lines (popular characters often have a number of series, or titles, devoted to them). He also conceived Birds of Prey, about three female crime stoppers. "There's so little material that's appealing, women who aren't sex objects," he continues. "My goal with Birds of Prey was to cross Thelma & Louise with the black cop/Bruce Willis relationship from the first Die Hard and do it as superheroes. So, the focus is... on the women...and the action is just to rope in the established demographic. Though you cannot imagine how many times I had to have artists redraw Black Canary's hemline...."
In 1999, Gorfinkel, who writes and draws a weekly comic strip about Jewish life called The Promised Land, left DC to cocreate Avalanche Entertainment, Inc. He is developing a series called Tag Team with artist Aaron Sowd, about twin girls who share a single superpower. The teenagers, whose last name is Roth, journey to discover their identity and uncover their Jewish roots. "My goal was to combine the same ethics I believe in with the superhero ethic, which I strive for with all my comic book work," Gorfinkel says.
Another new title for kids, The Jewish Hero Corps (Electric Comics, www.jewishsu perhero.com), created by Oirich, will be out in August. The Corps' super team includes Minyan Man, who can duplicate himself 10 times; Kipa Kid, known as the Capped Crusader; and Shabbas Queen, whose wand causes electric objects to "rest".
For mature audiences, a number of graphic novels - a term coined by Eisner for A Contract With God (see "Setting the Standard" below) - investigate Jewish themes in depth. These book-length relatives of the comics have explored the Holocaust, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and even include a number of autobiographies by Jewish writer-artists - illustrator Marvin Friedman's initial foray into the graphic novel, Marvin Friedman, is a recent example.
According to cartoonist-teacher James Lewis Strum, creator of the graphic novel The Golem's Mighty Swing (Drawn and Quarterly), the unique attributes of comics, "the intimacy of the written word, with the impact of the graphic image," can, and have, explored issues of identity in a sophisticated way.
The black-and-white Golem follows a 1920's traveling baseball team called the Stars of David as it roams the American countryside, experiencing both racism and acceptance. "I'm very removed from Jewish history and heritage," says Strum. "Golem was very much about learning about that heritage.
"Comics are so new," he explains, "for so long [they] had a case of arrested development." Strum points to Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning Holocaust portrayal in the graphic novel Maus (Pantheon) as a benchmark. "Spiegelman's greatest contribution is that he did this comic that had so much success...he showed what the medium can do."
Likewise, The Jew of New York and Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer (both Pantheon), Ben Katchor's quirky views of urban and Jewish life, have brought welcome mainstream attention to sequential art (a term that includes comic books, comic strips and graphic novels).
In a departure for a company that has largely focused on superheroes, Marvel recently published 411, part one of a three-part series about "sacrifice for the sake of peace," writes Marvel president Bill Jemas in an introduction. "Blown Up," the first story, relates the reaction of a soldier in the Israeli Air Force after he finds out his only daughter was killed in a suicide bombing.
Many artists and writers feel it is the visually experimental graphic novels that are pushing the boundaries of the field with a sophistication that brings new respect to sequential art. Nevertheless, the square-jawed superhero with a tendency to think with his fists and wear underwear on the outside of his clothes is firmly entrenched.
And despite historical evidence, it is this image that is the most unlikely of Jewish creations. Perhaps the problem is the physical violence that is so much a part of comics; after all, Jews are considered cerebral problem-solvers. More likely the dissonance comes from characters like Batman celebrating Christmas but not a bar mitzva. The green-hued Hulk may have visited Israel and battled Sabra while he was there, but it wasn't exactly a Jewish outreach experience. So the question remains: Are comic books - and the characters who inhabit them - truly Jewish?
"There is definitely a Jewish rhythm that seeped in surreptitiously," says artist Archie Rand (see "Old Story, New Telling" below). Rand, who consulted on the Hulk movie in theaters this month, feels comics have a "general courting of vulgarity, seen in the bright, loud costumes, that is very ethnic...."
"There is a real connection between Jews and comic books for any of a dozen reasons," says Oirich, who is curating an exhibit on the subject with the New York City Comic Book Museum (www.nyccomicbookmuseum.org). "One is historical; another has to do with a...sense of tikkun olam, of what you might call Jewish mythic ideas and feelings that expressed themselves [through superheroes]."
Eisner, who has worked in comics since their inception ("I was there at the bris," he says), disagrees. He feels that any type of Jewish feel to comic books, at least the early ones, is largely coincidental. "Comics in the mid-30's were... the bottom of all the art forms," Eisner posits. "[They] offered an opportunity to those outside the mainstream. The daily news strips, the advertising world, were difficult for Jews to get into."
The background of those early artists and writers was deliberately hidden, says Eisner, "because they were writing what they regarded as classic American high-adventure stories and creating classic American heroes." Superman and his many imitators were meant to reflect mainstream values.
Still, many fans insist the ethnicity of these beloved characters is obvious. "They're all Jewish, superheroes," writes Michael Chabon in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (Random House), his Pulitzer Prize-winning fictionalized account of the people who created the Golden Age of comic books. "Superman, you don't think he's Jewish? Coming over from the old country, changing his name like that. Clark Kent, only a Jew would pick a name like that for himself."
Similarly, says Rand of Eisner's The Spirit, "His name may be Denny Colt, but he was clearly circumcised."
In the late 1950's and 1960's, comics' Silver Age, conformist heroes gave way to a more diverse comic world. Stan Lee and Marvel introduced a new type of "real-life" hero with the wall-crawling teenage Spider-Man who worried about money and social acceptance as well as how to defeat the many-limbed Doctor Octopus. In the 70's and 80's, Jews started appearing, sometimes with a beard and a hat in a crowd scene, sometimes as minor heroes. Shadowcat showed up around that time, too.
In 1998, DC acknowledged the Man of Steel's true origins with a story that has him try to rescue two youths from the death camps. "Thank you, Golem, for saving us," the boys - odes to Siegel and Shuster - exclaim. "We're the ones who invented you." However, the story revealed a lingering reticence; it was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith because, despite kippot and names like Mordechai, the word "Jew" never appears.
The Thing, aka Benjamin Jacob Grimm, returned to the "old neighborhood" last year and said the Shema. The irascible, orange member of Marvel's Fantastic Four was, according to colleagues, always thought of as Jewish by cocreator Kirby. Pundits and fans wondered, Just how does one circumcise an orange brick?
As sequential art expands and matures, and as Jewish talents continue to have a hand in the development process, the list of Jewish characters and creators could go on - threading through comics much as the Jewish American experience threads through the entertainment industry.
Yet that Jewish voice can be overwhelmed by the desire to appeal to a mass readership. With notable exceptions, mainstream comics still have a way to go in acknowledging its Jewish roots.
Kitty Pryde enrolled in the University of Chicago this year, in a miniseries called Mekanix. She wanted to grow up, lead a normal life, find the person behind the costumed hero. Mekanix explores bigotry, even touching on homeland security and racial profiling, but Pryde's identity still, in part, stays hidden - nowhere in the series does it overtly mention that she is a Jew.
A recent exhibit-collaboration between the Jewish Museum (New York) and the Newark Museum (New Jersey) called "Masters of American Comics" was jam-packed with Jewish references... Superman bent the gun of a tank decorated with swastikas...
As Simcha Weinstein explains in Up, Up, and Oy Vey! How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero, to a large extent, comics were invented by Jewish kids in America who were drawing superheroes to beat up the Nazis overseas. A few examples include... Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster (Superman). Art Spiegelman's graphic novels Maus: A Survivor's Tale and In the Shadow of No Towers address the artist's father's memories from the Holocaust...
Weinstein sees superheroes as extensions of the "superpatriarchs and supermatriarchs of the Bible and heroic figures named Moses, Aaron, Joshua, David, and Samson--not to mention the miracle-working prophet Elijah and those Jewish wonder women Ruth and Esther to name a few."...
In a recent lecture at the Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Center titled "Comics 101," Spiegelman, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest living artists of the medium, often referenced religion. He called Superman "the circumcised Ubermensch from outer space"--although a web site devoted to cataloging the religious identities of comic book heroes on http://www.comicbookreligion.com identifies Superman as Methodist. A page devoted to Superman admits that Superman did have some Jewish components...
The model of the comic strip world influencing the real world and vice-versa might account both for the infusion of religion into comic strips and the controversial reputation of comics. Even if the young Siegel and Shuster could not defend their relatives in the Holocaust with guns and planes, they were able to use their cartoons to fight back, to create larger than life superheroes or demigods, who could judge and punish accordingly. But comics were not mere child's play. The great propagandists in Hitler and Mussolini recognized the power of the images, and banned Superman strips (interestingly, they also found Superman to be a Jew), though Mussolini could not bring himself to ban all comics in Italy, so he pardoned his favorite, Mickey Mouse.
From: Thomas Tracy, "Spidey's webs have Jewish roots", published 21 May 2007 in Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Courier (http://www.courierlife.net/site/tab10.cfm?newsid=18369761&BRD=2384&PAG=461&dept_id=552856&rfi=6; viewed 21 May 2007):
...Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, author of "Up, Up, And Oy Vey! How Jewish History, Culture and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero." ...Weinstein, founder of the Jewish Student Foundation of Downtown Brooklyn and currently a rabbi for both Pratt Institute and Long Island College Hospital...
But Spider-Man is not the only comic book character to be infused with Jewish values.
Superman, Captain America, the Spirit, Batman and the Incredible Hulk (who Weinstein calls a gamma-radiated golem) all have Jewish themes woven into their masks, capes and cowls and - in the Hulk's case - loincloths.
"Up, Up and Oy Vey" is not meant to lay claim to America's favorite heroes as Jewish, but instead wishes to celebrate an open dialogue, Weinstein said.
"Superheroes are a mixture of religious beliefs and pop culture," said Weinstein. "They're a great way to break down boundaries."
Selected listings from: Steven M. Bergson, "Jewish Comics: A Select Bibliography" last updated 28 June 2005 (http://www.geocities.com/safran-can/JWISHC.HTM; viewed 23 December 2005):
Bresman, Jonathan. "What If Superman Were Raised by Jewish parents?" MAD Magazine #325 Feb. 1994, reprinted in MAD About Superheroes (N : MAD Books, 2001). [Source: From: Steven M. Bergson, "Jewish Comics: A Select Bibliography" last updated 28 June 2005 (http://www.geocities.com/safran-can/JWISHC.HTM; viewed 23 December 2005)]
Brod, Harry. "Did You Know Superman is Jewish?" Tattoo Jew http://web.archive.org/web/20010411074229/; http://www.tattoojew.com/supermensch.html
Brower, James K. "The Hebrew Origins of Superman" Biblical Archaeology Review May/June 1979, p. 23-26.
Feiffer, Jules. "The Minsk Theory of Krypton" New York Times Magazine Dec. 29, 1996, p. 14-15, reprinted in Siegel, Marvin (ed.) The Last Word: The New York Times Book Of Obituaries And Farewells: A Celebration Of Unusual Lives (NY?: Quill, 1999).
Greenberg, Eric J. "The Comic Book as Resistance" The Jewish Week, Nov. 28, 2003.
Greenberg, Eric J. "Superhero for the Ages" Jewish Week Mar. 2002, p. 3.
Review of Kyle Baker's King David (DC).
Greenberg, Eric J. "Superman: A Jewish Hero" The Jerusalem Post, May 1, 1996, pg. 7.
Kelly, Joe. "Obsidian" JLA [Justice League of America] #74 Late Dec. 2002 (NY: DC), reprinted in Kelly, Joe. JLA: The Obsidian Age, Book One (NY: DC).
The JLA of the present, having travlled back in time, battle the ancient "League" of ancient superheroes. Superman fights "The Anointed One", who seems as powerful as he is. As they battle, "The Anointed One" tells Superman, "I am fallen from Heaven, found by Hezzeroth the Sage, trained by the Hebrew faithful for the day I would repel Satan and pave the way for The Prophet. When I triumph, I will return to beloved Jerusalem and do God's will there ... My path is the path to Heaven."
Kramer, Blair. "Superman's Jewish Roots: A Nice Boy from Krypton" article at Jewishpeople.net.
Levin, Schneir. "Was Superman Jewish?" Journal of Irreproducible Results v.41(1) Jan.-Feb. 1997, p. 5.
Maggin, Elliot S., Curt Swan, Murphy Anderson, et al. "The Last Earth-Prime Story". Superman #411 Sept., 1985 (NY: DC).
In the story, down-and-out former Jewish science-fiction agent Julius Schwartz tries to get a job from his former sci-fi collaborator-turned-publisher Perry White. Perry explains to superhero Superman that Schwartz would sometimes write the stories himself and might have done well if only the "true" versions of Ultra-Man, Night Wizard, etc. had not shown up in the form of Superman, Batman and other superheroes. Later, Superman brings Schwartz to "our" real world where he meets his DC Comics editor counterpart. This comic was written as a surprise birthday present for Schwartz.
Pekar, Harvey. "Jewish Superman" (1988), reprinted in Pekar, Harvey. American Splendor Presents Bob & Harv's Comics (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1996), p. 84.
Peterson, David. "Superman has Jewish roots". Minneapolis Star-Tribune Sep. 14, 1996, pg. B10.
Richler, Mordecai. "The Great Comic Book Heroes" In His Hunting Tigers Under Glass: Essays and Reports. (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1968).
Nostalgic essay in which Richler mentions Feiffer's book of the same title, the Canadian-Jewish origin of "Superman", the American Nazi Party's comic Whiteman, "the left" 's The Realist comic strip called Supercoon, and Kosher Comics (published by Parallax). He suggests that to Jews, the superheroes were golems. He also suggets that "Flash" was Jewish, "Green Lantern had his origins in Hassidic mythology" and "The Spirit" is given to caballistic superstition.
Simmons, Reid G. "Superman's Kryptonian Origins" [letter] Biblical Archaeolology Review Nov./Dec. 1979, p. 13.
Veitch, Rick. "Cheek, Chin, Knuckle or Knee" The Maximortal #5 May 1993 (Northampton: Tundra), reprinted in Veitch, Rick. The Maximortal (King Hell Press, 2002).
Jerry Speigel (an obvious reference to Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman) takes in a True-Man feature film before making a delivery to Joseph Schumacher (an obvious reference to Joe Shuster, co-creator of Superman). On the way, he passes a wall with a "signature guide", showing how to write the "Sidney Wallace" signature for the comics. The "W" in the signature resembles both the W in Will Eisner's signature and the one in Walt Disney's signature. Joe and Jerry, who haven't seen each other in years, catch up on what's happened since they broke up. Joe, who looks sickly, has been doing minor art tasks (e.g. touching up artwork, fixing the spelling) on the foreign reprints. When Jerry takes Joe's advice and asks Wallace for a job, Sidney offfers hima job in the mail room. Insulted, Jerry reminds Sidney that he created True-Man. Sidney claims that he had a run-in with the "real" True-Man twenty years before the strip was started.
Wecker, Menachem. "It's a Bird, It's A Plane, It's... Super Mensch!" The Jewish Press Feb. 11, 2004.
Superman as Nietzsche's Ubermensch, Nazi
Much has been written about the origin of the name "Superman." The "superman" or "super-man" is the English translation of Ubermensch, a word used by influential German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. Nietzsche was an outspoken atheist who who rejected the accepted absolute moral values and the "slave morality" of Christianity. In his widely circulated writings, Nietzsche contended that God does not exist (or "God is dead") and that people were thus free to create their own values. His ideal was the Ubermensch, or "Superman", who would impose his will on the weak.
The concept of the Ubermensch (or "superman") was one of the central tenets of the Nazi belief system, who tied this concept into their teachings about a "master race." The "superman" concept was espoused by Adolph Hitler.
Jewish comic book creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were aware of Nietzsche's "superman" idea and they were aware of its use within the Nazi party. Some sources indicate that their original story concept for their own "Superman" character portrayed him as a champion of the Third Reich. This may not be the case. Before Siegel and Shuster ever printed anything, their "Superman" had become an American-raised champion of oppressed and downtrodden people. This was a direct inversion of Nietzsche's ideal, which would have had Superman be a destroyer or master of the oppressed and the downtrodden.
Prior to the creation of Siegel and Shuster's comic book, the word "Superman" was universally associated with a specific concept, and widely connected to Nazism. Siegel and Shuster managed to subvert Nietzsche's and Hitler's concept of "Superman" so that, in short order, the word came primarily to mean something quite opposite. Once a symbol of self-serving, German, atheist ideals, Superman became instead an icon of selfless, American, Judeo-Christian values.
Scholars continue to debate whether Siegel and Shuster, two young twentysomething Jews living in Cleveland, intentionally subverted the Nietzsche/Nazi meaning of "superman", or simply thought this was a good name and concept for an entertaining pulp science fiction story.
In mainstream DC Universe continuity, Superman has never been a Nazi. In fact, one hallmark of the character is that he tries to constantly thwart any intimations of Nazi-like behavior on his part. He actively cultivates within himself an appreciation for "regular" humans of Earth, even though he is aware that he is physically far superior to them. Superman strives to act humbly and consciously bows to authority, such as the legal system and the government.
Nevertheless, the temptation to use Nazi-like measures to further his own beliefs and goals, is real for Superman, as it would be for anybody who possessed his powers and abilities. In some alternative reality stories, Superman has succumbed to these temptations. The "Absolute Power" storyline in Superman/Batman is a good example of this. (The story was compiled in Superman/Batman Vol. 3: Absolute Power, DC Comics: New York City (2005), written by Jeph Loeb with art by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino.
In a number of alternative reality stories, Superman has displayed Nazi-like behaviors without actually being a Nazi. DC Comics' Elseworlds alternative continuity story JSA: The Liberty File appeared to portray Superman as a Nazi. In this story, set during World War II, Adolph Hitler's Nazi scientists manage to create a portal to an alternative reality, from which they bring what appeared to be an amnesiac adult Superman. Hitler gives "Superman" a new name, "Johann," and adopts him as a son. "Superman" calls Hitler "father" in a personal way, and also calls him "Der Fuhrer," which is Hitler's title as "father" of the Nazi Party and the German people. "Superman" is known in top-secret German military circles as "Ubermensch" or "Super-Man." Eventually word leaks out to Allied forces about this "Super-Man" who potentially has the power to turn the tied of the war to give the Germans victory. Allied agents, including Bruce Wayne ("the Bat"/Batman), Rex Tyler ("the Clock"/Hourman) and Terry Sloane (Mr. Terrific) work to thwart this new German super-weapon.
Near the conclusion of "The Liberty File" story (a two-issue story arc), it was revealed that "Super-Man," who appeared to be Clark Kent, was actually the Martian Manhunter - J'onn J'onnz. A shape-shifter, J'onnz had used his abilities to appear as though he was humans, and readers (as intended) assumed that this was an alternative reality Clark Kent. J'onnz is actually a very noble character, but his telepathic abilities and disorienation from travel to Germany had caused him to absorb the thoughts and beliefs of Hiter. Bruce Wayne was able to cause J'onnz to revert to his true, noble and heroic nature. J'onnz aided the Allies in winning the war.
From: JSA: The Liberty File issue #s 1 and 2, DC Comics: New York City (2000); written by Dan Jolley and Tony Harris, pencilled by Tony Harris, inked by Ray Snyder; reprinted in: JSA: The Liberty Files trade paperback, DC Comics: New York City (2004):
From: "Cultural influences on Superman" page on Wikipedia website (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_influences_on_Superman; viewed 16 June 2006):
Some people incorrectly believe that Superman is partly based on philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's Ubermensch, which literally translates to "overman" but could also mean "superman." Nietzsche's Ubermensch is any person who rejects unfounded thinking, while Superman is super for his special powers. Some people argue that Kryptonians' mental and physical superiority when compared to humans is meant to indicate that they are racially better, as eugenics would teach. Others say that Kryptonian super powers are merely a contrivance and the more advanced world of Krypton represents what the people of Earth can achieve in our future. This theory is bolstered by the fact that our own sun is getting older and will someday turn red, so if the universe with Superman's physics were to apply to reality then someday Earth would produce humans who, when energized by a yellow sun, would likely have the same powers as Superman.
Superman is believed to have been inspired in part by Philip Wylie's 1930 science fiction novel Gladiator, about a man whose superhuman strength inspires him to help the human race, but who is instead spurned by humanity precisely because of his power. Other sources cited as inspirations include Doc Savage and The Shadow. Superman is a staple of American pop culture.
Weinstein, Simcha, Up, Up and Oy Vey: How Jewish History, Culture And Values Shaped the Comic-Book Superhero (Baltimore: Leviathan, 2006)
Above: Is it really a good idea to tell your cousin you would marry her, it it wasn't againt the law? Hmm...
We include this panel here mostly for its entertainment value. But in all seriousness, Superman is familiar enough with the Old Testament and contemporary world cultures to know that marriage between cousins is nothing unusual. Furthermore, he is sufficiently knowledgeable about basic biology and genetics to be aware that such a marriage would pose no real problems with regards to the health and viability of offspring, despite popular scientific misconceptions and superstitious beliefs on the matter held by many Americans.
Superman did eventually get married - to Lois Lane, a woman he is not even distantly related to. A detailed account of the difficulties Superman encountered because he married a woman with whom he is reproductively incompatible can be found in this partial transcript of the Lois and Clark episode "The Family Hour."
Additional articles about Superman's religious affiliation
From: "Cultural influences on Superman" page on Wikipedia website (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_influences_on_Superman; viewed 16 June 2006):
Creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel were both Jewish, and while there are Jewish influences on the character Superman has never declared what religion he prescribes to, if any. His story mimics that of Moses as both characters are saved by their parents by being placed in a vessel to carry them to safety. Also, both characters were found by adults who adopt them as children. Both Moses and Superman later rise to prominence and do good.
Superman's origin also has similarities to that of Jesus Christ: both are sent by their fathers (Jor-El and God respectively) to Earth to help mankind. The comparison is especially apparent in The Death of Superman, in which Superman's body disappeared from his coffin, mirroring Jesus's resurrection. Additionally, some have hypothesized that the first initials of Superman's parents by adoption, Jonathan and Martha, are an allusion to Christ's earthly caregivers, Joseph and Mary. Many people have made much of these comparisons, though it is unknown how much Shuster and Siegel intended for people to read into them.
Superman's origin has often been compared to the tales of many immigrants who came to North America, often because their lives at home were in jeopardy (mirroring Krypton's danger and destruction).
Clark Kent and his family celebrate Christmas, which would indicate that the Kent family (who reside in Kansas, a state with less than 1 percent Jewish population) is Christian. However, this does not prove that fact, given the secularization of the holiday.
In the Golden and Silver Age Superman stories, the people of Krypton wear headbands resembling those worn thousands of years ago by the Hebrews.
Weinstein, Simcha, Up, Up and Oy Vey: How Jewish History, Culture And Values Shaped the Comic-Book Superhero (Baltimore: Leviathan, 2006)
From: Matt Yocum, "Interview: Greg Garrett" about his book Holy Superheroes! Exploring Faith & Spirituality in Comic Books (http://www.comiccritique.com/interviews/ginterviewSt10.html; viewed 15 May 2007):
From: "It's a Bird. It's a Plane", article published in Tidings, April 17 - May 1, 2006, No. 8; published by the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, 6023 Germantown Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19144 (http://www.gbgm-umc.org/fumcog/tidings%20folder/2006/041706Tidings.pdf; viewed 10 May 2006):
I recently finished a book by Greg Garrett entitled Holy Superheroes! Exploring Faith & Spirituality in Comic Books. Mr. Garrett weaves his way through the tapestry of comics, threading through the concepts of power, responsibility, truth, justice, evil, and vigilantism...
Mr. Garrett has published the novels Free Bird (2002) and Cycling (2003) as well as nonfiction works such as The Gospel Reloaded: Exploring Spirituality and Faith in The Matrix along with Chris Seay. In addition he's written short fiction, articles, personal essays, film, music, book reviews, and worked as a sports writer. Mr. Garrett is a Professor of English at Baylor University and is currently studying to be a priest in the Episcopal Church. I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Garrett while he was in the deserts of New Mexico working on a book on religion and film...
MY: One of the points you make in the book is what makes Superman a vital character is his superhuman "restraint," that Superman places on himself limitations. And we are even now seeing the response from other superheroes and the public what happens when those limitations are crossed when Wonder Woman killed Max Lord.
At the same time that I see these superhuman restraints, I also see that virtually every issue of a comic must show some sort of fight scene -- even between fellow superheroes -- for sometimes the slightest thing. It seems a staple of American superhero comics that there be a fight in every issue, and perhaps this comes from something else you said in the book: "We love violence just as much as we love hatred."
From comics how can we take away lessons of non-violent action to make a difference in the world when every issue showcases the violent moments of our superheroes?
Greg Garrett: I came back to Superman over and over again, not because he's my favorite comic character -- I have to confess that Batman, Wolverine, and John Constantine, along with other more conflicted and violent characters, are my favorites from a literary and a fan standpoint -- but because he's so clearly a moral paragon, from his creation by two Jewish teenagers to fight injustice to the present day. You can look at him as a big boy scout if you want to, but I also think there's something supremely admirable about refusing to be pragmatic, about believing with all your heart and soul that some things are right and some things are always wrong. Superman does not kill because killing is wrong and because there are always other alternatives if you are resourceful enough. Even if there weren't other alternatives, Kal-El would not want to live in a world where doing the wrong thing became the necessary thing to do. That's what has strained his close friendship with Wonder Woman to the breaking point; he doesn't want to have been saved at the cost of someone else's life, even a villain's life. Batman, violent and brooding as he is, dark to Superman's light, is having the same conflict these days with Jason Todd (if the Red Hood is indeed Robin II returned from the grave): mangle and bludgeon the bad guys if you must, put them in a cast or in intensive care if that's what it takes to protect society, but do not kill them. It's why Spider-Man is always so uneasy with and sometimes fights to stop the Marvel universe heroes like Wolverine and the Punisher. We don't kill. It's what makes us different from the bad guys. It's the same thing Catman says to Green Arrow at the end of the Villains United run: "You're supposed to be the good guys. Act like it."
MY: As the book clearly shows, spiritual lessons can be learned from the archetypal heroes in comics. Are you aware of any religious characters in comics? How much does this play, do you feel, into who they are as a character?
Greg Garrett: A few overtly religious characters in comics - that is to say, a primary part of their identity is that they are people of faith - would be Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler from the X-Men, Peregrine and The Maid in Alan Moore's Top 10 mythos, and some writers' versions of Matt Murdock/Daredevil. There are other characters who profess a belief in God or a supreme being - in Holy Superheroes I mention a scene from one of the Superman books where Superman tells Lois that he is no different from anyone else using the abilities God gave him - but these four are characters for whom faith actually seems to make a difference in how they live their lives and in how and why they do the work they do. There's a difference between surface religiosity that many people profess - "I believe in God" or "I go to synagogue every week" - and religion that transforms a person's life, and I'd have to say that these characters seem to embody that transformation. The true work of religious people is the work of bringing peace and justice into the world. It's a gospel message, it's in the Hebrew Torah and the Koran, and we see it played out in the lives of these characters.
LOOK! UP IN THE SKY! It's Superman the Methodist! Wesley Daily, the blog site of Shane Raynor, pointed comic book fans and United Methodists to www.adherents.com, where longtime DC comics writer Elliot S. Maggin revealed that Clark Kent, AKA Superman, AKA Kal-El of Krypton, is a Methodist! (So why doesn't he wear a cross-and-flame instead of that retro "S"?) Don your cape and read the whole story at http://adherents.com/lit/comics/Superman.html.
Excerpts from: Jake Tapper, "'How Gay is Superman?' Or Jewish. Or Christ-Like. The Battle to Claim Superman as an Icon", published 19 June 2006 on ABCNews.com website (http://sendtofriend.abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=2094503; viewed 20 June 2006):
Wesley Daily also carries an extensive list of blogs by United Methodists at www.wesleydaily.com
NOTE: This item is from a weekly email from the Boston Wesleyan Association, which has a lot of good and more serious features, too.
The new film about the Man of Steel, "Superman Returns" - which comes out... on June 28... the gay magazine, The Advocate, is asking "How Gay Is Superman?" The Advocate is not claiming that Superman is gay. It's making a larger point - that like many gays and lesbians, Superman has a secret life... The film's director, Bryan Singer, who is gay, insisted to Reuters that Superman "is probably the most heterosexual character in any movie I've ever made."
From: William W. Savage, Jr., Comic Books and America: 1945-1954, University of Oklahoma Press: Norman and London (1990), pages 5-6:
In the Quentin Tarantino film "Kill Bill: Vol. 2," the character Bill shares his view on what Clark Kent - Superman's other half - says about humanity.
"An essential characteristic of the superhero mythology is, there's the superhero, and there's the alter ego," Bill says. "Batman is actually Bruce Wayne. Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When he wakes up in the morning, he's Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic that Superman stands alone. Superman did not become Superman - Superman was born Superman."
Bill adds, "When Superman wakes up in the morning, he's Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red 'S' - that's the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears - the glasses, the business suit - that's the costume. That's the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He's weak. He's unsure of himself. He's a coward. Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race."
Still, others view Superman in other iconic ways.
Created by Jewish cartoonists Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the bespectacled newspaper reporter has long been considered by Jews as one of the chosen people. He comes to Earth as an intergalactic Moses - as a baby in a solo vessel.
His name on his home planet Krypton, Kal-El, resembles the Hebrew words for "voice of God."
In the 1980 film, "Superman 2," a woman who has witnessed Superman save a young child says, "What a nice man! Of course he's Jewish."
Born in 1938, Superman fought the Nazis long before the U.S. military did. In a 1940 Superman comic in LOOK Magazine, for instance, Superman snags Adolph Hitler and threatens to "land a strictly non-Aryan sock" on Hitler's jaw.
According to the German Propaganda Archive at Calvin College in Michigan, soon thereafter, the weekly newspaper of the SS - Das Schwarze Korps - responded to Superman taking on Der Fuhrer. The article slammed Siegel as "intellectually and physically circumcised," said Superman was "lacking all strategic sense and tactical ability," and accused the costumed hero of sowing "hate, suspicion, evil, laziness, and criminality" in the "young hearts" of American children.
Yet, truth be told, Superman in the comics has always been vaguely Methodist, recently marrying Lois Lane in a church.
Some see Superman, though, as not only Christian - but Christ-like.
In the trailer for "Superman Returns," Superman's father, Jor-El, says, "Even though you're being raised as a human being, you are not one of them. They can be a great people, Kal-El. They wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason, above all - their capacity for growth - I have sent them you: my only son."
A 2002 issue of the Journal of Religion and Film alleges 20 Superman-Jesus parallels.
"Both Superman and Jesus had earthly family ties. Both had heavenly origins. Both heroes were raised incognito on Earth. Both were of 'royal' blood, both righted wrongs, both acted as [saviors], both displayed incredible powers, and both performed miracles," the author wrote.
A new book, "The Gospel According to the World's Greatest Superhero," elaborates on the argument that Jesus and Superman are one and the same.
Of course, it should surprise no one that various groups are tangling over whether Superman is one of their own - while no one claims, say, Superman's arch nemesis, Lex Luthor.
The impact of the Superman character upon the subsequent development of the comic book would be difficult to overestimate. Here was a seemingly human being who possessed a number of superhuman powers, a costumed hero with a secret identity, an alien from a dying planet who embraced American ideals and Judo-Christian values--a kind of spectacular immigrant, as it were, come from afar to participate in the American dream. He had speed and strength and was invulnerable to manmade weaponry. He could not fly, but he could jump well enough to sustain the illusion. He was the nemesis of criminals, extracting confessions of their misdeeds by displaying his awesome powers; but, withal, he did not kill, or at least not more than was absolutely necessary--and there was an index of his healthy psyche and wholesome persona. As a cultural artifact, Superman gained an enormous audience in fairly short order, passed from comic books into a variety of media including animated cartoons and radio, and endured in his basic format, though further translated by television and motion pictures, for half a century. If imitation is, as Charle Caleb Colton said, the most sincere flattery, then Superman was the most flattered of all comic-book creations, spawning a host of look-alike, act-alike costumed heroes, allowing their existince to the norms and conventions his character established.
The following column was syndicated and published in newspapers around the country, often under the headline "Divining Superman's Religion." From: David Waters, "A Methodist can leap tall buildings? Get a grip!", published 4 June 2006 in the Memphis, Tennessee Commercial Appeal (http://www.commercialappeal.com/mca/local_columnists/article/0,2845,MCA_25341_4745647,00.html; viewed 4 June 2006):
Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a Methodist!
From: Radford, Bill, "Holy Superhero! Comic books increasingly making reference to faith", published in Colorado Springs Gazette, 6 May 2006 (http://www.gazette.com/display.php?secid=20; viewed 8 May 2006):
Looks like this will be the summer of blockheadbusters -- movies that entertain as they incite sectarian conflict.
First came "The DaVinci Code," the movie based on the novel based on one writer's belief that truth is less profitable than fiction.
The film left faithful moviegoers with troubling questions about deities: Was Jesus married? Did the Church conspire to cover up Jesus' mortality? Did Tom Hanks really need the money that badly?
Now comes "The Omen," a thinly veiled attempt by secular humanists in Hollywood to capitalize on the Anti-Christ's once-a-millenium birthday: 6-6-6.
(Not to be out-marketed by the Devil, Ann Coulter's latest book, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," also is scheduled to be released that day.)
And coming soon to a popcorn-theology cathedral near you: "Superman Returns," the controversial story of the second (or is it the third?) coming of the Messiah of Metropolis.
Already the Internet is buzzing with bickering about whether Superman is -- wait for it -- Jewish or Christian.
Not even Dave Barry would make this up.
"From the very beginning, the Superman mythos reflected his creators' Jewish backgrounds," Simcha Weinstein, "the Comic Book Rabbi," wrote on his Web site, rabbisimcha.com.
"Superman and his nebbish alter ego, Clark Kent, are now recognized, in retrospect, as a complex symbol of immigrant identity and assimilation, the embodiment of the American Dream, as imagined by two second-generation Jewish kids."
Not so, counters Stephen Skelton, author of the new book "The Gospel According to the World's Greatest Superhero."
Skelton acknowledges that Superman, like Jesus, had Jewish roots, but he argues that the Man of Steel really is a "Christ" figure.
"The story of Superman bears some incredible parallels to the story of the Super Man, Jesus Christ," Skelton wrote.
For example, Jor-El (Superman's father on Krypton) sends his only son, Kal-El (Superman's real name), to Earth. Skelton notes that El is the Hebrew word for God.
"When El the father sends El the son, God the Father sends God the Son," Skelton wrote.
He also notes that the name "Clark Kent" loosely transliterates in Hebrew to "Cleric Christ." He also notes that the names of Superman's earthly parents began with the initials J and M.
The newest incarnation of Superman might be the most messianic. Maybe you've seen the trailer.
In one scene, as Superman floats over Earth, he hears his father's voice: "They can be a great people. They wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you -- my only son."
Who happens to be Methodist.
That's right. The consensus among superhero scholars is that Superman, who fell from Krypton to Kansas, was raised in a Methodist home.
In fact, most superheroes have religious backgrounds, according to adherents.com. Batman is a lapsed Catholic or Episcopalian. Spiderman is vaguely Protestant. Rogue (of the X-Men) grew up Southern Baptist.
Even superheroes need a superhero, I guess.
I was explaining all of this to my wife, who happens to be married to a mild-mannered Methodist newspaper reporter.
As usual, she summed it up better than I could.
People need to get a grip, she said.
With or without overt references to religion, superhero stories resonate for people of faith, says Greg Garrett, author of "Holy Superheroes! Exploring Faith & Spirituality in Comic Books."'
From: Julia Baird, "A Sunday sermon from Superman", published 22 June 2006 in The Sydney Morning Herald (http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/a-sunday-sermon-from-superman/2006/06/21/1150845241006.html; viewed 21 June 2006):
"In the process of telling their stories of human - and superhuman - characters, comics deal with issues near and dear to our hearts: faith, hope, belief, guilt, justice, redemption, ultimate meaning, ultimate evil," he writes in the book's introduction.
Garrett, a professor of English at Baylor University in Texas, is seeking his Master of Divinity degree at Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest.
He says comic-book readers can find a powerful Messiah figure in Superman, who was created by two Jewish teenagers; Kal-El, Superman's name on the planet Krypton, roughly translates to "All that is God" in Hebrew. Batman can be seen as "an avatar of God's justice." Spider-Man teaches lessons about power and responsibility.
"I think when I go to superheroes, I see there is a religious metaphor to begin with," says comic-book writer Steven T. Seagle. That metaphor is most obvious with Superman, he says.
"He's the one who's better than us. He's more moral than us. He's more pure than us. He makes better choices than us, and therefore he is an example in a way that God or Christ is an example."
...Superman as Methodist? Batman a lapsed Catholic? A Web site, www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html, provides a lengthy list of comicbook superheroes and indications of their religious beliefs. Some are firmly established in the comics, such as the X-Men's Nightcrawler as Catholic. Others, such as the belief that Superman was raised as a Methodist, are up for debate.
SUPERMAN, or saviour? In the months leading up to the premiere of Superman Returns, which opens here next week, a tussle has emerged in cyberspace over the soul of the man who fills out his red underpants so admirably, and who is professionally heroic and yet so emotionally dysfunctional.
From: Jeffrey Weiss, "Comic-book heroes seldom reveal their faith: Recent revelation of the Thing's religion was a rare moment for pop culture", published in Dallas Morning News, 24 August 2002, re-posted on BeliefNet.com website under headline "Comic Faith: The Thing's Religion Revealed" (http://www.beliefnet.com/story/113/story_11303_1.html; viewed 30 November 2005):
Some say he is Jewish, as he was created by two Jewish cartoonists and could be viewed as part of the golem myth - the legend created to protect persecuted Jews in 16th-century Prague. In his early years, Superman often engaged in battles against the Nazis. His birth name was also Kal-El, which is similar to the Hebrew Kol-El, meaning voice of God.
The scholarly consensus, though, seems to be that he must be Methodist, largely because Clark Kent was brought up in the American Midwest.
According to film legend, though, his status is less devout than divine. And, suddenly, this status is being revived and dissected. In the US press, he has been called "the Messiah of Metropolis" and "Jesus Christ Superman".
Some evidence for this can be found in the preview to the latest movie, which flashes back to the 1978 film, in which Marlon Brando, as Jor-El, the father of Superman, packaged his baby son into a white space capsule and sent him to Earth, with the words: "They can be a great people . . . They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all - their capacity for good - I've sent them you, my only son."
The South Australian academic Anton Karl Kozlovic, writing in the Journal of Religion and Film in 2002, said "Superman is not only a legitimate Christ figure, but the American pop culture movie Messiah".
He detailed 20 comparisons to Jesus, from the curious to the implausible, including landing in a rural location, like the stable Jesus was born in; blue eyes, which Hollywood liked to bestow on Jesus, even though he was an Arab; his spaceship looked like a star, and Jesus' birth was announced by the star in the east; both had day jobs, as a reporter and a carpenter; and both needed to accept their divine mission.
It's a bit whacky, and it's curious that this debate should emerge at this point in Superman's 68-year history. At first glance, it looks like a bid to add some biblical weight to another romping big-screen adventure. But academics claim biblical connotations have always existed with Superman - it's just that we are more interested in them now.
Superman is not the only superhero thought to be religious - Wonderwoman fancied ancient Egyptian religions, Batman is said to be a lapsed Anglican or Catholic (because of the crosses on his parents' tombstones), as is the Hulk. Rogue from the X-Men was raised as a Baptist, and Spider-Man prays to what is assumed to be a Protestant God.
Perhaps this is all part of what Superman might call "the American way" - a society saturated with religion and talk of piety. When you think about it, Superman isn't such a bad model for a modern priest. Not only would he be easy on the eye on Sunday, he'd be involved in getting practical things done, instead of just banging on about how rotten we all are.
But those who are godlike rarely look it and are unlikely to draw attention to themselves. They just get on with it. Like all those amazing nuns working with refugees and the poor in India and East Timor.
Those who do roll up their sleeves and get out into the community don't emblazon their heroic status on their chests - they have no catchy name, no flying abilities, no scarlet crotches. Even the iconic superhero actor Christopher Reeve was never lauded as much as when he lost his powers of movement, became a paraplegic and fought for disabled rights and stem-cell research.
But there really is something unique about Superman. Quentin Tarantino nailed it in a monologue by Bill in Kill Bill, where he says an essential characteristic of superhero mythology is that there must be a superhero, and an alter ego: Bruce Wayne puts on a suit to become Batman and Peter Parker does the same to become Spider-Man. But Superman was born Superman - his alter ego is Clark Kent.
"His outfit with the big red S, that's the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears - the glasses, the business suit - that's the costume. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He's weak, he's unsure of himself . . . he's a coward. Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race."
Maybe this is what is most Christlike about him - not what it is to be heroic, but what it is to be human.
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jewish teenagers from Cleveland, dreamed up Superman almost 25 years before the birth of the FF [Fantastic Four].
The Man of Steel's origin was even a loose adaptation of the story of Moses. Moses' mother floats the baby in a basket on the Nile to save his life. He's rescued and becomes a mighty hero. Kal-El's parents put their baby in a rocket to save his life and he's rescued and becomes a mighty hero.
A few mentions of religion have crept into mainstream comics. And the dedicated legion of fans who are indescribably attentive to the smallest details of the comics know all about them. John Wells is one of the most dedicated. Mild-mannered department store manager by day, his not-exactly-secret identity is the compiler of one of the nation's best-known databases about comics characters.
Mr. Wells found an offhand religious reference in an editor's reply to a letter writer in a 1962 issue of Superboy. "An editorial response notes that Superboy 'has completely memorized both Testaments of the Holy Bible, the Constitution of the United States, Webster's Dictionary and - last but not least - the Smallville Telephone Directory!' " said Mr. Wells.
But is Superboy a Lutheran or Episcopalian or Baptist - or even Christian? We don't know.
Bryan Singer, the director of the feature film Superman Returns, has stated categorically that Superman is gay. Singer himself is openly gay (GLBT). Gay/GLBT writers, humorists and commentators who opined that Superman might be "gay" mean this only in the same sense that they say everything they like is gay. It may be noted that the discussion of how popular characters, celebrities and other aspects of pop culture are "gay" is a longstanding past-time in the GLBT community. Through this mode of social dialogue, everything from Teletubbies to George Washington to Barbra Streisand to maple syrup to the number 42 is identified as "gay" or a "gay icon." Similar patterns of acquisitional humor and polemical dialogue are exhibited to one degree or another by members of all religions and subcultures. This is a way of expressing and discussing the beliefs and values of the subculture/social group. Such discussion does not actually indicate anything substantive about the ostensible target of the discussion.
From: "Faster than bullets, yes. But Superman, gay? No way", published 9 June 2006 by Reuters (http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=filmNews&storyID=2006-06-10T002440Z_01_N09230684_RTRIDST_0_FILM-LEISURE-SUPERMAN-DC.XML; viewed 16 June 2006):
After weeks of Internet buzzing that the new Superman movie portrays the Man of Steel as gay, the director of the film issued a strong denial on Friday and said it was the most heterosexual character he has filmed.
Superman "is probably the most heterosexual character in any movie I've ever made," said Bryan Singer, director of "Superman Returns," a new movie about the crime-fighting superhero that opens June 28. "I don't think he's ever been gay."
In recent months, the movie's ability to lure its target audience has been questioned by Internet buzz probing the superhero's sexuality.
Young men are the movie's target audience and the film needs to attract millions of them to earn a profit and relaunch the "Superman" film franchise.
A major gay magazine, The Advocate, ran a cover story with the headline: "How Gay is Superman," and the Los Angeles Times weighed in with its own story on whether being gay might hinder or help the movie's box office receipts...
So he wears a leotard and flies around in a red cape. Big deal, Singer said, noting Spider-Man wears tights. The X-Men do too, and they aren't gay. Singer ought to know, he directed 2000's "X-Men" movie and 2003's "X2: X-Men United."
Singer said his version of the Man of Steel, who is played by Brandon Routh, is a "very romantic icon" -- handsome, virtuous and vulnerable.
In the movie, Superman comes back to Earth after a five-year absence. Early on, audiences learn the love of his life, hard-charging reporter Lois Lane, has moved on from her infatuation with him. She has a new boyfriend and a child.
Yet when he re-enters her life, Lois still has that sexy gleam in her eye, and he can't wait to fly her to the moon.
"We were all scratching our heads," said Paul Levitz, president and publisher of Superman owner DC Comics. "He's not a gay character."
From: Daniel Pulliam, "Religion in Comics", published 14 June 2006 on "Get Religion" website (http://www.getreligion.org/?p=1679; viewed 15 May 2007):
You have to give makers of comic books credit. They have been able to effectively turn their craft into a big screen wonder lately. With hit after hit, Hollywood box offices are smiling.
I haven't seen much buzz on the new Superman film, due to hit the screens just before the long Fourth of July weekend, other than it's supposed to be quite good, but this small item [link to: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13249146/site/newsweek/] in Newsweek's excellent Beliefwatch section made me think that something's in the making:
Is the Man of Steel a man of faith? The upcoming "Superman" movie has sent fans picking over primary sources. Jews have often claimed the archetypal superhero as their own. Superman sprang from the imaginations of two Jewish cartoonists, and scholars have compared him to golem myth -- the supernatural creature who vanquishes the Jews' enemies (early on, Superman battled the Nazis directly). Most fans believe the man from Krypton is a Methodist, an opinion divined from Clark Kent's Midwestern upbringing. But there's another possibility. In the original 1978 movie and the new one, the superhero's father tells him: "They can be a great people . . . They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all -- their capacity for good -- I've sent them you, my only son." Yes, Superman is a Christ figure.
Is the religiosity of a cartoon character going to become part of the culture wars? Of course not. It's just comic books and they're open to anyone's interpretation. But it's certainly fun to discuss.
The article includes a short snippet of an interview with the founder of Adherents.com, Preston Hunter, who has analyzed comic book characters and found religious denominations for several of them, including Daredevil's Elektra as Greek Orthodox. I say go figure on that one, I never saw the movie, but placing spiritual attachments in fantasy is nothing new to Christians, particularly the fans of C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia.
From: Lynn Arave, "Superhero/ Super savior? Religious imagery plentiful; local leaders worry about Superman's morals", published 8 July 2006 in Deseret Morning News (http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,640192870,00.html; viewed 15 May 2007):
Look, up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a . . . Christ-like figure?
All you have to do is look up at the silver screen at your local movie theater this summer to see the Man of Steel in "Superman Returns" portrayed in plenty of Christian terms.
There are enough Christian images in the new movie "for a cathedral full of stained-glass windows," as Jeffrey Weiss of the Dallas Morning News so eloquently wrote last week.
Indeed, this fifth Superman movie in 28 years is as heavy-handed with religious imagery as the original "Superman the Movie" was back in 1978.
The 1978 movie and "Superman Returns" both contain this same basic dialogue from the Jor-El, father of Kal-El (Superman's Kryptonian name):
"Even though you've been raised as a human being you're not one of them. They can be a great people, Kal-El. They wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you . . . my only son."
These comments are reminiscent of portions of the Book of John, so much so that CNN referred to "Superman Returns" as a fifth gospel in one of their reviews of the movie.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son . . . For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:16-17).
Is it blasphemy, or inappropriate, to present a comic book hero as a Christ-like figure?
"I picked up on that," said the Rev. Mike Gray of Salt Lake City's Southeast Baptist Church. "That bothered me some."
However, he said through all of Superman's history there have always been Christ-like references, so seeing them again was not unexpected.
"It's a movie, but it's not an ungodly movie," the Rev. Gray said.
He was more uncomfortable with the fact that the movie shows Lois Lane living with a man outside marriage -- especially when many young people will see the film.
"We've lost sight of tradition," the Rev. Gray said, noting that "the American way" reference was also absent in "Superman Returns."
He was intrigued by the theme in the movie that "the world doesn't need a savior" and plans to incorporate that into a future sermon.
Terry Long, senior pastor at Calvary Chapel of Salt Lake, said the images of Superman as a messiah did not offend him.
"It was there. You could see it," he said. "It's still one of the better movies out there."
The Rev. Long even noticed a scene where Superman was falling in a position similar to Christ's as he hung on the cross.
However, he was very upset at Superman's declining moral character.
"He's a messiah, but he has a lack of integrity. . . . I want Superman to have a little integrity, as a role model for children."
Fathering a child out of marriage and Lois Lane living with a man were the biggest moral issues for the Rev. Long.
Superman fares far better morally in the comic books. For example, Clark Kent and Lois Lane are married there.
The worst thing Superman has done in the comics was to act as judge, jury and executioner for three Kryptonian criminals in a parallel universe after the three killed all 5 billion residents of the Earth there. That act of desperation gave him a split personality and caused him to temporarily abandon Earth to find peace.
It is certainly a stretch to believe that Superman's creators in the 1930s -- Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster -- intended their hero to be a Christ figure. The two men were Jewish.
They did have plenty of other images to draw on. For example, there's the "golem" myth among Jews of an animated but physically powerful being. They could also have been influenced by the story of Moses.
It was the dozens of later writers who gave Superman a more Christian slant.
Richard Donner, who directed the 1978 Superman film, admitted to its Christ-like subtext some years later.
However, Bryan Singer, who directed "Superman Returns," has said he sees both Christian and Jewish roots in the story of the Man of Steel.
In fact, you can find no less than an 80-page analysis of "The religious affiliation of comic book character Clark Kent/Kal-El Superman" online at www.adherents.com/lit/comics/Superman.html.
Another online source, "Journal of Religion and Film -- Superman as Christ-figure: The American Pop Culture Movie Messiah," by Anton Karl Kozlovic, is found at www.unomaha.edu/jrf/superman.htm. It has 17 pages of research on the subject.
Superman makes a pretty good role model in today's world of turmoil. He fights for "truth and justice." He also cares more about others than himself.
But Superman is not without sin. Though he says he never lies as Superman, that's not strictly true as Clark Kent -- where he tells all kinds of white lies to protect his identity. Also, Superman doesn't kill, but he has apparently fathered a child out of wedlock.
Superman didn't come to Earth to call people to repentance. He's always saving people from physical harm and, according to his Kryptonian father, hoping to inspire humans.
And to some, Superman's powerful physical features put him more in the class of the Greek gods, such as Hercules, than in Christianity.
You can't ignore the "scriptural echoes," as Drew Dyck, a student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Portland, Ore., wrote online at http://boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001298.cfm.
However, Dyck hopes that moviegoers will leave the theater pondering their own need for a savior. And it is the responsibility of Christians to make sure they know it is Jesus Christ, he says.
What religion is Superman?
The June 19, 2006, issue of Newsweek contained a list of the "suspected" religions of superheroes. It theorized that Superman is a Methodist, based on his Midwestern upbringing.
(Brandon Routh, who portrays Superman in "Superman Returns," may be an actual Methodist, since his parents are said to attend the Norwalk United Methodist Church in Norwalk, Iowa.)
The Rev. Steve Goodier of Salt Lake City's Christ United Methodist Church said he isn't surprised Newsweek pegged Superman as a Methodist.
"Methodist is such an American faith," he said. "And very predominant in the Midwest."
At one time, he said, a survey showed more Methodist churches in the United States than post offices.
Newsweek also listed Spider-Man as a Protestant, The Thing as Jewish, The Hulk as a lapsed Catholic, Daredevil as a Catholic, Batman as a lapsed Catholic or disaffected Episcopalian and Captain America as a Protestant.
The lone superhero believed to be Mormon was the late Cypher of the New Mutants, who was a master translator of any language.
The Newsweek article is online at www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13249146/site/newsweek/.
From: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free", posted 5 April 2007 on "Grumpy Old Fan" blog website (http://blog.newsarama.com/2007/04/05/then-you-will-know-the-truth-and-the-truth-will-set-you-free/; viewed 15 May 2007):
He's the omnipotent son of a heavenly father, raised by humble Earth parents to show us the benefits of clean living. Not even death has stopped this savior, who hears cries for help from all over the world. Superman is Jesus, right?
Pfft! Hardly! As an infant he was sent away from his family to save his life, and grew up to fight tyranny and oppression. Superman is Moses.
Sorry, but I'm not buying either one. If Superman were Jesus, the point of his mission would be to "save" people to Krypton. Likewise, if he were Moses, he'd have been sent away to escape a tyrannical ruler's edict (which sounds like JJ Abrams' Superman movie); and Jor-El would be the source both of his powers and the laws he'd hand down. Christ and Moses taught the word of God -- and his steadfast morality notwithstanding, Superman has never been a preacher.
In fact, while many DC heroes are representatives of other cultures, they aren't charged with enlightening the rest of the world through Atlantean, Oan, or Martian philosophies. Only Wonder Woman has that mission, plus a set of Biblically-reminiscent traits backing it up. If any DC character could be compared to Jesus or Moses, Diana might just have the strongest case.
This category provides Superman's closest Biblical parallel. Like Jesus, he was sent to Earth "from above," and like Moses, he was sent away from his parents to save his life. Unlike the Biblical figures' parents, though, Jor-El and Lara died shortly thereafter. In fact, where Jor-El and Jonathan Kent are credited as important influences on Superman, the Biblical figures' mothers get more play in their sons' respective stories than any other parent but God Himself. Moses' mother Jochebed puts the baby basket in the Nile, and Pharoah's daughter finds it. Mary's role isn't limited to the Nativity, since she continues to appear in the accounts of Jesus' adult ministry, while Joseph fades into the background.
Although Diana has no foster parent (I'm not counting Julia Kapatelis), Hippolyta is certainly a more active mother (shut your mouth! ... sorry) than either of Superman's. Moreover, her maternity is a result of her faith, in keeping with Biblical mothers like Sarah (mother of Isaac), Hannah (Samuel), and Elizabeth (John the Baptist).
Seeing Jesus in Superman necessarily means seeing God in Jor-El; but Jor-El and Krypton are long gone. By contrast, until very recently, Diana's deities were constant sources of inspiration. In Wonder Woman vol. 2 #1 (by George Perez and Greg Potter), Athena's first words to the Amazons include the following:
You are a chosen race -- born to lead humanity in the ways of virtue -- the way of Gaea! Through you all men shall know us better -- and worship us always! Therefore does Athena grant you wisdom, that you may be guided by the light of truth and justice!
It is significant that the Amazons hear this in an Earthly paradise into which they have just been "reborn" from the Cavern of Souls. Eventually, the Amazons will be cast out of this Eden, having failed in their mission by allowing themselves to be enslaved by Heracles. As penance, the goddesses will send them to Themyscira to guard an "unspeakable evil." This explains the Amazons' rededication to their original mission and, besides the obvious Garden of Eden parallel, also seems rather Old Testament-ish generally.
There are other similarities between Amazonian history (at least post-Crisis on Infinite Earths) and Biblical history. The brothers Jacob and Esau, who reconciled after an estrangement, are considered the fathers of the Israelites and Edomites, respectively. Likewise, after the Amazons defeat Heracles, the sisters Hippolyte and Antiope split up -- Hippolyte taking some Amazons to Themyscira, and Antiope's followers ending up in the Middle East -- and the groups are not reunited for centuries. The Biblical judge/prophetess/warrior Deborah (Judges Chapters 4-5) might also have felt at home in Themyscira.
Moses and Jesus both worked against the interests of those in power. Moses sought to free his people from Egyptian slavery, and Jesus found himself up against both religious and secular authorities. Although Superman started out as a more radical social reformer, he has since become strongly identified with the establishment; whereas Wonder Woman's mission has been consistently rooted in elevating the status of women worldwide. While this hasn't necessarily put her in direct conflict with the patriarchal powers-that-be, it is at least an indirect challenge. Greg Rucka emphasized the political nature of Diana's mission, putting her through the 24-hour news cycle and the trials of attack politics in the context of promoting her book of Amazonian teachings. (I'm not quite saying Diana's book was her Ten Commandments, but again, Clark/Superman writes mostly news reports, not philosophy.)
At the risk of belaboring the point, it seems almost necessary to both their purposes for Christ and Diana to have been at odds with the status quo at one point or another. Because of her involvement in politics and the stated underpinnings of her mission, it is easy to see how Wonder Woman could find herself pilloried for her beliefs. Indeed, while Diana's execution of Maxwell Lord was an extreme example of this, and led to her exile, those events are also at least superficially similar to Moses' flight from Egypt after killing an Egyptian who was abusing a Hebrew. However, it is almost antithetical to Superman's portrayal for the public (or a vocal faction thereof) to turn against him in the way that the crowd demanded that Christ be crucified and Barabbas released. Superman did exile himself into space after killing three apparently-irredeemable Phantom Zone murderers, but the circumstances were hardly as public as Diana's, and resulted in no public condemnation. Superman's self-imposed exile in Kingdom Come might be closer, but I'm not counting Elseworlds here.
Death and Resurrection
Although Jesus, Superman, and Wonder Woman have all returned from the dead, they each did so for different purposes. Jesus' death was the defining event of Christianity, and effectively marked the end of his face-to-face ministry. Superman's death was, at best, the springboard for a Big Comics Event. Diana's was likewise temporary, but instead of disappearing from her title for a few months, she "ascended into Heaven," becoming the Olympian Goddess of Truth while her mother went adventuring as Wonder Woman. Therefore, Diana's death added another level to her mission, making her divine at least for a little while.
As you might expect, such a transformation is not unprecedented in Greek mythology. Upon his death, Heracles became a god (or, as Wikipedia puts it [link to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heracles], the mortal part of him was burned away). Still, her deification continued to serve ... the gods' purposes, I guess, if not her original mission to Patriarch's World. Superman just got a mullet.
Like Jesus, Diana's mission was an inclusive one, seeking to spread the good news to anyone who would listen. As Themysciran ambassador, Diana helped reintegrate the Amazons with the rest of the world, bringing delegations to Themyscira and Amazons to the U.S. Again, this reflects the fact that (until recently) the Amazon culture was still thriving. Such an outreach will obviously never be part of Superman's mission, because he represents a lost civilization. (Never mind the post-Crisis motif of a cold, logical Kryptonian culture wanting to enslave the Earth.) With Amazons Attack on the horizon, though, Diana's sisters may be interested in a more radical form of evangelism.
And about the bondage...
Honestly, I think the character has moved past this part of her history. Still, if you want to be complete, there is probably an argument to be made that many religions require some relinquishment of one's self-governance. I'm sure that if you get to that point, there are at least some superficial similarities. I mean, there aren't women roping each other from kanga-back in the world's religious texts, as far as I know, but like I say, the argument can probably be made.
In a way, this whole exercise isn't quite fair to Superman. It's a little unsettling to argue that the creation of two Jewish teenagers has been transformed slowly into a Christian icon and infused with a Christian background. If religion's going to be a part of Superman at all, DC's old dodge of making Superman Jewish and Clark Methodist isn't a bad compromise. Accordingly, it's a lot easier to show Diana praying to Athena or swearing by Hera. (Superman only swears by Rao infrequently these days.) Unfair though it may be, that reinforces Diana's spiritual grounding and suggests that Superman is motivated by a more vague sense of social responsibility that neither wholly embraces nor rejects a particular religion.
Ironically, though, Diana's mission still doesn't promote much more than a secular philosophy. She isn't so much "winning souls for Zeus" (or is it still Athena?) as she is arguing on behalf of that particular Amazonian blend of compassion and combat. Nevertheless, at least her advocacy has real roots in a quasi-mythological tradition with Biblical echoes; and I do think she's more of a Biblical-type spiritual leader than Superman (who, again ironically, looks more and more like a classical-mythology hero).
Now, of course, she's a combination of Lynda Carter and the white-suit era, with a secret identity who works for SHIEL-- uh, the Department Of Metahuman Affairs. I don't expect this status quo to last very long -- perhaps not even past the end of Amazons Attack -- but even when the ambassador/emissary gig returns, I doubt DC will embrace Diana's evangelical aspects. Maybe Diana doesn't get Superman's Jesus/Moses analysis because she's not the same gender. Maybe her costume makes it difficult for such analysis to be taken seriously, or maybe all the Marston/Peter psycho-sexual baggage gets in the way. Maybe the express connection to Greek mythology disqualifies her from any Judeo-Christian comparisons.
Maybe I am full of skata.
Or maybe I'm not looking in the right place. Depending on which version of her origin is valid this week, Donna Troy had foster parents -- boy, did she ever! -- and she's been dead too...
From: Kalinara, "There Are No Lions Here", posted 15 October 2006 on "Pretty, Fizzy Paradise" blog website (http://kalinara.blogspot.com/2006/10/there-are-no-lions-here.html; viewed 30 May 2007):
A couple of months back, I remember, there were a couple of entries floating around on a few blogs complaining about the portrayal of Christianity in Comics.
They were very eloquent, well reasoned arguments, but something about them left a mildly bad taste in my mouth. I decided to file it aside for later thought.
Very recently I found myself revisiting the idea in my mind. On one level, I sympathize completely. It absolutely sucks to see one's belief system and life-path reduced to a caricature. I've complained about that very thing in my post about Catholicism [link to: http://kalinara.blogspot.com/2006/04/conventions-constantine-and_26.html]. It's not fun and can be downright meanspirited.
So I sympathized with the bloggers in that sense, but there was something about their entries that grated on me. A sense of persecution that left a bad aftertaste. Not all of the complaints were like this, of course, but there were quite a few that seemed to be claiming victimhood.
And I'm sorry, but when you are a member of the dominant religion of this country. When your religious creed is regularly used to deny basic human rights to a group of people (regardless of whether you yourself believes this is right or wrong). When people have to fight to keep a scientifically supported theory like evolution taught in science class over religious doctrine and to keep organized institutionalized prayer out of public schools...
Then you can NOT play the victim card here. You CAN'T. Your religion runs this country. Your religion is being shoved down the religious minority's throats every minute of every day. Even if it were true that Christianity is unfairly portrayed in this one area, you still hold dominion over every other aspect of our lives!
Besides, I'm reasonably certain that if you got the major decision making personnel of Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse and so on together and asked each one what their religion is, the majority of them would answer some denomination of Christianity. This is hardly astonishing as Christianity is the dominant religion of this country.
(At the risk of making swift generalizations, I don't think it's a stretch to imagine men named "Didio" and "Quesada" were at least raised Christian, regardless of their religions now.)
Actually, I'm not even sure that the complaint ultimately holds weight. I mean, sure, those mean intolerant preacher caricatures are infuriating, but let's look for a moment at Adherent.com's website cataloging the religious affiliations of comic book characters [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html].
This site is incredibly useful because it categorizes all of the superheroes by their religious affiliations as established in the comics themselves. If you click on the links provided, you'll see that they've gathered a variety of evidence for each, based on creator quotes, scholarly theories, and examples within the text/graphics themselves.
Now, I'd estimate 1/2 to 2/3 of the names on that list to be some denomination of Christianity. Admittedly, the amount that they practice within the text can be debatable. But still the number of Christian heroes vastly outnumber those of any other religion.
Sure, we rarely see outward expressions of faith by these characters. Except for celebration of Christmas, naturally, or the giant church scene in Infinite Crisis. But we rarely see a Jewish person do anything more than wear a Star of David or light a menorah. Diana gets a little more focus on her pagan religion, sure, but given that the gods created her... It's really not any more focus though, than is received by characters such as the Spectre, Zauriel or Peter David's Supergirl, all of whom became living representatives of a (usually) benevolent Judeo-Christian God.
Even the atheists don't get very much lip-service, honestly. When they do, it's designed to contrast them as a minority against the rest of the DCU. That's hardly counting.
I can see why this can lead to the desire to show more outwardly religious characters in the DCU. And I'm always glad to see that sort of character exploration.
But when you think about it, most of these characters are already living up to the ideals of the Christian religion. They're just, kind, brave. They protect the weak. They act with honor. They do unto others and all that.
Basically, they're living the Christian ideal already. In as much as anyone humanly can.
Finally, there is one main reason that I think the complaints ultimately lose momentum...
According to Adherents.com, Superman is a Methodist. While it's not overtly stated in the text, as far as I know, it's pretty clearly a part of the man's life. We've seen him enter into religious dialogues with clergymen. We've seen him attend church. We've seen that he does NOT drink alcohol.
He's pretty clearly portrayed as a quietly pious religious devotee. Perhaps not all the scripture means everything that it once may have, but the spirit is clearly there.
And he's brave, wise, true. He makes mistakes, but only out of the best of intentions. He believes in the goodness of people, in helping where needed and stepping back to let people live their own lives.
He's tolerant. He makes a very visible effort to respect everyone's different beliefs. He's attended Shabbos dinner [link to: http://comicfacts.blogspot.com/2006/01/guess-whos-coming-to-shabbos-dinner.html] and made a very sincere attempt in following the customs that were very different from his own.
Superman is one character, yes, but he is the flagship character. Superman IS DC Comics. The image of Superman standing on the world, cape waving like an American Flag. That's an image recognized by people all over the world. He is SUPERMAN.
And he's one hell of a good Christian.
I admit, Superman and other devout Christian heroes will never get the attention with regards to their religion that the loud, obnoxious preacher gets. When people think of Christianity in comics, they're not going to think of the good guys, of the moderates and the temperates, tolerants and true. They're going to think of that raving preacher, threatening fire and brimstone, demonized for hatred and intolerance.
They do say that Art is a mirror of Life.
From: "I wrote this." [religious sermon centered on Superman], posted 4 June 2007 by Paul on "Hyper Cubicle" blog website (http://hypercubicle.blogspot.com/2007/06/i-wrote-this.html; viewed 6 July 2007):
It's a sermon, believe it or not. My pastor was away on vacation and asked if I'd guest-preach. Cool, huh? Regardless, it went over pretty well. Enjoy!
===Begin Copyrighted Material===
When Pastor Tony first emailed me and asked me to preach today, I replied back with an enthusiastic "yes." Of course, then the realization that I'd actually have to write a sermon set in, but how hard could it really be? For those of you who are curious, I'll save you the trouble - hard. Someone once told me that it's a good idea to "go with what you know," and that's how I came to include Superman in my sermon.
Actually, I think it's particularly fitting that Superman would be mentioned during Justice Sunday. Superman - who, by the way, is a Methodist - stands for none other than truth, justice, and the American way. He's an iconic American hero, always swooping in to save a puppy, Lois Lane, or (quite frequently) the whole world. He amazes us with his powers - heat vision, arctic breath, super strength, flight, x-ray vision. I mean, he even looks good in spandex and that's next to impossible.
All those things are fine and dandy on their own, but that's not where the universal appeal of Superman comes from. He is always just and incorruptable, and that's why he's the most recognizable fictional character around the entire world. He doesn't just bring down Lex Luthor's latest plot to rule over Metropolis, that's the easy part of being a super-hero. Superman knows there's more to it than that. That's why he fights for those who cannot fight. He stands up for those who cannot stand on their own, and speaks for those who have been silenced. Sound like anyone else you know?
Some might say, "Wait, wait, wait - it's easy for Superman to do it! He shoots lasers out of his eyes and can gargle hot lava!"
To which I'd reply, "They're not lasers, it's called heat vision." And besides, strength doesn't make someone just. Justice is about fairness - we have to have the courage to go out and do something. I remember a few months back during election season, I joined up with a group called MassEquality. They're a group of men and women who are passionate in their belief that everyone in Massachusetts should have the right to marry whomever they please, regardless of their gender.
We passed out postcards to voters and asked them to send them in to their representatives to show that there is support for Same Sex Marriage across the state. That day, we served justice. All of us stood together in solidarity and drew a line in the sand. We knew that certain representatives were trying to take away the rights of same-sex couples to get married and we said, "No, this is not fair. This is not just, and we will not let it stand."
Now, I don't remember anyone shooting off heat vision or bending steel with their hands, but I know the feeling we had at the end of the day must be the same one that Superman gets. I got to be a small part of something really big - something bigger than me, and something that really matters. As we learned in Amos, God wants justice and righteousness to flow like a river. Our opposition was attempting to build a dam on that river, but because of His gift of courage we were able to act together. We were each like a raindrop in a furious torrent, widening and deepening the river so that no dam can ever tame it.
Issue 659 of Superman had a beautiful cover of Superman landing amidst a group of people all trying to touch him. Except, instead of a cape, he had two huge, red wings. The story was a flashback to his first days patrolling the streets and skies of Metropolis. With his super-hearing, he heard the screech of tires and an elderly woman praying that God would save her from the drunk driver speeding towards her. So, Superman swooped down and stopped the car, saving the woman.
Later that night, she was watching television and saw news of a train wreck. Being a deeply religious woman, she prayed for God to send down an angel and help. To her shock and amazement, Superman flew onto the T.V. screen, righted the train, and saved the passengers. The woman, Barbara Johnson, thought she had been given the gift to call down the angel of the Lord - Superman - to right all the wrongs of the world. He would smite evil whenever she prayed for the Lord to send him down.
After many smaller exploits, she and her church group went to confront a local gang leader. She told him to take his drugs and his guns and leave her neighborhood, or she would call down her angel. For all his powers and his might, though, Superman is still just a man. He can't be in two places at once any more than you or I. He did not come, and the gang leader shot Ms. Johnson.
But she survived, and not once did her faith waiver. She knew that God had made Superman busy in Antarctica fighting an energy being from space caught in Earth's magnetic field so that she would realize that Superman wasn't an angel. God was telling her not to rely on Superman to be her angel. In fact, because Superman didn't show up that evening, her church group called the police. Residents who were normally too scared of the thugs in their neighborhood to pick up the phone were reporting drug dealings, shootings, and all manner of crimes. They were bringing justice back to their part of town themselves - and not one among them had heat vision.
This story really got me thinking about the nature of angels, too. After she got out of the hospital, Barbara Johnson said, "Angels are real. They're all around us. Why, you might be one yourself, but you'll never know. Not unless you try spreadin' your wings." That, my friends, is what we must all do. God's shown us what's right and what's wrong - he's shown us what justice is and what it is not. We need only act when action is needed. To me, that's what being an angel is all about.
Who knows what differences you've made in the lives of other people - when you lend a hand at a shelter, when you reach out to a friend in need, when you pray for someone, when you do God's work - you've become someone's angel because you stepped up and did something. The way each of you welcomed me into your church and led me down the path of Christ makes you all my angels, I know that.
As both Christians and as decent human beings, we cannot sit idly by and watch injustices and inequities while we pray for salvation. Ghandi said we must be the change we wish to see in the world, and he's right. Because Superman isn't real, and he's not coming to save the day. So let God act through you - do his work every day and become someone's angel.
===End Copyrighted Material===
The above copyrighted material is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
From: Barry Caine, "If a superhero lands in the forest, does anyone hear it?" (Movie Guy column), published 24 July 2006 in Oakland Tribune (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20060624/ai_n16506776; viewed 12 July 2007):
..."Superman Returns," which opens at 10 p.m. Tuesday...
Superman's pending resurrection is inspiring super conjecture. For instance, Newsweek's "With Beliefnet.com" column has dubbed the Man of Steel a Methodist.
The oh-please rationale: Clark Kent was raised in the Midwest.
More sensible: Clark's pop describes him as a Christ figure. Author Stephen Skelton's "The Gospel According to the World's Greatest Superhero" -- some people have too much time on their hands -- also subscribes to that theory.
Let's not fight about it. But while we're on the subject, the article uses data gleaned from Adherents.com to imbue other superheroes with their likely religious orientations.
For instance, The Thing from "The Fantastic Four" is Jewish, a fact addressed in the saga.
Spider-Man, "who sometimes addresses God in spontaneous prayer," is Protestant.
Because of the crosses on his parents' gravestones, Batman is either a lapsed Roman Catholic or a disaffected Episcopalian.
They decided Elektra is Greek Orthodox. And Daredevil is Catholic, although god knows why.
From: Matt 'Stars' Morrison, "The Mount: 'I'm Telling You For the Last Time . . .", published in Fanzing #52, January/February 2003 (http://www.fanzing.com/mag/fanzing52/themount.shtml; viewed 22 May 2006):
The other night, some fellow geeks and I got to talking about some political matters in addition to the usual shop talk and this question was raised: what side of the political spectrum do you think most superheroes come down on?
Now, there are a few obvious gimmies... Of course it's easy for second-tier heroes to have a distinct political identity. Many is the time a writer has used a lesser-known character as a mouthpiece for his own opinions...
But the big guns of the DC Universe? The major icons that everyone knows about? Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman? Well, that's a whole other story. Editorial mandate has kept politics out of their books for the most part, for fear of offending the readers who might just stop buying comics if they thought that Superman were a bleeding-heart liberal or Batman was a stone-cold conservative.
Still, occasionally the writer can slip his own opinions into a story. For example, consider how Superman went from a reluctant executioner (John Byrne, during the whole General Zod saga) to being very anti-Death Penalty years later in the 90's...
Well, the debate has gone on from chatroom to chatroom, message board to message board for years and years. And having thought a while about it, I'm ready to give you a very simple thesis.
Superheroism, by its very nature, is a liberal act.
Think about it: we have a person who goes out and gives of himself or herself, often times risking their life. They do this for no reward, no expectation of gratitude purely because of a personal moral code: because they have abilities that make them greater than everyone else and yet use those abilities to help those in need. Reword that a bit and it sound a bit like one of the more famous Karl Marx quotes: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."
When you put it that way, it makes Superman sound like a Commie Pinko, doesn't it?
From: Michael Hutchison, "Never Discuss Religion or Politics: A rebuttal to 'The Mount'", published in Fanzing #52, January/February 2003 (http://www.fanzing.com/mag/fanzing52/feature7.shtml; viewed 22 May 2006):
There's a reason why I don't often get into the debate about superhero politics (or their religious beliefs, another common online debate). Just as you can't assume that a cop, fireman or soldier is of one party or another just because of the nature of their job, you can't assume a political stance based merely on observation. Haven't you ever been dead wrong about a celebrity's politics?
DC's stance against getting political with their big-name characters makes sense. Liberals assume Superman is a liberal. Conservatives assume Superman is a conservative. Why would DC ever "out" someone whose poltics are inscrutable enought that he can otherwise be enjoyed by everyone?
Indeed, merely by observation you cannot deduce Superman's politics. On the one hand, he comes from a two-parent churchgoing family in the midwest, reared with love for mom, the flag, rhubarb pie and hot dogs. But, they are farmers, and farmers tend to vote Democrat in order to get all the big government subsidies. Then we must consider that Clark Kent is a newspaper reporter in a big east coast city, having studied journalism at Metropolis State University. Granted, he could be part of the tiny minority of Republican newspaper reporters, but more likely he is a conservative Democrat. Still, these factors are nebulous enough that his political stance is up in the air, and I like it that way.
From: Rebecca Salek, "Oh, The Wonder of Her Virginity", published on "Sequential Tart" website (http://www.sequentialtart.com/archive/feb03/art_0203_4.shtml; viewed 2 August 2007):
There has been a Great Noise in comicdom ?though, from the lack of interest shown by the mainstream media, you wouldn't know it. Not like last time, when the evening news was all agog at the announcement of Superman's demise. No, last time around, the Great Noise involved something a little more ... well ... palable: death. Death is easy to talk about. This time around, it involves sex. And even gasp the V-word.
No, not Superman's. He's not, and hasn't been for a long time, not since long before his honeymoon with Lois...
The sexual status of only two other DC characters has caused as much fan commentary as that of Wonder Woman. Comments and questions about Superman's sexual experience/s have to do more with physiological feasibility - can he do it with a human without killing her? - than a desire for him to remain "pure." Similarly, concerns about Batman's sexual status have more to do with the possibility of biological fatherhood: did he have a son with Talia al-Ghul or not? ...
Chris Dailey wrote to us (9 July 2007) with the following analysis suggesting how Superman's birth name indicates the character's religious affiliation:
The obvious answer is in his name: EL refers to early Hebraic cult religious beliefs. The TV series Smallville constantly mentions the "House of EL". His father's name is JOR-EL: another early Hebraic name for God was YAH (and sometimes the Y could be replaced by a J). The originators of the story line, either consciously or sub-consciously, took a Jewish view of the Christian Messianic message in the New Testament. To save Kryptonian culture, to bring it to those who did not know of it, the Father sends the Son to Earth in Power to save the Earth. He arrives alone, cast "away" in a spaceship just like Moses was cast away in a boat to save him (a comparison of Jesus to Moses was common with the early church and the comparison is made in the New Testament Gospels). Like Moses, he is found by strangers who take him in and raise him as their own son. Then, upon reaching an acceptable adult age, he goes out to save the world from crime, etc. Just a few years ago, the writers had him killed by a powerful enemy (later revealed as also being Kryptonian, but of a mindless, evil, angry type) and then brought back to life (with help from the spirit of his earthly father).
Man, many coincidences.
I think he is portrayed as a monotheist with Judeo-Christian background and messianic tendencies.
-C H Dailey
From "He's strong! He's powerful! He's fantastic! And he prays!" forum discussion page started 1 October 2002 on ToonZone.net website (http://forums.toonzone.net/archive/index.php/t-50423.html; viewed 12 July 2007):
10-01-2002, 02:59 PM
I know Superman is Christian. He's been shown going to church in a few issues, I think.
From: "What religion do superhero's belong to? [sic]" forum discussion started 18 July 2002 on "Toon Zone" website (http://forums.toonzone.net/showthread.php?t=41332; viewed 21 May 2007):
From: Brent McKee (http://childoftv.blogspot.com), comments on HaloScan.com website (http://www.haloscan.com/comments/timgueguen/115056819021762711/; viewed 20 June 2006):
07-18-2002, 01:02 PM
What religion do superhero's [sic] belong to?
I'd like to discuss what religious beliefs are favorite costumed hero's belong to. Everyone knows Daredevil is Catholic. But beyond that, what do we know of superhero's beliefs? I'm thinking of mostly the Marvel Universe, but you DC fans feel free to contribute as well...
07-18-2002, 01:27 PM
...In JL:TAS Superman has said: "Good Lord!!" twice so I would say he's Christian.
07-18-2002, 01:53 PM
...I'd say Supes is a Christian too. Anyone with that small town upbringing in Kansas would be just about [certain to be a Christian] (my parents were raised in small town Kansas by the way, so I would know about Kansas life)...
07-18-2002, 04:03 PM
...While I do agree with the consensus that Superman is some denomination of Christian, I'm not positive that his use of, "Good Lord!" is proof of that. I say stuff like that (and similar religiously themed exclamations) all the time, and I'm a Buddhist. Besides, for all we know, Superman has converted to some Kryptonian faith.
07-18-2002, 04:55 PM
Superman is most definitely Christian. In "Superman For all Seasons", he consults with his church pastor about what to do with a man's power, and later atended a candle-light vigil at the church.
07-18-2002, 07:52 PM
Well I have to agree. Superman is Christian but non-denominational...
07-20-2002, 11:39 AM
Pre-Crisis, the Silver Age/Earth-1 Superman seemed rather favoring of Kryptonian religion (which is Raoism, referring to Krypton's sun-god Rao), often clamoring "Rao!" Though of course, being brought up by Ma and Pa Kent, he probably went to some Protestant church as well (and was shown celebrating Christmas); also recall a Legion story where Superboy says "my God" (I think).
Also pre-Crisis, the Golden Age/"Earth-2" Superman and Lois got married in some unspecified-religion Protestant Christian church (as did their post-Crisis counterparts a few years ago in "Superman: The Wedding Album")...
Brent, 06.18.06 - 3:56 am:
ELliot S! Magin, who used to write "Superman" suggested that the Man of Steel was probably a Methodist because that's what his human parents were. Of course before John Byrne rebooted the character there were a large number of references to the Kryptonian version of a monotheistic god, called Rao but since the reboot Superman hasn't really known that much about Krypton.
It seems to me that in terms of sources Siegel and Shuster (cousin of Frank) were assimilated enough into the dominant culture of Cleveland in the 1930s to be familiar with the Christian story. I also think that they were probably intelligent enough to integrate the story of Moses and the Christian story into a story which is basically secular. I will say that the original movie had a much stronger relation to the Christian concept, with Jor-el sending his only begotten son to help humanity become better.
From: "Denominational Affiliations of Superheroes", posted by Sheridan Voysey on 2 July 2006 on "The Open House (life, faith, culture)" blog website (http://www.theopenhouse.net.au/2006/07/denominational_affiliations_of.html; viewed 19 June 2007):
With all the hoopla this week of the Superman Returns movie, you might be interested to know that almost all our superheroes have some kind of denominational affiliation. Baptist, Anglican, Methodist, Catholic - you'll find connections in the storylines of our best hooded, caped, spandex-covered, super-people.
Superman - Methodist
Let's start with Superman - the blue-tights-and-red-undies-wearing man of steel himself, who is reported to be a Methodist. This has never been explicitly stated in any way, but the reasoning goes like this: Clark Kent was raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent who live in the strongly Methodist Mid-Western area of the United States. The Kents are regularly portrayed praying, going to church, and saying things like 'well, if the Lord wants it to happen, He'll make it happen'. As an adult Superman hasn't been a regular churchgoer, but he has, however, occasionally visited ministers of various Christian denominations for counsel, guidance, and even confession.
Supergirl and Superboy - Methodist
Do you remember Supergirl? Generally considered Superman's female counterpart, Supergirl first appeared in 1958 and several variations of her have appeared in comic books since then. But during the late 80s and 90s, Supergirl was an active Methodist. Her minister, the Reverend Larry Varvel, was based on a real-life Methodist minister of the same name.
And did you ever hear of Superboy? He was a clone made from the DNA of Superman and Lex Luthor. Like Superman, Superboy was also raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent, and while not particularly religious, he often wondered about the state of his soul, and once uttered what appeared to be a prayer to God asking that fundamental question, "Why am I here?"
Superman's other close colleagues have denominational connections too. Jimmy Olson is a Lutheran, Lois Lane is a Catholic, Perry is a Baptist, and Lex Luthor is Jewish (although a non-observant one, as Jews today thankfully remember).
...So, Dr Bruce Banner, The Incredible Hulk, is a lapsed Catholic; Batman is a possible Anglican; Superman is a Methodist, and Spider-Man an unnamed Protestant. I'd like to know what a Presbyterian superhero would look like, or even a Pentecostal!
Superman consults Christian ministers when he needs advice; Supergirl regularly attends church; Superboy asks God what he's doing here; The Hulk believes in an afterlife, and Spiderman prays.
It seems even Superheroes need to bow the knee for some divine help every now and then.
From: "Catholic Clix - Comic info needed!" forum discussion started 3 May 2003 on HCRealms website (http://www.hcrealms.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-40338.html; viewed 24 May 2007):
Ok, so in recent films it's been apparent that Daredevil and Nightcrawler are Catholic...
So, who else out there could be fielded in a "Catholic" Heroclix team?
...Wolsfbane, Rahne Sinclair is another [Catholic]. She was orphaned and raised by strict Catholic preacher named, Reverend Craig... [Editor: Actually, Wolfsbane has always been a Presbyterian, and is overtly identified as such.]
Spider-Man may also be one [a Catholic] but I'm not sure; Aunt May recites the 'Our Father' holding Rosary beads before going to bed in the movie. There's definitely a strong Christian influence there anyway.
Superman also had a strong Christian upbringing, Johnathan and Martha Kent were praying for a child around the time Kal-El landed on Earth. Martha is always praying for Johnathan during the 'Death of Superman' saga, as Johnathan is venturing on his 'spiritual search' for Clark.
Spider-Man and Superman I'm not sure about being Catholic, but they're definitely Christian influenced.
Here's some for future reference that aren't in Heroclix yet.
Firebird's is Catholic. Punisher was Catholic (I'm not sure now). Aurora from Alpha Flight is very Catholic in one of her split personalities. Dagger is Catholic (not sure about Cloak). Bushwhacker (a villain) is Catholic. Venom's Catholic (Eddie Brock that is ;) ).
As for those that are in the game:
...Superman I'm not too sure about. Given the region he and his folks live in, I'd go with a Protestant religion. Probably Baptist or Unitarian.
Superman is definitely Christian, but due to the region he grew up is most likely some brand of Protestant...
Me, I'm agnostic, but more power to you if you have faith in anything at all. As long as you don't try to ram it down my throat, that is.
Nightcrawler, Daredevil, Aurora and Huntress definitely [are Catholic]. Superman I agree is probably one of the Protestant denominations...
Wow, thanks everyone. Yeah, Supes grew up in the Bible Belt, and the Spider-Man/Aunt May thing would be nice...
re: Given the region [Superman] and his folks live in, I'd go with a Protestant religion. Probably Baptist or Unitarian.
That's quite that choices you gave - Baptist or Unitarian. That's [like] saying he's either Mormon [i.e., a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] or Buddhist, not sure which.
I'd go with Supes being a Methodist or Unitarian. Chris Reeves is a practicing Unitarian, so it's a good bet DC headed that way.
Okey dokey. Unitarian sounds good for Superman. But Unitarians are a very accepting Belief. They have ministers who are Christian, Buddhist, Pagan etc... One such group within a church worship Odin. And boy do you not want to joke about HULK is Stronger than Thor. Yeessh. I added this for additional info. I am a Unitarian And our Minister Cynthia Cain is a practicing Buddhist.
Batman is a confirmed atheist, Superman is Protestant (exact denomination unknown), Thor's [religion] is his own dad...
re: I'd go with Supes being a Methodist or Unitarian...
Actually, I'd say that Superman is most likely either Baptist, Methodist or non-Denominational Protestant. The reason being, that is what you'll most likely find when you look for a church in a small Kansas town.
You won't find Unitarian churches except in the larger cities (ie: Topeka, Lawrence, Wichita, Kansas City ... and that's pretty much it). Being raised in a smaller town like Dodge City or Garden City or even Abilene or Liberal, you'd be hard-pressed to find a Unitarian Universalist church anywhere.
I'm from Kansas, and I've been to most of the towns of which I speak and spent a lot of time in the smaller farming communities that Superman would have come from.
Trust me, despite his occasional mentions of the Kryptonian god Rao (whose name he will take 'in vain', but never will he use 'Jesus' or 'God' in that manner), he'd've been a Protestant Christian not a Unitarian.
From: "Religious Beliefs of Marvel Characters" discussion board started 20 October 2004 on Comic-Forum.com website (http://www.comic-forum.com/marvel/Religious_beliefs_of_Marvel_characters_397905.html; viewed 8 June 2006):
Date: 20 Oct 2004 21:55:56
From: http://www.killermovies.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-380665-who-in-marvel-and-dc-dont-celebrate-christmas.html (viewed 25 December 2005):
Subject: Religious beliefs of Marvel characters?
Does anybody know the religious beliefs of various characters? ...I suppose the only DC character I'm curious about is Superman. One would think that with the whole "God and country" theme commonly associated with Supes and Captain America they would be Christian, but I've never seen that theory documented in the comics.
Date: 21 Oct 2004 15:19:09
From: Paul O'Brien
It would be incongruous for the character [Superman] not to be Christian, for exactly the reasons you say.
Date: 20 Oct 2004 22:37:38
Well, Supes keeps exclaiming "Great Rao!" but I doubt that he's really deep into Kryptonian deities.
Date: 22 Oct 2004 07:03:46
From: Just Jak!
To try to answer the OP, in the Madman/Superman crossover, Madman asks Supes [Superman] if he believes in God and Supes says he does, but that's from Allred's point of view and doesn't actually address the question of religion. One can believe that a God exists and not be a Christian. Superman could be a Deist, for example.
Date: 22 Oct 2004 11:20:59
Didn't supes have a post-Crisis run in with a Kryptonian cleric?
Date: 22 Oct 2004 14:31:12
A cleric, yes. But I don't think he was Kryptonian, just a scholar of things related to Krypton.
Date: 04 Dec 2004 09:29:39
If you read the subtext (actually the actual text) of Miller's Dark Night Returns you will see Supes not only talking to what amounts to Gaea, but actually recovering and re energizing (after being caught in a 'New-Clear' blast :]), from the surrounding planets biosphere.
Clark Kent would have been (most likely raised some kind of Christian by his adoptive parents but I don't see him being suited to any one region after touring all over the world (and universe).
Date: 04 Dec 2004 12:03:50
Clark Kent/Supes has always referred to God, not Jesus. Therefore it is easy to assume that he was raised Deist.
Since both companies were created by Jews, I seriously doubt that any of the characters are Christians, since Jews don't accept Jesus as the Saviour.
Then again, the companies have been under new managment, so If some one can remember a time where any characters were praying to Jesus, let me know.
Date: 04 Dec 2004 13:41:28
From: The Babaloughesian
I don't think it's safe to assume that the characters are the same religion as the creators.
Excerpts from: "Are Superheroes Religious?" forum page, started 13 May 2004, in "The John Byrne Forum" section of the Byrne Robotics website (http://jb.24-7intouch.com/forum/get_topic.asp?FID=3&TID=558&DIR=P; viewed 9 January 2006):
Superman somehow managed to convince every dang superhero to come to a "holiday" bash with CHRISTMAS trees and CHRISTMAS songs on the Watchtower.
14 May 2004 at 4:19 am
Very little religion in the DCU - there seems to be a pervading non-denominational deist philosophy (Spectre is an agent of God, but let's not be specific about what religion for fear of alienating the others).
Nuklon/Atom Smasher clearly Jewish.
Huntress presumably Catholic by reference to crucifix.
Pre-Crisis Superman presumably nominally a member of the Kryptonian religion (whatever that was) by virtue of his frequent "Great Rao!"s.
A bit tricky to address religion in a universe where there is quite a high preponderance of actual Gods!
From: "Up, up, and oy, vey!", posted 5 February 2006 on MetaFilter.com website (http://www.metafilter.com/39326/Up-up-and-oy-vey; viewed 19 June 2007):
posted by hifiparasol
February 5, 2005 7:28 PM
"After unknowingly eating an atomic matzah that was accidentally baked in a microwave oven with radioactive water, she was surprised to learn that she could fly..." [link to webpage about the Jewish Hero Corps: http://www.nusion.com/jewishsuperhero/jhc.htm] Take your radioactive spiders and your gamma bombs and shove them up your tuchus. I'm casting my lot with the Jewish Hero Corps! [link to: http://www.nusion.com/jewishsuperhero/] But seriously: Most [link to: http://www.marveldirectory.com/teams/fantasticfour.htm] (but not all [link to: http://www.spawn.com/comics/series.aspx?series_id=1]) of the most widely-known superheroes around are a bit on the WASPy side. Is it possible to address issues of ethnicity and identity via superheroes, given the fact that most folks think it's just a lot of punching and zapping? Or do we have to resort to doing via metaphor [link to Amazon.com order page for the X-Men graphic novel: God Loves, Man Kills: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0785100393/metafilter-20/ref=nosim/]?
Wasn't Superman drawn by a Jew?
posted by xammerboy at 8:59 PM on February 5
The Nazis used to call Superman "Superjew" (source: Alan Moore in last week's "Chain Reaction" [link to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/comedy/chainreaction.shtml] -- beware, if you try googling for corroboration, a few choice white pride sites crop up as prime results).
posted by John Shaft at 10:13 PM on February 5
s someone once famously pointed out, Superman came over from the old country and changed his name from Kal-El to Clark Kent. Hmm.
How does one circumcise Superman?
posted by kyrademon at 12:33 PM on February 6
re: How does one circumcise Superman?
With a circumcision-knife (there's gotta be a word for this, neh?) made from kryptonite. Duh.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:45 PM on February 6
Nah... he wasn't super on his own planet... a mohel from there could have done it before they sent him away...
posted by amberglow at 1:51 PM on February 6
re: circumcision-knife (there's gotta be a word for this, neh?)
Izmel. Like mohel, oddly appropriate for Superman. The baggypantsandbravado blog has a skit on this: The Mensch of Steel [link to: http://baggypantsandbravado.blogspot.com/2004_09_01_baggypantsandbravado_archive.html#109639450839368448].
posted by raygirvan at 2:46 PM on February 6
I'm quite certain that I once read an article - most likely in The Comics Buyers Guide - which reported on an interview with Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (the creators of Superman) in which the pair said that Superman was Jewish. One of the creators said "If I'm Jewish [and he evidently was], then so is Superman."
posted by Clay201 at 9:04 PM on February 6
From: "List of Superhero Religions" discussion board, started 14 March 2006 (http://s8.invisionfree.com/Superdickery_Forum/ar/t2607_0.htm; viewed 24 April 2006):
March 14, 2006 04:29 AM (GMT)
Superman is Methodist? I don't even know what Methodist is.
March 14, 2006 08:27 AM (GMT)
...I always figured Superman would rather follow a Kryptonian religion. You know, for preserving the Kryptonian culture... Dang, I've seen him praised Raoh [Rao] somewhere...
From: "Who is your religious superhero" discussion board, started 14 March 2006, on "Ship of Fools: The Magazine of Christian Unrest" website (http://forum.ship-of-fools.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=1;t=006489; viewed 24 April 2006):
Posted 23 March, 2006 20:31
Superman was raised by Amish people in the Elseworlds series The Nail.
From: "Religion of Comic Book Characters" discussion board, started 21 March 2006, on "Atomic Think Tank" website (http://atomicthinktank.com/viewtopic.php?t=15563&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=15&sid=6e1a6029528ee4ff56875971156c2732; viewed 25 April 2006):
From: "Religion in comic books" discussion forum started on 24 April 2006, on DC Comics official message board website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000072787&tstart=0; viewed 1 May 2006):
Posted: Wed Mar 22, 2006 6:25 am
I thought Superman was of a Kryptonian religion. I believe he follows Rao. They started that a few years ago, but it seems to have been dropped in the books as of late.
Posted: Wed Mar 22, 2006 6:36 am
Take a look at his entry in the link site. It explains things a little more clearly. He may simply be saying "Oh God" in a fashon that deepens his cover persona of Superman.
From: "What Religion is Your Favorite Superhero?" discussion board started 20 April 2006 on official website of DC Comics (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000072337&tstart=0; viewed 8 May 2006):
Posted: Apr 24, 2006 10:31 PM
Does anyone know if there are any DC Comics characters who are portrayed as being Christian or Catholic in religion?
Posted: Apr 25, 2006 1:34 AM
Despite that many people believe Superman is Jewish because of the curl in his hair (:sighs: people actually say this), Superman has been seen with a Christmas tree in the Kent household (someone mentioned the issue number on this board but I can't remember things like that.
I am not sure what religion he is, and I think DC has tried to stay away from flat out saying his religion. But I am pretty sure he celebrates Christmas.
Posted: Apr 25, 2006 2:06 PM
I do know Superman mentioned his pastor in his "epigraph" to the story with him and Diana fighting in Asgard.
Posted: Apr 27, 2006 12:45 AM
Clark celebrates Christmas does not mean he is Catholic or Christian. Everyone in HK celebrates X'mas since it has been totally commercialized.
Posted: Apr 27, 2006 1:17 AM
Oh come on, Clark landed in Kansas and was found by a farmer couple. Did you really think, he was found by the only atheist farmer couple in Kansas?
Posted: Apr 27, 2006 4:26 AM
Heh. IIRC, in "Superman: The Odyssey", there's a throwaway line about how John Kent never had any use for religion but Martha would always drag him along to attend services anyway.
Posted: Apr 27, 2006 4:41 AM
I also would assume that Superman is Protestant as well. Most Kansas folk are. The name Kent though is one of those tricky surnames that is both British and Irish, so there is a slight chance he could be Catholic.
Posted: Apr 27, 2006 5:22 AM
Try the Jewish perspective some time. "Kal-El was created by two Jews as an immigrant who can pass for a typical WASP so long as he keeps his heritage and culture a secret; he was sent here like Moses, see, and grew up to be strong like Samson -- whereupon that dark-haired guy with a Hebrew name beat the crap out of Nazis."
He's supposed to be one of ours, dang it.
Posted: Apr 27, 2006 8:41 AM
But how did he get circumcised? Did they do that on Krypton before he left?
Posted: Apr 27, 2006 12:14 PM
As for Superman - I remember something about the original character design supposedly being a bad guy for the Nazis. It was after that that the kids decided to make him a hero. But he wasn't meant to be Jewish for a number of reasons.
Unless I see their families come out and say: SUPERMAN IS JEWISH! I just don't buy it. It's nothing more than fan-boy speculation.
I could care either way, it really doesn't matter to me, but it's pretty well established that Superman was not Jewish and was never meant to be Jewish.
Posted: Apr 27, 2006 12:24 PM
Me think he doth protest too much? I mean, man, you say you don't care, but you sure are emphatic about what's "well established" and what's "never meant to be."
Maybe Siegal and Shuster and whatever editorial input they had never thought out Superman's religious background. Maybe they meant him to be a mix of Everyman (by putting him in America's heartland) and Uberman (by giving him super-powers).
Posted: Apr 27, 2006 2:40 PM
With the Kents being a farming couple and Smallville now set in Kansas (at least at the time of Our Worlds At War).
There is a high likelyhood that Clark was raised in the Mennonite Church (the Amish are a conservative branch of the Menonites) - otherwise they strike me more as Methodist or maybe Congregationalists.
Posted: Apr 27, 2006 5:11 PM
The Kents have to be Protestants, but not LUTHOR-ANS. HA
From: Barry, "For Barry" page, posted 26 March 2006 on "Theo-Dongs" blog website http://theopeckers.blogspot.com/2006/03/for-barry.html; viewed 8 May 2006):
Posted: Apr 20, 2006 9:30 AM
...What is the religion of the heroes we read about?... Don't get me wrong, not picking on anyone, just wonder what everyone thinks what our heroes believe. ...Other threads touch on the subject in passing, time to discuss it!
Posted: Apr 21, 2006 12:44 PM
Clark Kent: I would like to think he was Methodist, but growing up in rural Kansas it is more likely that his folks raised him to be Mennonite.
Posted: Apr 23, 2006 10:06 PM
Wow, if Superman is Methodist, it gives you new respect for the religion, though family upbringing, community environment and political leanings play a big role too.
Posted: Apr 24, 2006 3:31 AM
re: "Wow, if Superman is Methodist, it gives you new respect for the religion"
Er . . . why? He's heroic, sure, but is he more heroic than Batman or Colossus or Mister Terrific or Starman, who don't really believe in any religion? More heroic than Wonder Woman, who venerates the Greek gods? More heroic than Catholics like Doctor Mid-Nite, or Buddhists like Green Arrow?
(Heck, is the current Superman more heroic than the Pre-Crisis version who was always talking about the deity Rao and performing Kryptonian ritual ceremonies?)
Not trying to be argumentative, just scratching my head . . .
Posted: Apr 24, 2006 7:33 PM
I'm not saying Superman is more heroic than any other hero of different religion, it's just that religion or our belief system greatly shapes our outlook and perspectives, wether it be morals, discipline, political leanings or ideals.
I'm not also saying that only the Methodist have the most upright belief system, probably Clark paid more attention in Sunday School combined with the way the Kents raised him plus the Kansas environment. This is just close to saying that Harvard is proud of their product, so the Methodist might react the same.
Just thinking our loud.
Posted: Apr 24, 2006 7:46 PM
It's cool. I just figured that what he took to heart from the Methodist religion was the "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you" idea -- which it has in common with the rest of Protestantism -- which it has in common with the rest of Christianity -- and, of course, with Judaism, along with assorted other religious faiths and secular philosophies.
Posted: Apr 24, 2006 10:50 PM
re: "Wow, if Superman is Methodist, it gives you new respect for the religion, though family upbringing, community environment and political leanings play a big role too."
Yeah, that stuff's great and all... but Superman's gonna keep me in Sunday School...
Posted: May 6, 2006 2:19 PM
...Whether Superman is a Methodist, a Baptist, a Mormon, Jewish, Buddhist, Shinto, a Scientologist, a New Ager, or a Druid, it says nothing about his religion. It says something about him, and the people who raised him...
Not to dis your beliefs, but "do unto others" hardly requires a religion to push the concept, although I'll admit it helps.
Basically, I think this web site [http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html] is wrong on two counts. First, just because Mark Millar and some jim-jab Superman fetish freak who no one's ever heard of (Elliot S! Maggin...), doesn't somehow make highly speculative wishful thinking true continuity. If it's not written in a currently mainstream title in prime continuity (which, in the DC universe is hard to come by, it changes about once a decade), then it's not canon. For the record, the United Methodist Church doesn't want Superman, especially in Kansas. Come on, he wears red briefs... outside his pants! I'm not saying he's gay, but really. You'd think Lois would be pregnant by now, that is assuming he's actually, (ahem), doing... the deed.
From: comments page about Adherents.com's "Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters" section on StumbleUpon.com website (http://www.stumbleupon.com/url/www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html; viewed 10 May 2006):
by rieraci, Mar 21, 7:25pm
From: comments on "Racism against Atheists" post on "Stormy's Corner" blog website, posted 23 March 2006 (http://stormy.blogs.com/stormy/2006/03/racism_against_.html; viewed 10 May 2006):
This page focuses on fictional comic book characters -- mostly from Marvel and DC -- who are adherents of real-world (not purely fictional) religions. Until I found this site, I never knew Superman was a Methodist! Then again, what else would a Kryptonian raised in Smallville be?
[from original blog post:] Atheists identified as America's most distrusted minority, according to new U of M study: News Releases: UMNnews: U of M.: "From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in 'sharing their vision of American society.' Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry."
From: "Superman's a Methodist" post on "JLucas's Blog" blog website, posted 16 March 2006 (http://community.heraldonline.com/?q=blog/21/feed; viewed 10 May 2006):
This is my take on it: When most Americans hear the word "Atheist" they think of someone who is against the values they grew up with. They think of Madalyn O'Hair, a woman who knew how to hate. On the other hand, when people think of Christ, they think of a man who knew how to love. So they would rather have the label Christian than atheist.
Posted by: Jay KTX | March 24, 2006 at 06:12 PM
Perhaps one explanation is the negative depiction of atheists in comic books. Most superheroes [believe in God], with a majority being Christians: Superman is a Methodist, Spiderman is a Protestant, X-Man Rogue is a Southern Baptist, X-Man Nightcrawler is a Catholic. Even the Punisher is Catholic. But when it comes to villians, atheism seems to be the rule. The Joker, The Kingpin, The Green Goblin, Sabretooth, and Lex Luthor are all atheists.
Posted by: Layman | March 24, 2006 at 06:55 PM
Superman's a Methodist.
From: "Religious Themes in Comics" forum discussion page, started 21 May 2003 on "Sketchy Origins" website (http://www.sketchyorigins.com/comics/archive/index.php?t-1380.html; viewed 12 May 2006):
Growing up, some comic book characters' religions were obvious: Kitty Pryde was very vocal about being Jewish; Nightcrawler was a devout Catholic. But if you've ever wondered about the faith of some less obviously religious caped and cowled vigilantes, look here.
From: "The Corner" (letter column), published in National Review Online, 29 July 2002 (http://www.nationalreview.com/thecorner/2002_07_28_corner-archive.asp; viewed 12 May 2006):
05-29-2003, 07:14 AM
I was reading about Alex Ross in Wizard 141 last night and he said that he liked the DC characters so much because each one was like a "god" of his realm. Aquaman of the water, Batman of Gotham, Superman of Metropolis, J'Onn J'Onzz of Mars. Each one has the ultimate power in their given sphere of influence. So, he equated it to like the best of the best.
Well, I bring this up here not only because he mentions that they are gods, but also because it seems to me that they are often set up as saviors as well. Batman is to rid Gotham of crime. Superman protects humanity. Aquaman protects the oceans. J'Onn J'Onzz is the last of his kind from Mars and is supposed to save his civilization. These are all Christ-like attributes.
This doesn't just go for DC characters, but I only mention them because that's what Alex Ross talked about in the article. As I said earlier in this thread, I think that this "Christian" influence on the character development and story creation could be more a reflection of that influence in our society and our popular mythos, more so than a direct allusion.
These are archetypes that we are looking at here. That's why we recognize similar traits among them.
From: "New Christian JLA member" message board, started 5 May 2005 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000023085; viewed 15 May 2006):
Posted 1:19 PM
A reader says:
Dear Mr. Goldberg:
Your noting the piece in the NY Post about The Thing being revealed as Jewish is interesting, but those of the Tribe have had their own superhero for decades.
The Man of Steel is Jewish, and this fact has been known all along, both by pro-Superman readers, and by anti-Semites (Goebbels is known to have belived this and have it referenced in wartime Nazi radio propaganda). Consider: created by two Jewish boys, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Real name, Kal-el. And his origin...think a moment about his origin, and remember that this was being written by a pair of Jewish teenagers in 1939. Baby Kal-el, refugee from a holocaust that wipes out his entire people! Where else would he end up but...America?
Alas, his name got changed to "Clark Kent" (and isn't that exactly the sort of name a poor Jewish immigrant would come up with, if he were trying to fit In?) and his ethnic origins got laundered fairly thoroughly. Not much left except blue-black hair and a difficult girlfriend.
Posted 1:23 PM
Some problems with the idea that Superman is Jewish. First of all, the mohel would have to use a diamond cutter at the bris. More important, this is all based on subtext. Of course, Superman was an idealized product of the Jewish imagination of two Jewish guys. But, that's a very different argument. I prefer to stick with the stuff above the subtext, what's that called again? Oh, yeah, the text.
Posted 1:53 PM
Kathryn, Jonah, look, think about it for a second. Superman's principal adversary is called Luthor. The Man of Steel is obviously a dyslectic Catholic.
[James S. Robbins]
Posted 1:54 PM
Kal-el had to have been circumcised on Krypton, where it could reasonably have been done. Surely his parents would not have shot him into space without a bris. Besides, what are the odds of finding a mohel in Smallville? And talk about lost tribes, how did they get out there anyway?
Posted 2:08 PM
On the other hand, Jonah, I know that you will be pleased to know that if Superman is indeed Jewish--and keeps kosher--there is a chance that he may still be able to enjoy some tasty Marmite feasts.
Posted: May 5, 2005 7:53 PM
I propose DC adds a new superhero to the JLA. His name is Shepard [Shepherd] and he fights injustice and evil in a Christian way.
His powers would essentially be a the addition of the powers of Firestorm and Superman.
While the JLA fights to protect earth from alien threats, Shepard's focus would be to protect innocents such as unborn children.
What does everyone think?
Posted: May 6, 2005 9:49 AM
Since nearly the entire DCU is written under the presumptions of Christianity anyway, why do you need a figure head? Don't most people presume Superman is Christian? Even if most of the JLA are not Christian, do they not highlight the most positive ideals of Christianity already? I think none of the JLA should have open and identifiable religions because all it will do is alienate people. The exception would be of course Wonder Woman, but the "gods" are entirely entwined with her character.
Posted: May 13, 2005 10:54 AM
SENSORSNAKE IS A MORON! What else is there to say. Never mix comic book geeks (myself included) and religion. I mean after all Superman is Jewish.
From: "Jewish Comic Book Characters" message board page, started 15 May 2006 on IGN.com website (http://boards.ign.com/Comics_General_Board/b5033/117625205/?16; viewed 19 May 2006):
Excerpts from: "Wasn't Superman Supposed to be Jewish?" discussion board started 24 April 2006 on the official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000073412; viewed 27 May 2006):
Date Posted: 5/15 8:38am
Subject: Jewish Comic Book Characters.
You think Magneto had a Bar Mitzvah? ...I definitely think Doc Samson did.
What other Jewish comic characters you can think of?
Date Posted: 5/15 11:32pm
Umm... Superman. You know that whole Kill Bill speech. Pretty accurate to the truth of his creation, except the joke was that Jews thought walking around like a square would make them fit in with the Christian majority.
Date Posted: 5/16 12:36am
That Superman thing from Kill Bill it total BS. Kal-El was raised as Clark Kent by human parents, so the Clark Kent part of him is real, not an act. The bumbling reporter thing isn't a critque at all because he doesn't look down on us like that. It's a disguise and nothing more.
The Kill Bill thing is Dr. Phil horse**** from someone who doesn't get the character at all and didn't put more than five minutes of thought into what he was saying. I suspect a bong was involved.
[Grant] Morrison got it right in the first issue of All Star Superman.
Date Posted: 5/16 12:57am
Sorry, Risk, but Clark Kent was a disguise. The real Clark Kent was on the farm, he was raised as a human but always under the realization that he was NOT one of them. While he had human values, he lacked human frailties. The Clark Kent that everyone outside of Smallville saw pre-Crisis was a bumbling idiot designed to reflect the frailties of the human condition and to be everything HE WAS NOT.
So, to say he was a critique of humanity is not so far off. Clark Kent, more accurately, is a critique of everything that Superman does not believe he is.
Date Posted: 5/16 1:04am
You're full of it. "Human frailties" are largely emotional. The fact that bullets can hurt us does not define us.
The bumbling reporter thing is an act for people he doesn't have personal relationships with. He was raised a human from infancy, not as a Kryptonian. And those are the only options for what he can be culturally - human or Kryptonian.
I don't know why everyone loses their mind when talking about Superman and Batman's identities. It's the biggest bunch of Dr. Phil crap I've ever heard.
You might as well not even argue about this with me because this is something I'm not going to budge an inch on.
Date Posted: 5/16 2:40am
I'm gonna have to agree with risk on this one. Completely. And it's made even more apparent with the current arc than ever before. Superman might be ingrained in him, but he was happy to not have to do the Superman thing.
Date Posted: 5/16 7:14am
I was just using Kill Bill so stupid people could follow. But I am serious about Superman's origin as a "Jew" in a sense. After reading Kavalier and Clay, I did a bunch of research on the Man of Steel's beginnings.
In the early part of the 20th century, it wasn't so easy to be a Jewish immigrant. And while Jews gathered in the same communities, many, particularly younger Jews, were eager to fit in. Superman is basically a power fantasy, that a Jew can: a) be the most powerful person on the planet, who fights for justice, etc. b) Blend in and be accepted by an alien society, in part by dressing like them.
From: "The Chief Loves and Cares For You" page on "The Chief's Canon" blog website of Jason R. Hode (http://jasonrhode.livejournal.com/207864.html; viewed 29 May 2006):
Posted: Apr 29, 2006 8:36 AM
Wasn't Superman Supposed To Be Jewish?
I know that Superman has probably celebrated Christmas and is probably Christian but I think I read somewhere that Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster (both Jewish by the way) inteded Superman to be Jewish.
Posted: Apr 29, 2006 9:07 AM
You are correct. He was a stand-in for S & S [Siegel and Shuster], who were Jewish. I might add that the comic book world owes them an unpayable huge debt, for without their contributions, especially Superman, comics as we know them would not exist.
Posted: Apr 29, 2006 10:10 AM
No, they originally intended for Superman to be a villain of the Nazi Reich. Then they decided to make him a hero, but never officially changed his non-Jewish status.
Posted: Apr 29, 2006 3:13 PM
I know he was supposed to originally be a villain, not part Nazi, and Jewish.
Posted: Apr 30, 2006 10:59 AM
Thanks. I will add this to my database of comic book misinformation.
Posted: Apr 30, 2006 12:08 PM
Okay, well do what you want, just pretty sure he was conceived of as a villain for the Nazis. Who do you think possessed the term "superman"? After Nietzsche the Nazis pretty much owned that idea.
Posted: Apr 30, 2006 12:54 PM
Got a source for that? 'Pretty sure' isn't quite enough for a claim like this...
Posted: Apr 30, 2006 1:02 PM
Well I can be wrong. I think it was one of those TV shows about comic book characters and their origins that I first heard the original idea for Superman was that he was evil and the Superman the Nazi party was all about using to conquer the world.
I mean, two Jewish kids, thinking about writing a story about an evil superman (whom they call SUPERMAN) who terrorizes the world during the rise and height of the Nazi party. Kinda makes sense to me that's why I never questioned it.
Course S & S [Siegel and Shuster] more or less went straight to him being a hero so for all I know even my source is wrong. Wasn't that great of a show either.
Posted: Apr 30, 2006 1:25 PM
The actual story from 1933 is on-line, at http://superman.ws/seventy/reign/?page=1, and doesn't really have anything to do with (a) the Nazis, or (b) a mild-mannered reporter named Clark Kent, who as the last survivor of the doomed planet Krypton is a bulletproof strongman capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound.
Instead, it's that Jerry Siegel thought "SUPERMAN" was a really cool name -- and so applied it here to Bill Dunn, a vagrant who gains tremendous psychic powers by serving as guinea pig for a chemist's experiments, and thereafter sets out solely for himself; he has no special love for Germany and no special hatred of the Jews, he's an American crook who simply aims first for profit and second for personal conquest.
So much for the short story. As for the comics, Siegel and Shuster had the whole thing I was just talking about ready by the time "Action #1" hit the stands: from day one, the character was, well, a mild-mannered reporter named Clark Kent -- who, as the last survivor of the doomed planet Krypton, is a bulletproof strongman capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound.
Posted: Apr 30, 2006 1:30 PM
:shrugs: alright then...
However, there was only one source for the name Superman in 1933 and that was the Nazi party so ... like I said, I never questioned that link when I heard it (especially with the title, "Reign of the Superman").
Can ya blame me?
Posted: Apr 30, 2006 1:39 PM
According to the Wikipedia entry on Superman, (which as you know, checks their facts, and then checks them again...), Nietzche had nothing to do with the name. In any event, the Nazis stole the name, and twisted the idea to their own ends. Nietzsche himself couldn't stand their ilk, who were around in spirit, if not in name even when he was alive.
Posted: Apr 30, 2006 3:11 PM
This reminds me of Chicago comedian Bill Leff's funny assertion a few years back that most of the popular superheroes were Jewish because their names ended in "man" which he pronounced like "mun" (ex. he pronounced Superman like "SUPER-mun".) He then gave a list of other examples:
Posted: Apr 30, 2006 3:35 PM
Just out of left field, I often like to point out that the name Jor-El is a contraction of sorts of Jerome Siegel. So Supes' creative father also applied his name to the father of the character.
I think there was a Harvey Pekar story in which Superman is referred to as a fat, Jewish superhero!
Posted: Apr 30, 2006 4:21 PM
If he was, he would never marry a shiksa like Lois.
Posted: May 1, 2006 11:14 AM
re: "If he was, he would never marry a shiksa like Lois."
Lois has that irresistable "shiksappeal!"
Posted: Apr 30, 2006 7:00 PM
Well, Nietzsche more or less created the ideal that the Nazi's twisted was my point.
Seriously, the Nazis twisted everything. The concept of a super man and a super soldier through physical and religious cleansing, the swastika itself is a mirror flipped image of a Buddhist svastica standing for peace and growth and love blah blah blah blah (kinda brings a new meaning to yin and yang - the nazis literally flipped the image), to the psycho idea of the Aryan's. YOu can blame that nut job woman for the new Aryan "ideal". the real Aryan's are dark skinned dark haired dark eyed people of the mountains, not blonde blue and white.
Nazis twisted everything. Man, then there's the Thules were so freaky-twisted just makes you throw up.
Posted: Apr 30, 2006 11:03 PM
I thought I heard somewhere that Kal-El means "Star Child" in Hebrew. Anyone know if this is true or not?
Posted: May 1, 2006 12:50 AM
re: "Kal-El" actually translates from Hebrew to 'all that is God.'"
Actually, we had a discussion about the Jewishness of Superman (in spirit, if not in actual canon) a while back. I'm sure it's on the boards someplace. The thread title was something like, "If Superman is Jesus, then..."
Superman is, no matter how you look at it, a Jewish ideal--he's the golem, the messiah-type, the Moses who is sent out in a basket (or spaceship) to save the oppressed and the weak.
But yes, the Nietzchean [i.e. Nietzschean] implications of the name "Superman" are clearly there. Personally, I think it's meant to be ironic--the true ideal man turns out not to be an anti-Semitic Nazi type, but instead he embodies the very idea of a Jewish hero. Kind of an in-your-face kind of thing to do, naming him that.
Posted: May 1, 2006 2:43 AM
re: "I thought I heard somewhere that Kal-El means 'Star Child' in Hebrew. Anyone know if this is true or not?"
Nope. The previous poster is right in asserting that Kal-El translates(at least phonetically) to "All that is God."
Elliot Maggin wrote in "The Greatest Green Lantern" that Lara named her son Kal-El, which was Kryptonian for Star Child.
re: "But yes, the Nietzschean implications of the name 'Superman' are clearly there..."
But Nietzsche didn't support German Nationalism or Anti-Semitism. He denounced both ideas. His concept of an Ubermensch was the notion that man should develop his own morality and utilize his Will to Power to become an Overman, sometimes translated as Superman.
Posted: May 1, 2006 9:41 AM
Well yeah, irony infests the name ["Superman"]
But, my point about the subject was it seems to me to say that the original influence of the Nazis on creating Superman seems pretty obvious. You can see the evolution from the name "Reign of the Superman" through to the Action Comics Superman who was kidna callous, into the further refinement of "truth justice and the American way."
I mean, I just wonder, when he was creating the "Reign of the Superman" if he didn't consider all sorts of origins before typing it out. That's why I said, please don't blame me for gettin a little confused on how that story turned out.
Really funny irony there, because the one man in the Nazi party who was taken in by all that crap - Hitler - had some serious neurological disorders leading to extreme mental and physical impurity.
I really liked Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda because the concept of Nietzsche-ism was adopted to a pure form by genetic manipulation of people who broke off the human race and called themselves Nietzschians [or "Nietzscheans"]. It was really neat. [Andromeda included the establishment of an overt, organized Nietzschean religion.]
Posted: May 1, 2006 9:50 AM
I agree with the Moses connection to a degree but not with the golem idea.
The problem with comparing him with Moses is moses was supposed to be a leader with his ear to god.
Superman isn't, he just out there to protect like a cop on steroids.
I don't agree with the golem ideal at all because the Golem was a monster of creation, neither good nor evil and without a will of its own. Anyone who possesses the cryptic words can control it. Superman has none of aspects. Since the golem can be used for destruction as well as preservation I can't even agree that Superman is like a golem in that he protects.
Naw, Superman can be like Moses to an extent but if we're going to be comparing Superman to religious figures, I'd go right ahead and say he's more like Sampson or hrm... I think you can say Gilgamesh.
Notice the curl in his hair?
Of course, Sampson was a freaking loser and he didn't need his curly hair at all, and his wife was trying to more or less snap him out of his idiocy and convince him otherwise, but you know sampson, the loser that he is, he has to blame his wife for taking his strength when he didn't lose it afterall...
You also have Hercules.
The Archangel Michael -- now that's probably more akin to Golden Age Superman than anything else.
Posted: May 1, 2006 11:12 AM
I think "golem" was meant in the sense that Shuster/Siegal created this character and "brought him to life" in comic form as an entity to fight for the oppressed. "Inside" the comics he's not a golem, but as as fictional creation is sort of is.
Posted: May 1, 2006 2:14 PM
Yes, that's how I see it. Will Eisner even said that he saw Superman as a golem type, and I'm assuming it was for the same reasons.
As far as Superman having as much in common with Samson as with Moses, that's just another example of him embodying the messiah-type. He could also be compared to any other number of Jewish heroes. I wouldn't really compare him to Gilgamesh, though, as Gilgamesh was a hero in a very different sense--he sought glory and personal gain, rather than being a champion of the oppressed, like Superman.
Oh, and I didn't mean to imply that Nietzche himself supported the Nazi Party's ideals. I get the difference. But the intermingling of the Nietzschean superman and anti-semitism was already full-blown by the time Superman appeared on the scene. And even if you strip away the anti-semitism from the superman type, you're left with something that is almost inherently anti-Jewish in its thinking--Judaism has traditionally taught the value of the weak, rather than the strong.
When I say "anti-Jewish" there, I don't mean to imply hatred of Jewishness; I mean that it's antithetical to Jewish thinking.
Posted: May 1, 2006 2:50 PM
If you want to stretch the comparison of golem and Superman to that degree I guess you could - but you can also do the same for Punisher, Batman, and Captain Marvel.
Posted: May 1, 2006 5:41 PM
There's also the idea that Superman stands for "truth, justice, and the American way"--and the word inscribed upon a golem's forehead to bring it to life is emet , truth. And the Superman mythos does definitely deal with the theme of hubris that is central to the golem stories.
Still, I don't think the golem is the best representation of Superman's Jewishness. Obviously, Ragman better fits that description. I think the messiah parallel is much more pronounced. But it's important to remember that the idea of Superman fighting to defend the weak and oppressed, while certainly common in comics of today, was not really common then. Superman was clearly portrayed as a powerful champion in the Jewish vein. More recent heroes have all been created in a world in which Superman already exists (albeit fictionally), and owe that similarity to Superman's influence, not to an in-born Jewish ideal. Batman, more or less a contemporary of Superman, wouldn't be considered as much a golem type because he is not a powerful, physical force--instead, he is a man.
Like I said, I think Superman was created in part as a golem type , not to be a golem, but with a clear influence and understanding of the folklore.
Posted: May 1, 2006 6:18 PM
Except again, you're going back to the concept that golems are protectors.
They are not protectors. Golems obey anyone who owns their name - or command word. The Golem just followed orders. I mean, when you read the fable of the golem you gotta read the whole thing, not just the concept that the golem
Also Batman was not modeled after Superman but after zorro (who first appeared long before Superman and was in fact modeled after a real life mexican caballero who made a gang to get vengeance against, wasn't it members of the American Army?). The essence beyond the batman/zorro creation is that their power is a "supernatural" illusion they create.
Like I said, you're stretching it very far for Superman to have any connection with the classic golem.
Wonder Woman is far far better character to compare with a Golem. Especially considering she was stripped from Greek Mythology.
Just because the kids were Jewish doesn't mean their character was made after a Jewish fable, especially since you have to stretch the suspension of disbelief to such a point where you say:
they have two things in common and that's enough for me. 1. Super Strength and 2. They protected people.
Let me also point out that Superman has a weakness, a major weakness. Golems, well traditionally, didn't. None at all. They were brainless monsters that did as they were commanded.
Wonder Woman was created out of clay, woken up with a word, became a daughter, she found a purpose as a protector embassador, has super strength, no real weaknesses, and super invulnerability. I mean, that's a golem.
But nobody calls her a golem because what, she wasn't created by two Jewish kids?
You see my point here? It's just ridiculous from my point to even connect him to a golem.
Superman is better likened to Sampson or Gilgamesh (other old testament dudes), or even hercules, but certainly not a golem.
Posted: May 2, 2006 4:38 PM
Actually, the idea of a golem being a protector is a common part of the folklore--even though it doesn't occur in every tale.
I didn't mean to imply that Batman was modeled after Superman. I said that more recent superheroes were.
I also didn't say that the golem connection was the primary Jewish thing about Superman's character. If you go back and re-read my...
It doesn't really bother me that you disagree with me here, but I don't think the golem connection is such a stretch. A lot of people have made this comparsion before, so I'm in good company.
Sure, you can find a connection to the golem with Wonder Woman if you want, but I don't think Wonder Woman embodies any type of Jewish ideal.
I also think that your comparison of Superman to Samson, Gilgamesh, or Hercules is a bit of a stretch. The point I was attempting to make is that you can find similarities in things even if there are some differences.
I believe that any person with a strong background in and understanding of Jewish tradition would find it hard to dispute the Jewish flavor of Superman as he was presented by Siegel and Shuster. But Jewish culture has had a large influence on contemporary American popular culture, so I can understand if you don't see it. To me, it's obvious.
Posted: May 3, 2006 11:03 AM
Superman doesn't embody Jewish ideals. He embodies general ideals of humanity. I don't see him goin around telling women that their word is less than his because the order of things goes:
Or talking about how he's a son of Isreal, or etc., etc., etc.
In fact, I see nothing Jewish about Superman.
And that's part of the problem I have with past creators going around saying what they think S&S [Siegel and Shuster] were doing, instead of just asking them to begin with while they were still alive.
Calling Superman a golem was and still remains a massive stretch to try and connect a very un-Jewish character with what many people perceive as a very Jewish creation which in fact was ripped off from much older stories about creating someone from clay.
That's why I consider it ridiculous statement to make. It's made for all the wrong reasons.
Especially considering the fact Wonder Woman had far far more in common with the golem -- hell even one of many sources from which the golem idea was stolen. The entire idea of creating someone or man kind out of clay goes way back...
[Much more material about Jewish legends, curly hair, the meaning of curly hair as a symbol of strength among Jews and other religious and ethnic groups, other legendary hero charcters with curly hair, including Samson, etc., etc.]
Posted: May 4, 2006 6:41 PM
Well the only Jewish connection with Superman is in his birth name Kal-El. El is Hebrew for God but I see more of Christ connection for example both resurrected from the dead both have villians Superman has Lex, Christ had Satan. Both were taught to keep there powers a secret to others and to help the common man and to be humble. But I think all the similarities are there by chance and are not intentional.
Posted: May 10, 2006 12:49 PM
Well, of course there are similarities between Superman and Jesus--it's the old Hebraic Messiah theme. Personally, I think it's a lot more than coincidence, but I get that you may not see the Jewish connection.
Posted: May 10, 2006 1:09 PM
I'll assume that we are meant to be discussing Superman as he appeared in ACTION COMICS #1. Well, Kal-L was from another planet, and there was never any indication that the Kents were anything other than rural, American-heartland Protestants. On a deeper level, Superman was certainly inspired partly by Moses and other Messianic figures; but, that doesn't translate to Clark Kent being of the Jewish faith.
Posted: May 10, 2006 6:44 PM
Jerry Siegal did a lot of reading in general magazines--maybe he encountered articles about Nietzche or the Nazi use of the Superman/Ubermensch concept.
However, he is much more likely to have encountered the term "superman" in the Doc Savage pulp magazine. Ads not only referred to Doc Savage as the "man of bronze," but as a "superman." I don't think Doc Savage exactly fit into the Nietzschean concept, either--while he was an extraordinary individual, and he did keep his own private prison/reformatory, he basically, like Superman later, was a defender of the social order, not someone who disdained it or ignored it.
The Superman radio show had Superman arriving on Earth as an adult and going immediately to the big city to find a job. I could see this as a stand-in for Jewish immigrants arriving in America from Russia or Poland or somewhere. But those radio scripts weren't developed by Jerry Siegal, and Siegal himself depicted the infant orphan being adopted by John and Mary Kent. We only saw them in a panel or two in the original story, but they seemed like they were rural Americans of old Yankee stock--real Daughters of the American Revolution material. The Superman novel later elaborated on his childhood, going into detail about his rural, middle-American upbringing.
If anything, this is a fantasy of "old America," not the America of immigrants in big cities. Kind of like all the Jewish movie producers/studio chiefs in Hollywood who produced all those old movies that idealized small-town, middle America--the Love Finds Andy Hardy, proto-sitcom kind of picture that was so popular then. I don't see that Seigal made Superman in any way Jewish, even metaphorically. (He did recall thinking of Samson, as well as Hercules, as strong-men heroes that he "rolled into one" as Superman.)
Posted: May 10, 2006 7:15 PM
Dude, everyone knew about the Superman Nazi ideal -- the Aryan overlords -- long before the war even started. It was the belief that put Hitler in charge of the NSDAP before he even took over Germany.
Posted: May 11, 2006 10:27 AM
re: "I don't see that Seigal made Superman in any way Jewish, even metaphorically."
Well, except for borrowing the whole "Moses in a basket thing" for Kal-L's origin.
Doesn't make Superman Jewish, but he did incorporate elements of Jewish mythology.
Posted: May 11, 2006 12:32 PM
Yes, he did incorporate like two elements. The name, and the basket thing... So I understand that much.
But then the rest of the character is so generic with origins/powers, that's the discussion there.
Posted: May 11, 2006 1:32 PM
re: "Dude everyone knew about the Superman Nazi ideal -- the Aryan overlords long before the war even started..."
So it is your contention that Superman's creators intended him to be a Nazi icon?
Posted: May 11, 2006 4:44 PM
:sighs: I'm too tired to post another explanation.
I'm saying the term and the objective of the Nazi superman was something that sparked the fire. The kid wrote a story about a criminal titling it Reign of the Superman (obvious connection even if he wasn't a Nazi, just look at the name), then it got changed again to a super hero.
Either way I see very little Jewish representation in the character. I see the Moses thing, I see the name Kal El, but I don't see golem (nowhere near a golem), and I don't see religious importance.
I can see Samson. I can see Hercules. I can see the curl, but not the golem.
Posted: May 11, 2006 4:54 PM
Wonder Woman is the golem (quite literally, in fact).
Posted: May 11, 2006 4:57 PM
No way Superman is Jewish. To be a Jew means:
1. Your Mother must be Jewish
2. You converted
We can rule out #1 since his mother is from Krypton. Rule out #2 because thats a long a tedious process that very few undertake and it has never been shown in continuity. Even once someone converts, some Jews do not accept them.
Oh, yeah and
3. Superman is really Satan http://www.supermanhomepage.com/comics/comics.php?topic=articles/superman-satan
4. He's fictional
Posted: May 11, 2006 5:12 PM
You said some false stuff. Just because he is from Krypton doesn't mean his mom can't be Jewish. Also, I'm not saying Superman is Jewish. Yes he has celebrated Christmas specials. I'm saying the Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (both Jews) intended for Superman to be Jewish. Who knows, maybe when a Jewish writer writes for Superman, he may change him to be a Jew like [Siegel and Shuster] originally intended Superman to be.
Posted: May 11, 2006 7:34 PM
Wait, then he's circumcised?
"Rabbi, please use the glowing green izmel."
Posted: May 11, 2006 7:47 PM
I think people are taking this a little too literally. Yes, both of the Superman creators were Jewish and I think Superman's "Jewishness" is on a metaphorical level rather than an actual religious one.
His name, Kal-El is very Jewish sounding. His physical appearance, black hair and blue eyes. He's basically an immigrant who's world has been destroyed and he starts a life in America (yeah, he's a baby but the parallel is still there).
He's the embodiment of the Post WWII zionist Jew and everything young Jewish men wanted to be at the time. He's strong and handsome and brave and most of all, he's American through and through.
So does Superman celebrate Passover? Probably not. But there is no doubt that he has strong Jewish elements in his origin.
Posted: May 12, 2006 6:34 AM
You don't have to be Jewish to celebrate passover. Christians celebrate it too, but it gets overshadowed by Easter because they happen around the same time and of course the ceremonies are diffrent too.
Posted: May 14, 2006 12:04 PM
Yes, this is what I meant earlier when I was talking about the Jewishness of Superman. I meant that he had a Jewish flavor -- at least as Siegel and Shuster presented him. I actually think the Kents are Methodist.
Posted: May 16, 2006 6:52 AM
re: "Seems like a lot of Marvel's heroes are either Jewish or seem to be Jewish."
Well it makes sense right? Most of the creators and artists who really founded the comics medium were and are Jewish.
Men Of Tomorrow: Geek, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book by Gerard Jones and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon are two great books to read on the subject. I really enjoyed them both a lot. Anybody know of others?
Posted: May 16, 2006 7:30 AM
I spent a good amount of time on comics lately, on hero at a time.
My notes as I went a long are:
Supermen came from a Nazi under Hitler who was giving a speech about making super humans.
I saw that the two men behind Superman was working and another project about Supermen but didn't work out.
Then they made Superman in their own image to include the glasses, dorkiness, and careers. They had to have a reason for Superman's powers so he came from space.
So, Superman is made in the image of two Jewish fellas that made him, but I like to think that they made him alien so the whole world would like him.
Plus he has that connection to many people that was sent over to America as an infant, like two of my ancestors.
But, as far as his religion? As long as he's still the Lois Lane-loving guy who stands for truth , justice and the American way, does it matter?
To me Superman is our superhero, there are many like him but that one is ours. Really he belongs to the world because his parents gave him to us.
Posted: May 18, 2006 3:47 AM
Well it makes sense right? Most of the creators and artists who really founded the comics medium were and are Jewish.
Maybe we should start a new thread: "Are comics inherently Jewish?"
Speaking of which, I'm reading Will Eisner's Plot, finally. Anyone else actually read it?
...There is a book by Greg Garrett called Holy Superheroes: Exploring Faith and Spirituality in Comic Books. He's a Christian writer, but the book is really an intellectual/philosophical discussion and doesn't resemble a sermon or a devotional book. In fact, some reviewers criticized it because he doesn't quote the Bible a lot.
Posted: May 18, 2006 4:47 PM
Off of the top of my head, let's see which comic people are Jewish and wat they created or did:
Stan Lee (everything Marvel)
Jack Kirby (same as above and New Gods, Jimmy Olsen, Kamandi, and OMAC)
Joe Shuster (Superman)
Jerry Siegal (Superman)
Gene Colan (Daredevil, Dr. Strange, ...)
Will Wisner (Spirit)
Bill Finger (Batman)
Gil Kane (Green Lantern)
Jeph Loeb (Batman)
Julius Shwartz (Batman, Superman)
Joe Simon (Captain America)
Marv Wolfman (Teen Titans)
Everybody here except loeb have really shaped comics into what they are. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby almost single-handedly created most of Marvel Comics. Many of the most well-known characters in DC and Marvel Comics were created by Jews. GO JEWS!!!
The Chief (jasonrhode) wrote, at 2006-04-10 21:57:00:
From: "Superman Returns" page on "Dean's World" blog website (http://www.deanesmay.com/posts/1146632821.shtml; viewed 29 May 2006):
Here is a list (dubious to me, Superman is obviously Jewish, but maybe that's just me...) of over a hundred comic book characters' religious affiliations.
themansfield, 2006-04-11 08:39 pm UTC:
As far as Superman goes, who the hell says he's Jewish? You can put forth all the crap you want about Superman as an allegory for Jewish empowerment. You can pontificate about the overt Jewishness of his creators, and how they were relating a subtle metaphor about their assimilation amongst the goyims.
I won't buy it until I see a panel with Clark Kent eating a Bagel and celebrating Passover while watching a Woody Allen movie. He was raised by people in Kansas, for crissakes. ON A FARM. IN KANSAS. WHERE NARY A JEW IS FOUND.
jasonrhode, 2006-04-12 09:49 pm UTC:
Dean Esmay wrote:
By the way, although I'm NOT the first person to note this, have you ever noticed how Superman is basically a Jewish superhero?
Think on it for a second. He was invented in the 1930s by two immigrant kids in New York whose parents had emigrated from the old country. His "true name" is Kal-El, which in Hebrew basically translates as "Man-God." Clark Kent is basically a nerdy, wimpy guy with glasses, who is struggling to fit in among the normal human beings of Metropolis, which is basically New York in disguise. He's struggling to fit in, struggling to be accepted, and lusting after All-American Lois Lane. Yet secretly, in a crisis, he can rip off his shirt and glasses and become--Superman! And save the day! Because Superman can do anything! Including making the girl-you-can't-have want you!
Two immigrant kids, both under 20, invented Superman. They were named Joe Shuster and Jerry Seigal, and they were living in New York at the time. Their parents were immigrants, just like Superman, who came to Earth from a distant planet that had been destroyed. They sold the idea to a comics publisher in exchange for a few bucks and a job offer. Yet he's become one of America's most iconic and long-lasting emblems.
Two Jewish immigrant kids from New York, whose parents had fled to America to make new lives for themselves. Is there a more American story?
Jesse Hill, 5.3.2006 3:53am:
[quoting the new "Superman" movie trailer]
Your name is Kal-El.
You are the only survivor of the planet Krypton.
Even though you have been raised, as a human being you are not one of them.
It is now time for you to rejoin your new world, and to serve its collective humanity.
Live as one of them Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed.
But always hold in your heart the pride, of your special heritage.
They can be a great people Kal-El. They wish to be.
They only lack the light to show the way.
For this reason above all, their capacity for good,
I have sent them you... my only son.
Adam R, 5.3.2006 5:39am:
Nitpick: I'm not sure how you can get "kal" to mean "man" in Hebrew. The only thing I know of is "easy" or "light". If "kal-el" were really meant to be Hebrew, I would translate it as "light-godded" (i.e., who has a light god), or "easy-godded".
Ken McCracken, 5.3.2006 7:53am:
Superman was a Jewish superhero eh?
Maybe that is why he had it in for the Klan:
"Folklorist and author Stetson Kennedy infiltrated the Klan after World War II and provided information on the Klan to media and law enforcement agencies. He also provided Klan information, including secret code words, to the writers of the Superman radio program, resulting in a series of four episodes in which Superman took on the KKK. Kennedy intended to strip away the Klan's mystique and the trivialization of the Klan's rituals and code words likely did have a negative impact on Klan recruiting and membership."
Buddy, 5.3.2006 8:39am:
There are a couple of possible meanings, possibly, but the one that makes the most sense is probably the following:
qal kal light; (by implication) rapid (also adverbially): - light, swift (-ly).
Dean Esmay, 5.3.2006 8:45am:
Is Kal possibly Yiddish for man, rather than Hebrew? Because I've read this multiple places, and am surprised to hear it debunked now.
Michael Demmons, 5.3.2006 9:35am:
re: "Superman was a Jewish superhero eh?... Maybe that is why he had it in for the Klan"
Somebody's been reading Freakonomics! :-)
Casey Tompkins, 5.3.2006 11:37am:
Thanks to Jesse for posting the words from the trailer, which leads me to ask:
Am I the only one who notices that Kal-El is a Christ figure? Go back and re-read that last bit:
They can be a great people Kal-El. They wish to be.
They only lack the light to show the way.
For this reason above all, their capacity for good,
I have sent them you... my only son.
Um, hello... ;)
Ronald Coleman, 5.3.2006 12:23pm:
No, Dean, it's not Yiddish. Yiddish for man is mensch or mann.
Derek, 5.3.2006 12:31pm:
Let me add another "twist" to the name game.
Siegel and Shuster named him "Kal-L", no E. The E was added in the 1940s, at the same time that John and Mary Kent became Jonathan and Martha Kent.
So I'm not sure that linguistic analysis of his name means much.
Bryan Costin, 5.3.2006 12:58pm:
Casey, I'm with you. Superman has an awful lot in common with Christ. In fact, I think can combine these two perspectives and say that Superman is a model for the more active, interventionist, and Kingly sort of Savior that many Jews were wishing for in times of oppression.
Ronald Coleman, 5.3.2006 3:24pm:
I think Derek's right on the names. Jor-El, dad o' Superman, has no hope. There is no Hebrew or Yiddish equivalent to the English "J" sound, though if you read the J as a "Y" sound, as in German, you do get the root Y-R in Hebrew which means "awe."
Brian Tiemann, 5.3.2006 5:06pm:
Superman as a Jewish superhero is a well-known concept; it was in fact put forth by the creators as a deliberate, pseudo-satirical response to Hitler's "Ubermensch" stuff.
Adam R, 5.3.2006 8:42pm:
I googled around regarding the Hebrew meaning of "Kal-El". Some also claim it's "Voice of God" or something like "All of God". Both of those are close; they would be "kol", not "kal". It seems to me that someone was trying to force one more piece of evidence that doesn't quite fit into the theory.
Casey Tompkins, 5.4.2006 12:24am:
Being a history geek, I found this site [http://theages.superman.ws/comics.php] a while back. It's chock-full of all sorts of nifty Superman history.
Did you know that originally "Superman" was meant in the Nietzschean sense, as in the clumination of millions of years of evolution?
From: "Passover Wave! Ragman and--?" message board started 13 April 2006 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?forumID=29209087&threadID=2000071426; viewed 1 June 2006):
Posted: Apr 13, 2006 10:10 AM
Any other Jewish Superheroes besides RAGMAN?...
Posted: Apr 13, 2006 10:29 AM
...Superman's a Jew, as are the Weinbergs...
Posted: Apr 13, 2006 10:54 AM
Although often referred to as being a sort of "thematic Jew" (ie, representing the Jewish American immigrant experience), Supes [Superman has equally been linked with Christianity but I don't think the character is actually Jewish (his wedding certainly wasn't). (BTW, forums are hard to interpret sometimes, so apologies if the above post was all jest).
Other Jewish heroes include Atom-Smasher... but I'm not overly familiar with the minutiae of DC lore...
Posted: Apr 13, 2006 11:12 AM
It wasn't in jest, he [Superman] was created by two Jews, as the embodiment of the Jewish Messiah/Superman, and as such, they should be the authority on what his religion is.
Just because some zealot creators warped that fact, doesn't change it.
Superman IS a Jew, I won't accept any other answer, I've debated this with creators, and I'll debate it here.
Until I hear it from the mouths of Jerry Siegel, or Joe Shuster, I will stick to that.
Posted: Apr 13, 2006 12:12 PM
Did S & S [Siegel and Shuster] actually state that, Blister? There were A LOT of Jewish creators back in the day.
Posted: Apr 13, 2006 12:15 PM
Find me a quote.
I looked, I came up bumpkis.
Posted: Apr 13, 2006 6:01 PM
He's not a Jew, he's Kryptonian. Besides, doesn't he worship the sun-god, Rao? I had a friend who believed we should ALL worship the sun...
Posted: Apr 13, 2006 6:20 PM
re: "He's not a Jew, he's Kryptonian..."
Holy Sh-- You're right! Superman is a FREE MASON! Or worse -- a SCIENTOLOGIST!!!
At best, he's a no-good sun-worshipping HEATHEN. Let's beat him to death and dance about on his grave and sing hallelujah!
Posted: Apr 13, 2006 7:30 PM
...I equate Jesus with Superman... I'm an Atheist, so I think it's all bunk...
Me and Mister Terrific... he put it the same way I would...
Posted: Apr 13, 2006 9:04 PM
re: "I equate Jesus with Superman..."
Both came back from the dead too. Thought I was reading The Adventures of SuperJesus for a while there in the 90s.
Excerpts from: "Superman Wedding -- why a Christian ceremony?" newsgroup discussion started 11 October 1996 in rec.arts.comics.dc.universe (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/4d17a1ff0ee9c715/d141c36005b90ea4; viewed 5 June 2006):
From: Jim Cowling
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
OK, so I bought the Wedding Album [featuring the wedding of Clark Kent/Superman to Lois Lane]. It wasn't bad, but man-oh-man, did it seem rushed.
My big gripe: why was it a Christian wedding? I mean, it seems obvious to me that Clark's not a Christian. Sure, he was raised in Kansas by parents who probably are.
But Clark? He's not even human. And somehow Lois strikes me as atheist. :)
- Jim Cowling, moderator, rec.arts.comics.info
From: Joseph T Arendt
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
It doesn't bother me that it was a Christian wedding. Just as you did, I figured Ma and Pa Kent were probably Christians, given their background and past history. I would think this might be enough for Clark to want a church wedding even if he himself seldom goes. As for Lois, I don't know whether she is an atheist or not, but I haven't seen signs she would reject the idea of being married in a church even if she doesn't much care. I'd suspect Clark, the Kansas farmboy, might push harder for a church wedding than Lois, the modern city girl.
What I wonder is what would happen if it had been SuperBOY [Connor Kent] and Tana Moon getting married whether it would have still been a Christian wedding. That would feel out of place to me. Superboy wasn't raised by presumably Christian foster parents and I haven't seen any hints he believes in any religion.
From: Brian H. Bailie
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
re: "But Clark? He's not even human... Any thoughts?"
I'm no great theological scholar, but why must one be human to be a Christian?
From: Mike Chary
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
One argument along those lines is: Christ was incarnated as a human and died for humans... That being the case, Christianity might not hold any resonance for an alien like Superman...
The contary reasoning is: Christ was an incarnation of GOD. Worshipping him is worshipping the King of the Universe (to abduct a title from Judaism). Th same God here as on Krypton. Rao and Elohim are the same God. Therefore to worship one is worshipping exactly the same guy.
Needless to say this is an open question.
From: David Markowitz
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
Interesting. I thought the wedding was exceptionally non-denominational as weddings go. There wasn't a creche anywhere, no references to Christ, and significant deviations from any wedding format I've seen in person (although it did remind me of TV weddings). Other than them putting Jerry Siegel in some sort of ministerial robe, I didn't see anything that could be called exclusively Christian. The hall did look like a church, but Conservative and Reform Jewish buildings frequently appropriate European-church style architecture.
Not fond of the idea of putting a Jewish man in a [Christian clerical] collar for the sake of cheesy commercial sentimentality...
From: Mike Chary
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
re: "...And somehow Lois strikes me as atheist."
Lois and Clark are both too intelligent to be atheists.
From: Elayne Wechsler-Chaput
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
Did you see it [the wedding of Lois and Clark] as Christian? I didn't notice any mentions of Christ (but I'm at work now and the book is at home, so I could be misremembering).
I thought it was a fairly non-denominational religious wedding. Unlike my wedding (and I did marry an atheist), "the G word" (as we call it) [i.e. God] was present [at the wedding of Lois Lane and Clark Kent], but I didn't get the feeling it was a specific religion.
I always figured the Kents were Presbyterian, although I'm not that good at identifying various branches of Christianity. I don't think Lois is an atheist (I don't know that anyone in the DCU is, given the proliferation of gods and godlike creatures about... I mean, Spectre's the Wrath of SOMETHING, right?), but she strikes me as someone for whom religion has been a purely private matter and not all that relevant to her day-to-day interactions, certainly not to her career.
- Elayne (got a kick out of the Jewish minister, though)
From: William H. Sudderth
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
In an (I believe) Roger Stern or Jerry Ordway-written issue several years ago, Clark made a reference to his parents having taught him "religion" as a child. Playing the odds would suggest that he was brought up as a Christian, though the way he's been written postboot indicates more clearly that he respects all religions.
In Dan Jurgens' and Dusty Abell's Armageddon 2001 annual, future-Clark married Lana Lang in a Christian sanctuary.
From: Matthew Daly
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
Clark's been to the Christianesque afterlife -- what's not to believe that he's a Christian? We don't see him going to church every Sunday, but we also never see him going to the bathroom. Does that mean that he holds it in?
Clark was clearly raised with Christian values that he continues to hold. Whether he's a believer or not, people are married in churches with less than that. And if Lois was married by the same priest who confirmed her, then she's got a history in the church as well.
So, it seems to me that the Lanes are Catholic and the Kents are also religious... Methodists, perhaps?
From: Joseph T Arendt
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
...I think Clark Kent might very well be Christian due to his upbringing by Ma and Pa Kent. You'll note that Clark calls himself Superman rather than Superkryptonian. Thus, he might identify with the son of God coming to Earth as a human being more than another Kryptonian who didn't think of himself as a human being.
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
Lois, no doubt, was raised as a Christian. Clark, being from Kansas, probably was to. Thus, a Christian ceremony. I would have no doubt that Clark would probably have had, at least at some time, some major religious questions since he's not human. However, that probably wouldn't be much fun to read in a comic book.
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
One of the key points of the post-Crisis Superman is that he considers himself CLARK KENT, with a secret identity of Superman, not the other way around. He was raised as Clark, lived his formative years as Clark, and only later developed the powers he exhibits today. He considers himself more an American/earthling than a Kryptonian.
Besides, trying to find a priest from the Raoian religion might have taken a while.
From: Joseph T Arendt
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
...Here is food for thought. Superman has had a really long near-death experience back when he was called "dead" in our media. I wonder if that experience affected his religious outlook.
From: Douglas Ethington
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
I always thought that Clark was most likely a Christian - non-denominational, of course, since to specify a denomination would provoke outrage from fans outside the specified one...
From: Len Leshin
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
Actually, the gatefold at the end shows a statue that certainly suggested Christ to me. I wondered about that, seeing as Superman was the creation of two nice Jewish boys.
And of course, in Superman II [the feature film], as Superman flies off after saving the child at Niagra Falls, a woman comments: "Of course, he's Jewish."
So, I'm pretending they're Unitarians. Works for me.
From: Steve De Young
Date: Sat, Oct 12 1996 12:00 am
They are in the United States. Most people I know who have gotten married, Christian or no, have had traditional church weddings. What did you want, a pagan nature ceremony? I think traditional was definitely the way to go.
Date: Sat, Oct 12 1996 12:00 am
I just read that particular issue. It's debatable whether the wedding was actually Christian. I would say non-denominational, at least within the Judeo-Christian-Islamic context - but the imagery was that of a Christian church. (Than again, so is the imagery of most quicky wedding chapels.)
Is Superman/Clark/Kal-El a Christian? I don't know. But here's a very controversial way of looking at it...
Jesus [rose] from the dead; so did Superman.
This is not to say Superman actually believes himself to be Christ. But he could well identify with him on those grounds!
From: Elayne Wechsler-Chaput
Date: Sat, Oct 12 1996 12:00 am
re: "They are in the United States. Most people I know who have gotten married, Christian or no, have had traditional church weddings."
And a great many people I know have been married in a non-religious setting (like a room in a reception hall, as we did when we were married by a justice of the peace) rather than a church.
Date: Sat, Oct 12 1996 12:00 am
Let me note that, generally, the wedding takes place in the BRIDE's home church, if different from the groom's.
Therefore, the question is what religion is Lois Lane? Does anyone doubt--with what we've seen of her parents--that Lois was raised in one of the mainstream Protestant denominations? Given her mother's social outlook, I'd argue for Episcopalian or Methodist.
From: Hernan Espinoza
Date: Sat, Oct 12 1996 12:00 am
The problem is, Clark doesn't think of himself as an alien.
He thinks like a human, because he was raised as a human with NO knowledge that he was alien (he thought the powers were because he was a mutant human) until he was in his 20's. Both of your analyses rest on the fact that Clark's alien-ness would play a big role in his religious beliefs. It would not, because he is alien in name only, he is human in all the ways that would count for where his faith led him.
There is a line...way back in the earliest post-Byrne Superman books... Adventures, I think...where Superman says that his Kryptonian heritage is great, but meaningless, since it was Earth that made him a man. Damn.
From: Vincent Louie - AERE/F92
Date: Sun, Oct 13 1996 12:00 am
Superman knows everything we do. Well, not quite, but not far from it. He knows that God exists in the DC Universe. The most obvious example to think God exists in the DC Universe is that it is explicitely stated in the Spectre. For Superman not to think God exists would be like me not believing in Wayne Gretzky.
As for having a Christian ceremony, that doesn't seem odd to me. Almost all Chinese people I know and know of don't believe in God but they had church weddings - including my parents, aunts and uncles. I am guessing that a church wedding is kinda default unless the couple is very strongly atheist.
From: Vincent Louie - AERE/F92
Date: Sun, Oct 13 1996 12:00 am
Dunno, but that doesn't apply to Kent because he didn't know he was an alien until he was pretty old, and he knows for certain that the God of the Jews/Christians/Muslims exists (is there really any difference between the three faiths other than how they choose to honour their God?), since God exists in the DC universe continuity (Spectre provides inarguable precedence - other stories may be debatable). Since Kent is aware of Spectre, he'd be a moron not to believe in God.
From: Don Brinker's Evil Twin
Date: Tues, Oct 15 1996 12:00 am
Re: "...where Superman says that his Kryptonian heritage is great, but meaningless..."
Actually, it was in Man of Steel (the mini, that is) #6
From: Robert D. Kaiser
Date: Tues, Oct 15 1996 12:00 am
...Clark/Superman respects people of all faiths/ethnicites and species...
...Clark's real parents, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were Jewish!. It was their (Jewish) ethics that created the Superman stories and ethics for the first thirty years or so - the same ethics that Superman displays today.
By the way, Superman's real name is Kal-El, which is happens to be Hebrew for "The Voice of God". Its not known whether this name was given on purpose, or just sounded cool, but it's neat to know.
From: IHCOYC XPICTOC
Date: Wed, Oct 16 1996 12:00 am
There's one obvious technical problem with Superman being Jewish - at least the pre-Crisis Superman, who apparently enjoyed his invulnerability from day one.
From: John P. Selegue
Date: Wed, Oct 16 1996 12:00 am
Maybe, but didn't he used to cut his hair with heat vision and a super-mirror?
From: Andrew Johnston
Date: Wed, Oct 16 1996 12:00 am
Hey, maybe he got circumcised on Krypton! It's possible...
From: Elayne Wechsler-Chaput
Date: Wed, Oct 16 1996 12:00 am
...in a very famous Golden Age issue, Hitler himself said, "This Superman, he must be a Jew!" So there you are.
From: Edward Mathews
Date: Wed, Oct 16 1996 12:00 am
Does it work if you're forcing the Hitler reference? And since when is comicbook Hitler (as opposed to Earth-Prime Hitler) the authority on Superman's ethnicity?
From: Elayne Wechsler-Chaput
Date: Wed, Oct 16 1996 12:00 am
It wasn't a forced reference. It was an actual line from an actual GA book. (I was thinking of submitting it to Mike Chary's "Stupidest Comic Book Line" contest over in racm, but I always got kind of a kick out of it...)
Date: Wed, Oct 16 1996 12:00 am
Although Superman is created by two Jewish men doesn't make him Jewish. Remember that Jack Kirby created the Black Panther for Marvel... who I refer to as one of greatest black super heroes ever created. Jack Kirby wasn't black. I think the idea of creating Superman came from many sources at the time. Shuster and Siegel wanted to create a work of fiction that everyone in the world could relate to. They wanted to create a character to inspire the whole entire world to do better. I think if the character had been black, Latino/a, etc. or even female, the success would've been the same.
...Superman was created to be an external observer to Earthly ways. An the idea of a person being powerful enough to save the world... was very influential to those who fault in WWII.
Remember that Superman as well as other heroes were always on propaganda material... "Buy War Bonds", etc.
I don't think they made Superman to be Jewish. And I don't think Superman is Jewish. I think Superman is the last survivor of a dying world.
I think they incorporated all the best qualities of men and women into a "strange visitor from another planet".
A kryptonian w/ human qualities and powers = Superman
Date: Wed, Oct 16 1996 12:00 am
If Supes isn't Christian then explain why he celebrates Christmas (and in fact goes out of his way to help Santa Claus a few times)... Unless you mean that post-Crisis thing which is NOT Superman but in fact a renegade Fortress robot.
From: anil tandon
Date: Wed, Oct 16 1996 12:00 am
Well, I celebrate Christmas sometimes and I'm not Christian... If nothing else, it's a cool excuse to buy that cool icicle stuff.
Date: Wed, Oct 16 1996 12:00 am
...My take on it is that Clark was raised by Christians, but the particular denomination was left vague so as not to shut out readers of other faiths. I've never seen any evidence to support the assumption that Superman is Jewish. Nothing against Judaism, but that's just not the way Clark was raised, that's all.
Although, if you ask me, it's high time DC had a few more Jewish heroes in their universe. And not these lame-o heroes where the whole basis of the character is they're Jewish ("I'm Dreidleman! Watch me spin these crooks out of the solar system!"). Superhero religion should be a background issue, it's important to the character, but not a huge factor. My Catholisism doesn't come up every day, nor do I go around asserting my faith. So what if Superman's not Jewish? Just because his creators were Jewish, that makes him Jewish? Do all the characters Grant Morrison create have to be white, male and Scottish? What's important is that Superman does what he does, not under what philosophy he does it.
From: Timothy Burke
Date: Thurs, Oct 17 1996 12:00 am
This thread is the kind of thing that I'd just love the folks who maintain the DCU to think about seriously, namely, how would a world where super-powers were pratically the norm be a bit different from our own for ordinary people? You don't have to go the whole hog and make everything radically different a la Miracleman. But as several people have pointed out in this thread, you have the problem on one hand that miracles are commonplace in the DCU: it would be pretty commonsensical to wonder if Christ was simply a metahuman. On the other hand, God and Satan have demonstrable, empirically provable existences in the DCU, not merely as really, really powerful superbeings (which one could dismiss demons and angels as) but as exactly what monotheistic religions say they are, the supreme Creator of the universe and the head fallen angel. I can imagine that one might decide, as Constantine did, that the angels are just as bad as the demons but it would be pure folly in the DCU not to believe in the Supreme Being. Incontrovertible evidence is not very hard to come by in the DCU context. It would be interesting if DC's staff actually took this fact seriously and follow it to its logical conclusions. I say this as an atheist: I wouldn't want to whole thing to turn into some drippingly pious testament...indeed, were I a devout Christian, I might be more than a little bothered by DC's ersatz theology, since God tends to come off as a rather nastily manipulative and schizophrenic Old Testament type in the DCU.
From: IHCOYC XPICTOC
Date: Thurs, Oct 17 1996 12:00 am
FBOFW [for better or for worse], the "For the Man Who Has Everything" annual seemed to suggest that a substantial number of Kryptonians were fundamentalists, and that there was a Kryptonian branch of the KKK.
From: Trevor Barrie
Date: Sat, Oct 19 1996 12:00 am
I'm not Christian, but I celebrate Christmas.
...the pre-Crisis Superman was definitely not Christian. He worshipped the Kryptonian sun god. Post-crisis Supes has never been explicitly placed in any religion, but considering his upbringing, he's probably a Christian of some flavour.
From: Joseph T Arendt
Date: Mon, Oct 21 1996 12:00 am
There was an interesting storyline some years back where Clark Kent uncovered that some Arabs thought Superman was anti-Arab because of his attack on Qurac. In the story about the attack, it seemed Superman had very good reasons for attacking Qurac. Still, I found it interesting that a mere comic book would mention the complexity where some people would assume Superman had acted very unjustly and his actions were racially motivated.
I think this was written by Jerry Ordway...
By the way, I saw an amusing cartoon in the early Eighties. The text said something like, "He came to Earth to save mankind. He accomplished miracles." There was some more like that. Next to this text was a picture of Superman. The final line, indicating the picture, said, "This is not Him!"
Some years later, when Action Comics became Action Comics Weekly, there was a Superman story where a cult decided he was a god. Superman himself was mostly annoyed by this. This storyline strongly reminded me of the This-is-not-Him cartoon.
For more recent readers, the cult that worships Superman appeared in "Funeral for a Friend" and/or "Reign of the Supermen."
From: IHCOYC XPICTOC
Date: Mon, Oct 21 1996 12:00 am
The Billy Graham Evangelical Association, back in 1978, distributed a book published by Bethany Fellowship by John Wesley White, which bore the title The Man from Krypton: The Gospel According to Superman.
The author basically hung a rather standard evangelical tract around familiar elements of the Superman mythos.
If anyone wants to check it out, the ISBN is 0-87123-384-3.
From: Matthew Daly
Date: Mon, Oct 21 1996 12:00 am
re: "...the pre-Crisis Superman was definitely not Christian. He worshipped the Kryptonian sun god."
Great Rao! I thought that was just Supergirl's faith.
From: Robert D. Kaiser
Date: Mon, Oct 21 1996 12:00 am
I... wrote that Superman's real name is Kal-El, which is happens to be Hebrew for "The Voice of God". There are actually two ways this can be interpreted. With the Hebrew letters Kuf,Lamed, it means "The Voice of God". With the letters Kaf,Lamed, it means "All of God" or "Full Divinity" or something to that effect. It probably really doesn't mean anything, as I am sure that Superman was never meant as a divine figure like the Spectre. Its just that Jews often give their children compound names that are like this, i.e. a name followed by "El". For instance, my Hebrew name is "Yirachme-El", which means "May God render compassion".
re: "I've never seen any evidence to suppor the assumption that Superman is Jewish. Nothing against Judaism, but that's just not the way Clark was raised, that's all."
That's absolutely true. I originally wrote my post in response to someone who said that Superman exhibited his idea of Christian morality, which I disagreed with, so I turned the idea around. Superman, post-crisis, is almost absolutely a member some Christian denomination. Its just that his creators, and a few of later writers and editors, were really Jewish, and I thought I could detect that. Pre-crisis, I think he adopted a Kryptonian belief system.
Within the world of the DC Universe, I really doubt Superman believes that all people of other religions are contaminated with an original sin that dooms them all to Hell. [Note: This is an incorrect and non-Biblical interpretation of Christian theology.] He's just not written that way...
From: Andrew Krepela
Date: Wed, Oct 23 1996 12:00 am
Well considering he was raised by an old fashioned couple from rural Kansas, Clark was probably raised as a Southern Baptist or a Methodist. Superman has always been somewhat of a Christ-figure in comics anyway. The fact that 2 Jewish guys created him doesn't mean he would be Jewish. If that were the case 99% of the Marvel and DC Universes would be Jews.
I thought it [the wedding of Clark Kent and Lois Lane] was tastefully done, showing that it was a religious ceremony but not denoting any specific denomination.
From: Jon Ingersoll
Date: Wed, Oct 23 1996 12:00 am
re: "Just out of curiosity, is there any major character in the DC Universe definitely shown as being Jewish?"
For that matter, what characters have been portrayed as having any definite religion?
...Barry Allen and Superman (or probably more precisely Iris West Allen and Lois Lane) were and are Christians judging by their wedding ceremonies. I'd have to look more precisely at the garb to guess Catholic or Protestant.
From: Wayne Clark
Date: Wed, Oct 23 1996 12:00 am
If he [Superman] was raised in the middle of Kansas, he might be Presbyterian or Lutheran.
From: Robert D. Kaiser
Date: Wed, Oct 23 1996 12:00 am
Does it bug anyone that almost every character in the DC Universe is either some kind of generic agnostic or generic Unitarian? I think that these characters deserve real personalities, with real belief systems. Why not let some of the very few Jewish characters actually act like religious Jews, and maybe keep kosher and Shabbat? Why not let the Chrisitian characters go to confession and go to mass? Why not show atheist characters specifically deny having a deistic belief system?
The best religious characterization I have seen in a non-religious story belongs to the characters of "Babylon 5". Although the writer, Joe Michael Stracznyski, is an avowed atheist, he has written the most human and religious characters that I have seen in a long time. Jewish, Christian, Foundationist, Agnostic, and even Alien belief systems are shown with great care, and terrific writing.
From: Vaughn Herbert Seward
Date: Thurs, Oct 24 1996 12:00 am
The "old" Superman, of course, worshipped Rao, but the premise was that He was the same God worshipped by true Christians, Jews, Moslems, and everyone else... (And this was introduced in the '70s; before then, no hints were given.)
And Superman was never as blatant a Christ-figure in the comics as he was in the movie (Jor-El saying everything but "only-begotten"...).
Then there were the novelizations by Elliot Maggin that came out accompanying the first two movies. Last Son of Krypton, and then Miracle Monday (or, The Devil and Daniel Superman). Yes, Christianity has snuck in to the Superman mythos on odd occasions. (Discovering monsters left behind on an island by Noah's Ark...)
Then there's the time we discovered he was the product of selective breeding by the Guardians (hey, with Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, and Columbus in your family tree...)...a Lensman figure? Or the Sword of Superman (an Arthur figure)?
Still, Superman isn't really a Christ figure. Superman vs. Lex Luthor. Captain Marvel (no, not Mar-Vell of Kree, but the Big Red Cheese) vs. Sivana. Hercules vs. Daedalus.
Superman is just your archetypal hero, springing from the same ultimate sources as Conan the Barbarian. Your honest muscleman, fighting sly clever weaklings.
From: Bill Bickel
Date: Fri, Oct 25 1996 12:00 am
If Superman can be assumed to be in any way Jewish just because Siegel and Shuster were Jewish, then "White Christmas" must by extension be a Chanukah song.
From: "Superman is Jewish in origin" message board, started 15 September 2005 on KryptonSite.com website (http://www.kryptonsite.com/forums/showthread.php?threadid=41222; viewed 5 June 2006):
09-15-2005 08:38 PM
Superman is Jewish in origin.
The original creators of Superman in the old, old days were two Jewish guys who used to get picked on a lot as children for being Jewish.
Apparently, they got the idea of Superman (slightly, not largely) from the myth of the golem, the mythical creature who protected Jews from persecution.
They didn't set out to make Superman Jewish, of course, but there are some subtle in-roads that they wanted many Jewish kids to identify with.
Superman is the last of his race. He is, technically, a refugee in a foriegn land. He grows up feeling like an outsider. As a joke, I just want to mention that he comes from a highly intelligent race as well.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, a novel (which won the Pulizter Prize) goes into this.
It's kind of interesting.
09-16-2005 12:36 AM
If you research the history of Superman, he is very much a Jewish creation. The Golem facet is part of it, although there are many parallels between Superman's story and the story of Moshe (Moses) found in the Bible.
The Clark Kent persona also reflects Jerry's and Joe's own identity as the "everyman," someone who is average and not particularly heroic. Clark also has a hard time around women, a problem to which any teenage male can relate. They tapped into their own longing to be something greater by having Superman be the alter-ego of the "mild-mannered" Clark Kent. Superman is not only the defender of the weak. He's also a very popular man. Every man in town wants to be him. Every woman in town wants to marry him. It's an escapist fantasy that taps into the longing of young children, particularly young boys. It's also one of the reasons why Superman was such a huge success.
As for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, I had the chance to read that novel recently. Although there is one plot twist that I don't really think is necessary, overall I found the novel to be engaging and entertaining. I very much enjoyed Michael Chabon's writing style, and as a comic book fan, I loved the references to the Golden Age.
09-16-2005 02:39 PM
Wooooooow. I never new that Superman was created for that reason. Boruch hashem for them!
09-16-2005 04:56 PM
I forgot to mention the fact that Joe and Jerry were the children of Jewish immigrants. This gave them a sort of duel identity and a status as outsiders. You can clearly see this in Clark Kent, as well as in Superman. He is, after all, an immigrant.
09-16-2005 06:45 PM
So Superman is the reflection persona of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster?
I guess that, when they first created the Man of Steel, they didn't knew what they were making: A legend...
09-17-2005 10:35 PM
Superman was Protestant. Check out the old old comics. They never specified what faith exactly but there is at least one comic with him going to services. I found this out in Wizard Magazine.
09-17-2005 10:43 PM
Can you please find out which comic that is, because I'd be very interested to know. The only time I remember him going to church is when he got married in Superman: The Wedding Album. It appeared like an Anglican church to me. I say this because I think I recall that the minister wore the garb of an Anglican or Catholic priest, but since there were no signs in the church indicating it was Catholic, I just assumed it was Anglican. I know there are a few other Protestant denominations where the pastor wears a priest's garb (I'm sorry, I can't remember the name of the clothing now, but it's the white collar), especially for certain occasions.
If you look way back in the Golden Age, though, I doubt you'll find any specific references to Christianity. Jerry and Joe were both Jewish. Not that it wouldn't be logical to assume that Clark was raised as a Christian, given that he grew up in Kansas.
09-18-2005 01:27 AM
re: "Superman was Protestant. Check out the old old comics..."
Oh, [expletive] off you anti-semite. Superman doesn't have a religion. And he's definitely not Christian with all the intergalactic stuff he's been exposed to.
Not to mention that one of his good friends is linked to the ancient Greek gods.
09-18-2005 01:38 AM
re: "...you anti-semite..."
Watch your mouth, I'm not anti-Jew. Read your history, I'm just quoting Wizard Magazine. If you have to know, Jewish people are God's chosen people so I won't say a bad thing about it. I'm just quoting fact.
re: "Can you please find out which comic that is..."
I'll have to check my Wizard mags. And you're right, it was a special that wasn't included into the main titles which is why it's a bit more obscure. But yeah, they never made it a point because it really doesn't matter. Superman is a good guy. But I'll look into it for you.
09-18-2005 01:39 AM
I don't think someone's an anti-semite because he/she referred to one panel of Superman doing some Protestant thing. I could be wrong, but probably not.
Superman is very much a creation of his writers and handlers. In the Golden and Silver ages, that would be Siegel, and Weisenger. Later, Maggin and Waid seemed to incorporate Christian themes into their work. For example, CW Saturn is a nemesis based on Satan, who only certain groups of Christians believe in.
But Julius Schwartz was editor at the time. Lots of good Jews to choose from! And not only Jews... John Byrne's primary religion is John Byrne, and Alan Moore now believes that all religious stories are true, but was an atheist when he wrote his first Superman stories. Hooray diversity!
09-20-2005 03:33 PM
Woah, your mouth! I'm Jewish and i even know he was not being an anti-semite. He was simply stating that he noticed something from somewhere else. When he saw your post, he then thought he saw something different somewhere else so he was just sayng what he saw. No need to go balistic. If he was an anti-semite would say soething bad about you, which he did not.
09-18-2005 01:54 PM
I alwasy thought Superman was a Raoist, or at least the pre-crisis verison was. Wasn't Rao the God of Krypton or something?
Yeah, post-crisis I'm quite certain He'd be a Protestant of some kind and Linda Danvers of course is a Methodist.
But you are right, CK, There are a great many parallels with Superman and Moses, and there is no doubt in my mind that Superman's creators orignally intended him to be a Moses-like figure.
09-18-2005 02:46 PM
Well spoken, in Kingdom Come that was part of the influence.
09-18-2005 11:33 PM
I'm just starting to read an excellent book on this - or around this topic. "Men of Tomorrow", about the creators of Superman, and their immigrant story. Super stuff, recommend it to anyone.
09-19-2005 03:16 AM
You know, Lex probably isn't convinced that there is a God. But it makes sense that CK [Clark Kent] was Protestant given his upbringing. Another reason for the two to clash. They adhere to a different sets of morals. CK's are more in line with a slightly conservative background while Lex adheres to the Luthor set.
09-19-2005 06:00 PM
I can't believe how few people knew that his creators were Jews. Heck, the whole comic industry is DOMINATED by them.
I'm sure Superman's folks gave him a Judeo-Christian upbringing but, yeah the Kryptonians were sun worshipers of a sort.
Being a sort of a god himself, I still think he's got a very humble spirituality, regardless of his intergalactic exploits. Hey, that's just part of what makes him super.
Now Lex? THERE'S a guy who swears up and down that he's God!
09-19-2005 10:14 PM
re: "They adhere to a different sets of morals. CK's are more in line with a slightly conservative background while Lex adheres to the Luthor set"
Er... guess it depends how you define "conservative." Lex is definitely the conservative, business type, whereas Clark can see an aura around all living things, farms, and is a minority. Plus, that whole Superman philosophy of his, his "champion of the oppressed" Jewish creation, and his mission for President Kennedy make him a really bad conservative.
Usually characters like Superman and Green Arrow would be put into a category of characters with a more liberal philosophy. (Superman refuses to kill anyone, after all.) Conservative characters would be Batman, the Watchmen, etc. That's why Batman and Superman are such good opposites.
But enough political science for today. What did I just do?
09-19-2005 11:19 PM
I was implying socially [conservative]. I don't think any characters outside of Green Arrow care about politics, because all politicians are the same on the inside. I know that his creators were Jewish too but that's not what they were trying to accomplish. They wanted a hero who stood up for the American way of life, and being in 1930's America, knew it would never sell if he was anything but Protestant. But Superman's ideals are bigger than any label. But he was a farmer and farmers tend to be conservative politically. I'm from the Midwest and they are all Republican. You know, prolife and Lower Taxes. The important thing is that Superman values all life regardless of politics.
09-20-2005 12:10 AM
As far as Joe and Jerry creating a Protestant character, I still haven't seen any concrete evidence that this is the case. I don't think his religious upbringing is specified, although in the political and cultural climate of the 1930s and 1940s it would not have been accepted to have an overtly Jewish character promoting American ideals. Anti-semitism was far more widespread in those days...
As for Kansas, you might find it surprising that Kansas was once a bastion of relatively liberal populism. Kansans have not always been as conservative as they are today.
These labels "conservative" and "liberal" are defined in strange ways, in my opinion. Personally, I'm "conservative" on the issues of abortion and homosexuality, but "liberal" on most other issues, like economics, foreign policy, etc. We always have to be careful when we box people into certain generic molds, because there are always deviations.
09-20-2005 01:28 PM
You would have to be a Conservative in order to be a vigilante. The problem is all comic book writers are Liberals (at least today), so they don't understand this.
...I believe [Superman: A Man] For All Seasons is the comic that shows Clark being raised Protstant.
Anyway, and about someone's comment on Luthor... If you think him being a billionaire must make him Conservative I suggest you look at Ted Turner.
09-21-2005 06:33 PM
Many people, many times have described the connection between the story of Superman and Jewish traditions.
Here's a couple more:
Superman: Man of Shetl
HOW THE JEWS CREATED THE COMIC BOOK INDUSTRY
Part I: The Golden Age (1933-1955)
Here's some more interesting trivia:
Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster not as a hero, but as a villain. Their short story "The Reign of the Superman" concerned a bald-headed villain bent on dominating the world. The story did not sell, forcing the two to reposition their character on the right side of the law. In 1935, their Superman story was again rejected by newspaper syndicates wanting to avoid lawsuits, who recognized the character as being a slightly altered Hugo Danner, the lead character from Philip Wylie's 1930 novel Gladiator. An upstart publishing company, DC Comics printed another of their creations, Dr. Occult, who made his first appearance in New Fun Comics #6, October 1935. DC decided to take a chance with Superman, figuring if any lawsuits were filed, they would just drop the feature.
The revised Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1, June 1938. Siegel and Shuster sold the rights to the company for $130 and 3 free nights at a popular New York brothel. The Saturday Evening Post reported in 1941 that the pair was being paid $75,000 each per year, still a fraction of DC's Superman profits. In 1946, when Siegel and Shuster sued for more money, DC fired them, prompting a legal battle that ended in 1948, when they accepted $200,000 and signed away any further claim to Superman or any character created from him. DC soon took Siegel's and Shuster's names off the byline.
09-21-2005 09:59 PM
...[Superman] can't be vocal about his feelings as Superman because people view him as a god. He knows that if he were to start speaking his personal beliefs people would either live by it or chastise him. That's not what Superman wants, he wants to be one of us not above us. Plus, he is not a minister. But check out Jim Lee's Superman run: [Superman] clearly believes in God and realizes that his greatest sin was playing god, even if that wasn't his intention.
09-22-2005 11:59 PM
In the latest story by Azzarello and Lee, Superman admits that his greatest sin was trying to save the world. I feel he was saying that that was God's job and not his. He is after all a man. The story was seen through the eyes of a priest who was dying from cancer.
09-27-2005 01:37 PM
...in the Supergirl Saga Superman did the (in his opinion) unpardonable sin of killing 3 people. Now mind you, the people Superman killed were mass murdering Kryptonians much more powerful then him that had just destroyed All life in the universe save him and Supergirl while threatening to do the same to Earth, But to Superman killing is killing.
He felt so guilty about this that he went on a pilgramage through space trying to find absolution for his sin.
In my opinion, it is Superman's one great regret in his life. Yeah, the trying to take over the world thing was bad, but he was mind-controlled at the time. For the killing, Superman CHOSE to Kill, and to a certain extant it still haunts him to this day.
09-27-2005 02:26 PM
If you discount the late eighties and early nineties, the oddball in Superman history, Superman has always been seen as a righteous man. Mark Waid refers to his "super morality," Elliot Maggin wrote an entire novel about Superman battling the Devil, and Siegel always wanted Superman to be a role model...and he is. We even consider Christopher Reeve a role model, because he played Superman in some movies.
Superman is inherently good, perhaps unlike Earthlings. But that doesn't mean that he doesn't occassionally need grace. Alan Moore's Superman stories are full of this concept: at one point, Superman could not have made it without the help of Swamp Thing. In "the last Superman story" when he committed, um, imp-slaughter, he retired.
Superman needing help was the backbone of World's Finest Comics, and he was prone to moral failures and oversights, as in Elliot Maggin's "Must There be a Superman?" It is interesting to note, however, that when he finally married Lois, in "Superman Takes a Wife," that the wedding ceremony was conducted in the name of Rao.
What Rao represents is another discussion altogether.
09-27-2005 11:30 PM
The great thing about Superman's morality is that it is inherent to his character. It's not a put-on, and its never self-righteousness. He simply is what he is: a moral force in a world of immorality. It is no mistake that the morality he espouses, at least in large part, can be derived from the outlines of the Hebraic moral code found in the Torah.
As for Rao, I've always found his presence in Superman comics as off-putting and strange. I can see Rao in the context of Kryptonians who grew up on Krypton and identify as Kryptonians, but the Byrne Superman identifies with human beings first. This has started to change in a limited sense with Birthright, but it's still mostly in place.
Personally, I hated the recent re-introduction of the phrase "Great Rao!" I can't remember if that was Seagle, but perhaps someone can check on that for me. Anyway, as I've indicated above, it just seemed way out of character for Superman. Beyond that, Byrne Kryptonians ceased Rao worship long ago. I'm not quite sure about Birthright Kryptonians, but they seem similarly science-oriented, throwing out the sun-worshipping cult of Rao. I'd like to see more development of the post-Birthright Kryptonian backstory in order to explain this ambiguity and many other unanswered questions.
09-28-2005 01:53 AM
Byrne is over. Nobody has really cared about the Byrne Superman since Kingdom Come. I think Birthright had a baby in a ship, instead of an embryo, which would be different in that he would have had at least some early exposure to Krypton.
From: "Religious Inclinations of heroes" message board, started 1 March 2005 on StarDestroyer.net website (http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?t=63632; viewed 8 June 2006):
Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 6:38 pm
Post subject: Religious Inclinations of heroes
...Superman's religion has always been left up in the air - Silver Age Supes was a believer in Kryptonian religion but retconned Superman has been left ambigiously religious...
What about other heroes? I notice religion rarely plays a part in mainstream superhero comics (absent things like the Vertigo line) but have you ever picked up on hints or outright admissions by some heroes as to their religious inclinations?
Seems that atheistic heroes are as rare in comics as in real life. If they are religious it's a sort Judaeo-Christian wishy washy sort of religion...
Posted: Sun Mar 20, 2005 12:01 am
...The old Superboy (1960s) may be Christian, as he "memorized both Testaments of the Holy Bible," according to an editor's letter.
From: "Muslim characters in comics" message board, started 22 January 2006 in Batman discussion board area of official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000059913&start=15&tstart=0; viewed 9 June 2006):
Posted: Jan 24, 2006 8:46 AM
I remember posting about this back on Version 1 and 2 of these boards.
I remember posting about an Elseworlds Superman (in the Superman board and the then Elseworlds board)...
(Myself, I've written a narrative and a comic script of a "Muslim Superman", which a lot of non-Muslims have liked, but it'll never see the light of day in the form of a comic. *sniff*)
From: "Batwoman Is Back as a Lesbian" message board started 1 June 2006 on "The Giant in the Playground" website (http://www.giantitp.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=comics;action=print;num=1149174700; viewed 12 June 2006):
Post by Ing on Jun 2nd, 2006, 11:17am
Technically "fundamentalist" isn't a religion; it's a point of view... but I think you meant Evangelical Christians. Some include:
Superman: with the small town Christian values...
From: "Banned for using this nic" thread began 4 Apri 1999 in rec.arts.comics.dc.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/f38288dc4e56542/8a873a0a53da3d0d; viewed 12 June 2006)
Date: Tues, Apr 6 1999 12:00 am
re: "[What is the religious affiliation of] Superman?"
His wedding was in the Christian tradition, but left deliberately unspecific. He's probably Anglican by upbringing, but doubt that anyone at DC wants him coming out as any one specific denomination.
From: "The religions of comic book characters" thread started 10 February 2001 on rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe/browse_thread/thread/13590fda80c5d6e1/e5e0b094ced80f0b; viewed 12 June 2006):
From: Terry McCombs
Date: Sat, Feb 10 2001 6:35 pm
For the most part you don't get much of an idea as to the private lives of most comic book characters. Marvelish soap opera not withstanding.
What I mean is you don't get much of an idea what their politics or religion might be. This is sensible enough I guess as they don't want to offend any of their customers.
From time to you see things, whenever DC has shown Superman or Batman being married they always seem to have someone in a white collar officiating. Are they saying they are Catholic? or Episcopalian? Or that they just wanted someone religious looking doing it?
...What do you think?
From "TS: Liberality For All vs. DMZ" discussion page started 30 November 2005 (http://ilx.wh3rd.net/thread.php?msgid=6419391; viewed 13 June 2006):
Huk-L (handsomishbo...), November 30th, 2005
The simple fact is, for the vast majority of people on this planet, God is an accepted reality.
To me, to have every hero in the Marvel/DC universe, even those with religious origins (such as Ragman) to not be affected, motivated, or even visibly belive in those beliefs, lessens the characters.
I agree that the character's religion should not be arbitrarily decided, but given his background, upbringing, and history, I think it's a safe bet that Superman is some sort of Protestant, even if non-practising...
From: Daniel Pulliam, "Religion in comic books", posted 14 June 2006 on "Get Religion" blog website (http://www.getreligion.org/?p=1679; viewed 14 June 2006):
[Reader comments section for this article]
Posted by Katie Q at 11:59 am on June 14, 2006:
As a fairly religious comic reader, this sort of stuff has always been of interest to me. Unfortunately, comic book religion is of a messy and flexible substance, tending to vary from writer to writer in any given series. No hero, even the ones with a noted religion, is devout. Of course, the iconic and universal nature of super heroes precludes any of the major characters being overtly religious (save Wonder Woman, who practices an unorthodox religion, to say the least); most heroes who actually do have a religion at all tend to have ones that are ethnically defined. Thus, Elektra is Greek Orthodox, Italian-American Huntress (from Birds of Prey) is Catholic, and there are a small number of nationalistic Jewish and Muslism heroes.
Other than the iconic nature of the characters, the universes they live in tend to discourage religion. These characters regularly fight with or alongside demons, gods, and magical beings of all kinds -- none of whom seem to acknowledge the existence of a higher deity; not to mention that the universe is regularly threatened with destruction, and no "God" ever intervenes or even seems to notice. (One exception to this is the recent introduction of a guardian angel-turned-super hero named Zauriel to the Justice League.) So on the whole, comic book reality itself is hostile to any traditional, dogmatic defintion of God.
Posted by girlfriday at 12:42 pm on June 14, 2006:
I am not a comic book reader so I may be accused of being a poser.
But if the super-hero movies are any indication then I agree with Katie that a traditional, dogmatic definition of God is lacking. But these movies, almost exclusively it seems, clearly delineate between good and evil. The baddies seek destruction; the goodies, the best for mankind. The baddies pursue outcomes that will benefit only themselves; the goodies seek justice. For the baddies, the ends always justify the means; for the goodies, even the death of a bystander is a minor tragedy. The baddies kill; the goodies save.
These are shades of Judeo Christian ethics.
(Though the public still operates under the myth that Jesus came, like Superman, to "show us our capacity for good." The cross seems superfluous then, doesn't it?)
Posted by Katie Q at 1:33 pm on June 14, 2006:
Absolutely. Comics are steeped in ethics and morals of a Judeo-Christian origin. I didn't mean to make it sound like comics are an intentionally godless art; heck, a long-running super hero, The Spectre, is the actual Wrath of God incarnate, and his series has often been used to explore issues on a cosmic level.
Comics have always implemented religion, both in symbols and spirit, in their stories and characters (To think of a weird example, in the DC Universe, where Batman and Superman live, Adolf Hitler used the spear Christ was pierced with to stave off heroes from invading Europe in WWII.). It's just that religion in a doctrinal or even an organizational sense (and therefore, "God") doesn't exist in comics much at all. It's not a bad thing, per se; just, on a personal level, it makes it difficult for me to believe the reality of the stories.
Posted by Avram at 1:41 pm on June 14, 2006:
...Superman's native Kryptonian name is Kal-El - and "el" is Hebrew for "of God" and comes at the end of many angels' names...
Posted by Tyler Simons at 4:52 am on June 16, 2006:
Bill's speech about Superman at the end of Kill Bill V.2 has Christological overtones, I think:
Superman stands alone. Superman did not become Superman, Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he is Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red S is the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears, the glasses the business suit, that's the costume. That's the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He's weak, unsure of himself. . . he's a coward. Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race, sort of like Beatrix Kiddo and Mrs. Tommy Plumpton.
Posted by Creighton at 7:52 am on June 16, 2006:
Yes, it Superman is a Christ figure who in the early nineties died to save the world from an unbeateable foe and came back to life. This is obvious. . . but of course he fails on so many levels. After his supposed resurrection, Superman makes the decision to kill and must live with the psychological trauma that comes from this act. Then he is in a galactic war that traumatizes him even more.
Superman is not what he was. Less in power and in morals, the image he had from the 1950 into the 90's has been lost. Something like the moral climate of our society.
Posted by c.tower at 8:22 am on June 16, 2006:
As for Superman: when anyone mentions him, I have to ask: WHICH SUPERMAN ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? Forget his close to 70 year history: THIS YEAR ALONE, the public will see the new movie, the ongoing SMALLVILLE TV series, TWO seperate animated versions (the just-ended JUSTICE LEAGUE series, and the upcoming LEGION OF SUPERHEROES fall series), and the comic book version- which just ended a storyline (INFINITE CRISIS) featuring multiple incarnations of the character! I find the title SUPERMAN RETURNS ironic; the character's never gone away (He's appeared in at least 7 tv series in the past 20 years!) Is Superman the Messiah? If he isn't, just wait five minutes and a new one will show up. What's interesting about this is really how GENERIC he is, with no interesting quirks or even a decent "Rogue's Gallery" of villians. It's as if people WANT him to be blank, so they can turn him into whatever they want. . .
Posted by Katie Q at 9:53 am on June 16, 2006:
...And, also, as we've stated multiple times, comics work best in metaphor. As plenty of you guys have noted, Superman is a messiah figure (though, personally I like to think of him more as the Ultimate Immigrant)...
Wade Rockett says:
June 30, 2006, at 3:23 pm
SF writer Cory Doctorow portrayed a culturally Jewish Superman in his short story "The Super-Man and the Bugout". (His secret identity is Hershie Abromowicz, and he catches hell from his mother whenever he's late for Sabbath dinner.) Unfortunately, it doesn't touch on religion except to poke a little fun at Quaker peace activists.
I've noticed that the Marvel Comics universe tends more toward polytheism, whereas the DC universe is sort of Manichaean - there's God, a personal supreme force of Good who commands angels and to whom people pray under various names; and there's a Hell populated with demons and the souls of the damned, ruled by the fallen angel Lucifer. But in one Swamp Thing Annual by Alan Moore, a supreme force of Evil that is said to have existed alongside the Light before the beginning of time enters the universe and threatens to destroy it. It's a fascinating story, as the major supernatural characters in DC comics answer the evil entity's question, "What am I?" in different ways. The climax suggests that Good and Evil have a symbiotic relationship.
One great superhero comic that tackles religion head-on is the Nexus "God Con" miniseries, in which gods both major and minor gather at a conference to discuss and settle the Problem of Evil. I loaned the series to my priest, who noted that the only god that Nexus addresses as "Lord" is Jesus -- and two other gods who show up claiming to be Jesus are dismissed as false Christs and banished by Him with a word. Best moment: Jesus greets Yahweh with, "Hi, Dad."
From: Bill Craig (founding and senior pastor of Summit Trace Church in Frederick, Maryland), "Comic Faith", posted 14 June 2006 on "Bill Craig" blog website (http://billcraig.blogspot.com/2006/06/comic-faith.html; viewed 14 June 2006):
In a recent article of the latest Newsweek Magazine, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13249146/site/newsweek/ under "Belief Watch" I discovered that many of my childhood comic book superheroes are "religious". Now I don't know what church they may attend and even if I did I would have to be discrete to protect their identity. What fascinates me is that as super as they are they still place a faith in something greater than they are. Newsweek tells me that Peter Parker is a Protestant, Superman is Methodist -- that Midwest clean look gave him away... http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html You can see a complete list here.
From: Steve Kurian (an Eastern Orthodox Christian), "Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters", posted 12 June 2006 on "Steve Kurian: engineer... wandering skeptic... street theologian" blog website (http://stevenkurian.blogspot.com/2006/06/religious-affiliation-of-comic-book.html; viewed 14 June 2006):
From: Chris Well, "Comic Book Faith", posted 13 June 2006 on "Learning Curve" blog website (http://chriswellnovelist.blogspot.com/2006/06/comic-book-faith.html; viewed 14 June 2006):
(Because you really needed to know)
I'm not really this into comic books, but as this is the Summer movie season, comic book characters have been coming up over and over again. So apparently Adherents.com has categorized the religious affiliation of a good number of comic book heroes, obscure and otherwise... Superman is a Methodist, Batman is a lapsed Episcopalian or Catholic, and The Thing is Jewish, just to name a few.
Beliefnet has an interesting piece [link to: http://www.beliefnet.com/features/comicbookfaith.html] on the religious affiliation of various comic book characters, with links to essays that use actual story instances to make each case. The roundup includes Superman (Methodist), Wolverine (Buddhist) and The Thing (Jewish), among others.
From: reader comments accompanying "Holy Superheroes" article, written by Steven Waldman and Michael Kress, posted 12 June 2006 on BeliefNet.com website; reprint of "Beliefwatch: Good Fight" article published in Newsweek, 19 June 2006 issue (http://www.beliefnet.com/story/193/story_19306_1.html; viewed 14 June 2006):
6/13/2006 12:09:02 AM
I always thought of Superman as a Jewish character. I mean c'mon his name is "Kal-El". But I always thought he was some sort of Protestant Christian by faith due to his adoptive earth parents. I don't think Superman originally was a Jesus figure. in the original comics, he struck me more as a Moses figure. Someone whose parents ship him off when their people are being destroyed, he's picked up, adopted, raised among natives, and then uses his powers for good, justice, truth.
6/13/2006 2:57:59 AM
It just made of person and let him be whatever the reader of that moment wish him to be. Honestly people get a life and realized it does not matter really. Let us debate things that do matter rather than a made-up story. I personally think this movie will not be good since it is taking a new view of Superman.
6/13/2006 11:34:54 AM
Actually Superman is based on the story of Moses. His creators said that much. His Earth parents are vaguely Christian.
6/13/2006 3:14:15 PM
What a great topic! As with other types of diversity -- race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. -- readers like to see themselves represented in comics.
It's also good for comic books to represent minority groups in mainstream media, simply because it helps humanize a group that the majority might not be familiar with. For example, the Thing from the Fantastic Four was an early Jewish superhero (whether it was well-known or not).
Just like anything, religion is an aspect of a person's identity and adds a layer of interest and complexity to their story.
6/14/2006 10:11:02 AM
Granted Superman is based on Moses, I would propose that Spiderman has some deep roots in David. His struggles and angst over friends and family seem to bear a resembelance to David's.
Drpsionic raised an intersting question - what do you suppose the belief backgrounds are for supervillains? The Red Skull, Lex Luther, and Doc Octopus must have some history or belief that supports (or torments?) them. Any thoughts? ...
From: Jan Edmiston (a self-identified Presbyterian), "Where Would Mutator Worship?", postd 14 June 2006 on "A Church for Starving Artists" blog website, part of the "Presbyterian Bloggers" webring (http://churchforstarvingartists.blogspot.com/2006/06/where-would-mutator-worship.html; viewed 14 June 2006):
Let's turn our attention to superheroes -- both male and female. Little did we know that they had religious affiliations.
Newsweek reported this week that Superman is Methodist and The Thing is Jewish. You, too, can find the affiliation of your favorite Super Hero at [link to Adherents.com website]...
From: Joshua, "Superhero Religions", posted 14 June 2006 on "Carpathian Kitten Loss" blog website (http://kittenloss.blogspot.com/2006/06/superhero-religions.html; viewed 14 June 2006):
In this week's Newsweek periscope [link to Newsweek article: "Belief Watch: Good Fight", http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13249146/site/newsweek/], there is an odd piece on the religions and presumed religions of superheroes. In fact it lists them, though mostly based on guesses. It also compares Superman to Jesus Christ, which I suppose sort of works, except not really because Jesus didn't fight and shoot lazers from his eyes. Still, I see where they are coming from.
Not sure what brought this up now, but I thought it was pretty funny if not weird. For most comic book characters, their religion is deliberately never mentioned in the books, because who cares?
According to the list, which is taken from a website called Beliefnet.com [link to http://www.beliefnet.com/features/comicbookfaith.html] Superman is Methodist/Kryptonian, Spiderman is Protestant and Batman's either Episcoplian or a lapsed Catholic (huh?)
In the Jewish corner is the Thing, Kitty Pryde and villian Magneto.
In all honesty, I think as a kid I'd have been happier not knowing.
The irony, if that's the right word, is that most of the early comic heroes were created by Jewish artists. They did Superman, Spiderman, the X-men and apparently Batman.
Superman, whose Kryptonian name is Hebrew-as are those of his parents-was a relatively clear metaphor for the mid 20th century Jewish immigrant experience. He left a war ravaged nation for a new country, where like many of these comic book creators, he reinvented himself with an Anglo-American name. Growing up in the midwest of course he'd be Christian, though I would have assumed Lutheran.
The most interesting thing I turned up while doing a Google search for this post is that in the movie Superman II, after Superman rescues a young boy, a woman behind him can be overheard saying, "What a nice man. Of course he's Jewish."
From: conger, "Which superhero would you see on Sunday?", posted 15 June 2006 on "Think Tankers" blog website (http://thinktankers.wordpress.com/2006/06/15/which-superhero-would-you-see-on-sunday/; viewed 15 June 2006):
Who said this? "They can be a great people. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all - their capacity for good - I've sent them you, my only son." God in a new very modernization of the Bible? Nope. Marlon Brando in the 1978 verison of Superman.
Check out this article via Newsweek [link to: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13249146/site/newsweek/] about the book The Gospel According to the World's Greatest Superhero.
Plus, which superhero would you see at the end of the pew on Sunday? [link to: http://www.beliefnet.com/features/comicbookfaith.html]
From: Mirtika, "Is Superman a Methodist?", posted 15 June 2006 on "Mirathon" blog website (http://mirathon.blogspot.com/2006/06/is-superman-methodist.html; viewed 15 June 2006):
Is Superman Jewish, Methodist, or a Christ figure? Newsweek is examining the matter.
A discussion on this has popped up on the Christian Fandom mail list. And I came across the subject over at GetReligion...
From: reader comments to "No Sunday School In Smallville", posted 12 June 2006 on "Tales to Mildly Astonish" blog website (http://talestomildlyastonish.blogspot.com/2006/06/no-sunday-school-in-smallville.html; viewed 15 June 2006):
There's only a few defenses I could give for the obscurity of genuine religious practice in comic books. It's difficult to reconcile the competing claims of say, Thor with those of Christianity (in the comic book world, at least). It's also difficult because each hero is supposed to maintain a broad appeal. Now I'm of the opinion that most of us are reasonable adults and you could make a favorite hero a Muslim, a Buddhist, an atheist, or a Christian without driving away readers as long as it was treated intelligently. But because religious values are so dearly held, I do wonder if it wouldn't alienate a Jewish reader if Superman was a Christian or a Christian reader if he was an atheist...
The way to get around this difficulty is to avoid the specific faith of the real icons like Superman (Supes has been treated consistently in the last few decades as a Christ figure, and also once as a Golem in a fitting tribute to his creators. But I see no reason why you wouldn't empahsize the Catholocism of Nightcrawler or the Jewish faith of Kitty. It didn't repel fans of X2 in the first example.
From: MidnightRanter, "Villains and Votes", posted 15 June 2006 on "Internet Free DC" blog website (http://midnightranter.livejournal.com/64702.html; viewed 16 June 2006):
No, this is not the usualy rant about the terrible things that people do to get votes or the terrible things people do while in office. This was inspired by an article on CNN about superheroes and religion [link to: http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/Movies/06/14/film.supermanchristfigure.ap/index.html]. There was a similar article on MSNBC. All the same points were made about Superman being a Messianic figure, despite the fact he was created by two Jewish writers. The MSNBC article [link to: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13249146/site/newsweek/] goes into even more detail about other superheroes' religions...
From: PJM in Sydney, "By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth", posted 15 June 2006 on "Pajamas Media" blog website (http://pajamasmedia.com/2006/06/by_the_hoary_hosts_of_hoggoth.php; viewed 16 June 2006):
What's Batman's religion? Episcopalian/Catholic according to this website [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html], which lists the faiths of many different superheroes including Superman (Methodist), The Thing (Jewish) and Dust (Sunni Muslim). The religions assigned are based on internal evidence from the comicbooks themselves.
From: Wretchard, "My Heart Shall Never Rest...", posted 15 June 2006 on "The Belmont Club" blog website (http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com/2006/06/my-heart-shall-never-rest.html; viewed 16 June 2006):
And if that wasn't enough, Pajamas Media [link to: http://pajamasmedia.com/2006/06/by_the_hoary_hosts_of_hoggoth.php] points to a website [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html] that reveals the religious affiliation of many of the most famous superheroes based on the illustrations in the comics themselves. Batman is Episcopalian/Catholic; Superman is Methodist; The Thing is Jewish; and Dust is of course Sunni Muslim. Don't believe it, huh? Well, neither did I, but it's true.
From: Allen, "Super-Jew? Super-Methodist?", posted 15 June 2006 on "It Came from Allen's Brain" blog website (http://allens-brain.blogspot.com/2006/06/super-jew-super-methodist.html; viewed 16 June 2006):
Because what could be important than nailing down the religious faith of a fictitious character?
[Followed by link to and contents from June 2006 Newsweek/BeliefNet.com article "BeliefWatch: Good Fight."
From: "An argument for why religion should stay out of comics" message board started 17 May 2006 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000076170&start=120; viewed 16 June 2006):
Posted: Jun 14, 2006 12:01 PM
Wow, so I guess my question would be what comics do you read, because in my mind Spider-Man, Superman, Star Wars, Batman... the list could go on and on, but the point is they use some concept of religion. If you break everything down into the Ten Commandments you pretty much cover all comic book concepts. For example "With great power comes great responsibility" is very much based in religion. How about super-heroes never killing but once Wonder Woman did? We went bonkers. Batman trying to honor his parents by never letting something like that happen to anyone else. I don't know if I think religion has a place in comics but, It's already there.
From: Frank Murphy, "tough cut for the mohel", posted 11 June 2006 on FrankMurphy.com blog website (http://www.frankmurphy.com/fmblog.htm; viewed 16 June 2006):
From: "Superhuman and Subhuman", posted 16 June 2006 on "Robot Prayer" blog website (http://robotprayer.com/wp/?p=17; viewed 16 June 2006)
In a Reuters story [link to: http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=filmNews&storyID=2006-06-10T002440Z_01_N09230684_RTRIDST_0_FILM-LEISURE-SUPERMAN-DC.XML] over the weekend, "Superman Returns" director Bryan Singer refuted the theory put forth by "The Advocate" that the man of steel is gay. The theory is partly based on the way Superman stands with his hands on his hips and seems to ignore Clark Kent's longing for Lois Lane. Singer told Reuters that Superman is probably the most heterosexual character in any movie he's ever made. We can get a good idea if the S really does stand for straight on Monday night when A&E airs a special about Superman which will have a sneak preview of the film.
I thought that David Waters was going to weigh in on the debate over Superman's straightness when I saw his article [link to: http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?action=detail&pk=FAITH-FAITH-06-07-06] in the religion section of yesterday's paper. Instead, he brought up a new debate. Is Superman Jewish or Methodist? I didn't see that coming.
From: Adam/adamelijah, "Faith of Our Tight-Clad Heroes", posted 19 June 2006 on "Where I Stand" blog website (http://www.whereistand.com/adamelijah/12737; viewed 19 June 2006):
With Superman Returns about to hit theatres across the US, the press has been waxing philsophical about the mythology of superheroes. Newsweek [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13249146/site/newsweek/] and the Sacremento Bee [link to David Waters' column "Divining Superman's Religion"] have published articles about the religious "affiliations" of Superman and other comic book heroes:
[Excerpt from article]
Funny how Christian perspectives on popular culture render all pop culture icons as Christian-centric. What is problematic about this kind of discussion is that it tries to fit Superman himself into the religious dilema of middle America: which denomination to choose? Shall the man from Smallville become a Methodist, a Catholic, or shall he "become" Jewish? The question of Superman and religion can be restated in two more imaginative ways. First, what about the Superman story is so compelling as a touchstone of American popular mythology? Second, are not the competing claims about Superman's religion, all of which are quite legitimate, indicative of the cultural territory staked out in common by a plurality of American religious perspectives that work sometimes in harmony and sometimes in dischord?
Hat Tip to the Random Yak on this [http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html], a page that lays out the religion of Super Heroes. Its not something I've thought about before, but the fact is that most of the comic writers have given some thought to it. The big ones of interest are that Superman is a Methodist, Batman is probably an Anglican, and Spider-Man comes from a Protestant background of some sort. Of course, in the case of most of these heroes, the religion really has little to no tie in to their character. It is more a background than their actual way of living, so they're really more humanist with a religious background than anything else. I was surprised by the number of LDS super heroes, not so much by the number of Jewish heroes.
From: "Any Christian Superheroes?" thread began 22 April 2004 on rec.arts.comics.dc.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/4e5839f075fecf76/8821b5db671e7ce1; viewed 20 June 2006):
From: "Superman as Christian Allegory? The religion of Comics" message board started 14 June 2006 on Military.com website (http://forums.military.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/672198221/m/8000028270001/p/1; viewed 20 June 2006):
From: Gustavo Wombat
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 12:03 pm
I can't think of any major superheroes that strongly believe in any real faith, and that surprises me. Certainly not in the DC Universe. I think there are more minority superheroes than religious ones...
From: Mark J. Reed
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 1:07 pm
Pre-Crisis, Superman worshipped (or studied and made use of rituals from the worship of, at least) a god named Rao. Rao was apparently a Kryptonian Sun-God, although it was implied several times that "Rao" was in fact the Kryptonian name for the same One True God in which Terran Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe. Post-Crisis, Supes has mentioned Rao - royally set Zeus off once just by saying the name! Was that ever explored? - but hasn't been seen to be active in Rao-worship. In the PZ Krypton storyline the bad-guy movers and shakers were a Rao cult, IIRC.
What was Clark and Lois's wedding ritual, btw? Non-religious?
Non-denominational Christian? Something else? (Pre-Crisis, I don't recall any details about Lois's wedding to CLARK on Earth-2, but there was a separate ceremony in the Fortress with Superman done according to the Kryptonian tradition. I still remember the lines "In the name of Rao, who shaped the sun, . . ." (the bride's answer had "moons" in place of "sun". Maybe that whole Sun=Man Moon=Woman thing was part of Kryptonian tradition, too, although it seems unlikely somehow :)).
From: Daibhid Ceannaideach
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 1:51 pm
Re: "What was Clark and Lois's wedding ritual...? Non-religious? Non-denominational Christian? Something else?"
The officiator (if that's the word) was a Protastant minister, I think, but there wasn't anything specific to one religion in the ceremony, and it took place in the decidedly non-denominational Metropolis Chapel of United Faiths.
From: Peter Bruells
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 11:52 pm
re: "Pre-Crisis, Superman worshipped... Rao... [who] was in fact the Kryptonian name for the same One True God in which Terran Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe."
I always thought that this was pretty clear. Rao used to be a sun-god, but later experienced a shift in terminolgy and become a symbol for "God". The Krypton Miniseries even repeated the Noah's ark story and IIRC there once was a Kryptonian Jesus Christ analogue, a bringer of peace who died for his belief in peace, love and understanding.
From: Mark J. Reed
Date: Fri, Apr 23 2004 7:40 pm
re: "Post-Crisis, Supes has mentioned Rao - royally set Zeus off once just by saying the name!"
re: "Cool. When did that happen?"
It was in Man of Steel, during Mark Schultz's run. But we never found out why Zeus hates Rao . . . new creative team, idea dropped, yada yada.
From: Daibhid Ceannaideach
Date: Sat, Apr 24 2004 6:21 am
The impression I get of Superman (most notably in the Kismet story following the Blaze/Satanus War) is that he is motivated at least partly by religious faith (at least inasmuch as that's part of being "raised right" in Kansas), he just doesn't talk about it much.
But yeah, it is odd that out of the three most noticably Christian superheroes (Nightcrawler, Daredevil and Huntress) one is motivated largely by circumstance (being a mutant) and the other two began their careers seeking revenge.
From: Abby Scott, "Complete with Utility Belt Carrying a Calculator and Ennui," posted 22 June 2006 on "Abby Scott does tend to go on" blog website (http://abbyscott.blogspot.com/2006/06/complete-with-utility-belt-carrying.html; viewed 22 June 2006):
Oh I plan on seeing Superman (mostly because I love Bryan Singer's work, and he was sorely missed on the last X-men movie), but my opinion is that as the years went the story of Superman took on Christ-like meaning for some rather then it being there to begin with. It was much more a Moses allegory as written by it's Jewish co-creators.
He's the only son of a powerful far away entity. He has supernatural powers, and an overwhelming desire to do good. He comes from the heavens, and is delivered to a childless couple.
Um hello! Could you get any more Biblical if you tried!
He was sent into the unknown in a craft to save his life, adopted, raised to manhood and must then discover who he really is. Again, the creators of Superman were 2 Jewish men. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Later writers created stories that more pointedly made comparisons between Christ and Superman, but the original creators were echoing Moses in their story.
I grew up in a strong atheistic tradition...
From: "Super Friends with Super Faith?", posted 17 June 2006 on "Pericopae" blog website (http://pericopae.blogspot.com/2006/06/super-friends-with-super-faith.html; viewed 23 June 2006):
The above is a link to a list of the religions of many of our comic book heroes. Quite cool, actually.
Superman? Methodist. Makes sense, he was raised in a small town in rural Indiana...
Posted by Peri on Saturday, June 17, 2006 at 10:12 PM:
This kills me. I think we're stretching things a bit by worrying about the faith of our superheroes. Unless it's specified in the comics I'm hesitant to decide about ole Superman. There is, afterall, a big difference between Methodism (of the UMC variety) and Kryptonian. At least I assume there is. Maybe I'd better do more research!
[Link to: http://www.beliefnet.com/features/comicbookfaith.html]
From: "Super Religion", posted 15 June 2006 on "Paulie's Posts" blog website (http://pauliesposts.blogspot.com/2006/06/super-religion.html; viewed 23 June 2006):
From: Mareska Kellemvore, "No real update yet", posted 24 June 2006 on her blog website (http://mareska.livejournal.com/116525.html):
Here's a neat theory: Your favorite superhero is religious. www.beliefnet.com has created a chart that lists the faith of each superhero. For example, Superman could be a Jew. He did come to life from two Jewish cartoonists and battled the Nazis. Also, he's compared to the golem myth by some scholars. Don't worry, he's not Jewish, he's believed to be Methodist... Check out the chart to see what your favorite superhero is.
[Link to: http://www.beliefnet.com/features/comicbookfaith.html]
From: Benjamin Russell, 26 October 2006 posting on "m3lbatoast: Flying in the Face of Leviticus 11:23" blog website (http://220.127.116.11/2006/10/flying-in-face-of-leviticus-1123.html; viewed 24 April 2007):
Mareska Kellemvore (mareska) wrote, 2006-06-24 12:54:00:
...I just want to post a survey of sorts to my geeky friends. Newsweek recently published an article about the religions of various superheroes. Now some have been established in continuity (Daredevil, for example, is Catholic)...
Newsweek pegged Superman as Methodist because he's a waspy Midwesterner. I'd actually see him more as a Presbyterian (suspect he's down with that whole predestination thing)...
...What superhero isn't representative of some Jewish ideal?
Superheroes representing religion came forefront in the public consciousness when Bryan Singer has Superman crucify himself for the sins of humanity in this summer's Superman Returns. Many people were dissatisfied with the whole Superman = Christ imagery, but it didn't bother me, as I felt it was portrayed with more grace and dignity than the doves and halos that tend to populate every John Woo flick. Also, I had always associated Superman with religion since listening to Michael Shapiro speak on NPR about the 100 most influential Jews of all time, a list that began with Moses and ended with Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, creators of the extraterrestrial boy in blue. And since a great many superhero creators were Jewish [link to: http://reformjudaismmag.net/03winter/comics.shtml], so I naturally associated Superman more with Moses than Jesus, but it's difficult for Americans not to find or make Christ parallels in anything, given enough time, and Superman's had an awful long time to slowly morph from his original intent to the pure American boy scout he is today.
From: Mike Chary, "Blasphemy and the Single Superhero", posted 20 October 2006 on "All New! All Different! Howling Curmudgeons: Two-Fisted Comics Commentary and Criticism!" blog website (http://www.whiterose.org/howlingcurmudgeons/archives/009992.html; viewed 25 April 2007):
I've often wondered about the interjections that superheroes use. Great Scott! Holy Moly! Holy Mackerel! Great Hera! Great Rao! These all violate one or more commandments, and yet, the code authority says nothing!
The most important of the Ten Commandments is, of course, 3. Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy God in vain. Why is this more important than, for instance, murdering someone? Well, because that's the commandment that shows they were probably written by God himself.
The others, well, any moron could tell you it's wrong to steal or sleep with someone's wife, and the religious authorities will know to tell you not to worship another god or to go to church, but saying the Big Guy's name in vain? Well, that's a deity who is getting annoyed by people constantly bothering him. "Leave me alone unless it's important!" is what the commandment is saying. The third commandment is the theological equivalent of taking Jimmy's signal watch away...
But Great Scott is quite possibly a derivation of the German version of "Great God" from "Greuss Gott!" and "Great Rao!" refers to the Kryptonian version of God, one assumes in much the same way that Yahweh or Allah refers to the God of the Book as well.
And then we have the first commandment: "I am the Lord thy God, and thall shalt not have any strange gods before me!" Well, there seem to be an awful lot of holy things in comics for this commandment. Without getting into Robin's puns, who's this Moly guy, and why does Captain Marvel think he's so holy? (Moly is actually a magical, mythical Greek herb, but thus also falls into the streange gods category.) Or how about Holy Hannah? Great Caesar's Ghost?
Holy Mackerel! Those a lot of expressions, but seriously, where do these things come from?
[Reader comments about this blog posting:]
I thought the whole purpose of these exclamations was so the characters could show great feeling while technically avoiding taking the name in vain.
Posted by: ravensron at October 20, 2006 7:00 PM
On the etymology of "Great Scott." While a word origin connected to Grüß Gott [GruB Gott] is possible, is doesn't sound likely (the author of this piece identifies the phrase as "certainly American, of Civil War era at the latest"), although like most phrases of the "Great X!" variety it apparently originated as a euphemism for God.
This is all besides the point, though, since I doubt God would really notice Superman's euphemistic invocations of Scott, or Billy Batson's appeals to Moley. This is, after all, a deity sensitive enough to become offended if you type out the generic english word "god," but is tricked into thinking you aren't invoking its name if you swap out the "o" with a hyphen...
Posted by: moose n squirrel at October 21, 2006 9:34 AM
...I'm also saying that "Great Rao" says something about Superman. It either says "I'm a Kryptonian and I invoke the name of the God of Kryptonians!" or it says "I'm a total poser who doesn't know any better than to take the name of Rao in vain." The presence of Kandor makes that unlikely, of course. Or it says something about the Kryptonian religion. Our monotheistic religions aren't too happy about taking the name of the deity in vain. Does Krypton have no problem with it?
...By the way, I find the German derivation more likely than the idea that soldiers decided to use Winfield Scott's name as an exclamation. "Great Sherman" and "Great Lee" aren't floating around as exclamations...
Posted by: Mike Chary at October 21, 2006 9:55 AM
...The implication is that Scott was used precisely because it sounds sort of like "God." That's why it's a euphemism. All of this was probably lost on Silver Age Superman writers, though, who knew the expression but not its origin.
When the vast majority of English-speakers say "goodbye," they're not actually consciously invoking "God be with ye," nor does the expression "God bless you" after a sneeze still used to prevent demons from possessing a vacated body after the temporary expulsion of the soul through one's nostrils. To describe characters like Superman and Captain Marvel as "blasphemers" for using expressions like "Great Scott" is silly. One can only "blaspheme" to the extent that one intends to blaspheme, and the use of expressions which have long ago lost any cultural connection to God just doesn't cut it for that purpose...
Posted by: moose n squirrel at October 21, 2006 11:00 AM
From: Doug Tonks, "A Higher Power", posted 22 October 2006 on "All New! All Different! Howling Curmudgeons: Two-Fisted Comics Commentary and Criticism!" blog website (http://www.whiterose.org/howlingcurmudgeons/archives/009995.html; viewed 25 April 2007):
The never-identified but usually heeded "they" claim that there are two topics you should never talk about: religion and politics. But since Mike already brought up religion [link to: http://www.whiterose.org/howlingcurmudgeons/archives/009992.html], I'll follow it up with a link to this page [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html], which lists the religious affiliations of various comic book characters. Many of the religious identifications are backed up with lengthy supporting arguments, but some of the more minor characters get little or nothing in the way of explanation.
Some of them are not too surprising: Superman, raised in the Midwest heartland, is Methodist (although he has some links to Kryptonian religions)...
Posted by Doug at October 22, 2006 7:12 PM
[Comments posted by readers of this page:]
As it also happens, I'm Methodist, grandson of a preacher, and my Methodist mom has a sixth-degree blackbelt in guilt-fu, believe you me!
While appreciate what these guys are trying to do from a pure geek-fun perspective, but it's largely wasted effort. For instance, who cares if Maggin and Millar wrote Superman thinking he was Methodist? Unless it's boldly and directly stated in text (and please, Great Rao, don't go there), someone else could come along and establish that the Kents are Swiss Reformationists or whatever. I'm quite certain that most of the writers who wrote Ben Grimm for forty years didn't "write him to be" Jewish (most likely because they didn't think he was)...
Posted by: Chris M. at October 24, 2006 11:48 AM
From: "The religion of comic book characters" forum discussion, started 3 December 2006 on RPG.net website (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=299781&page=2; viewed 25 April 2007):
12-04-2006, 05:26 AM
Re: The religion of comic book characters...
Didn't people try to worship Superman at some point? I think it was during his death storyline, maybe right after? How'd they end up?
12-04-2006, 05:37 AM
They schismed during the "Reign of the Supermen" story arc, during which all four of Supermans titles was taken over by a different person claiming to be Superman.
One claimed to have given up on his humananity( and thus his Clark Kent Alter Ego) and was quite willing to kill, but had to wear sunglasses... He was called the Last Son of Krypton for a while...
Another claimed to have cybernetic reconstruction, and thus was called the cyborg superman...
The Worshippers of Supes got into a fight over which was the real Superman, it turned out neither was.
The Last Son of Krypton turned out to be a Sentient Krytonian war machine, while the Cyborg was an old foe of Superman.
AFAIK They then dissappeared from being mentioned for a while after Superman returned( as they claimed he would).
SuperBoy's recent death lead many people to begin making the same claims about him(that he would return and so forth).
12-04-2006, 05:46 AM
Somewhat more obscure, but explicit, stories about "Superman worship" appeared in the two-page "Sunday Comic Strip" style Superman feature in Action Comics Weekly, and a "Church of Supergirl" sprang up during Peter David's run on Supergirl.
12-04-2006, 06:29 AM
Quote: Originally Posted by Manitou: AFAIK They then dissappeared from being mentioned for a while after Superman returned( as they claimed he would).
Not exactly. Steel is a very popular character who still shows up on a steady basis, Last Son of Krypton turned out to be the Eradicator (a Kryptonian super-weapon created by an ancestor of Superman) in human form and he was a gritty 90's-style hero on his own for a while, and the Cyborg is a recurring villain on Superman's level, who started out as a kind of parody-homage-satire of Reed Richards but has turned into a sort of cooler version of Metallo (with ten times the megalomania). Lately he's been enslaved by Darkseid.
...errr, unless you were talking about the Church of Superman, in which case you're entirely correct.
12-05-2006, 02:23 PM
I think its funny imagining Superman as a Christian. Krypton totally gets the shaft, but the Son of God himself comes down to help the Earth out.
12-05-2006, 04:15 PM
Quote: Originally Posted by Vigorous Ape: I think its funny imagining Superman as a Christian. Krypton totally gets the shaft, but the Son of God himself comes down to help the Earth out.
As if Superman doesn't have enough trouble given the story parallels between him and Jesus, anyway...
Their logic's fairly right, though: regardless of what Clark believes right now, odds are very good that he was raised Christian.
From: "Where are the Christian Superheroes?" forum discussion page started 22 August 2006 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-81451.html; viewed 5 May 2007):
08-22-2006, 10:03 AM
...I pose the question to you, my fellow Talk@Ramanians: If Christianity is the most popular faith in the United States, why aren't there more openly Christian superheroes?
08-22-2006, 11:40 AM
While certainly not canon, [Mark] Waid & [Alex] Ross commented on the religion of the major characters for Kingdom Come. I may be wrong in my recollection, but they claimed that Superman is Lutheran and Batman is Methodist?
I'd like to see more Christian characters, especially non-Catholic ones.
08-22-2006, 12:01 PM
re: Outside of the northeast, there's an often huge difference, especially socially, in Christian denominations. I think that would play a significant role in team politics.
But... how are they so different that you can think of Kingdom Come Superman as Lutheran and Kingdom Come Batman as Methodist? I mean, what kind of, i don't know, ideology/theology/customs would influence the way they act or think? Or are they just the same, but belonging to different groups, like a Bloods and Crips thing?
08-22-2006, 02:59 PM
I generally assume most characters are agnostic, unless shown otherwise. I think it'd be cool if there were a few more openly Protestant characters around though. Superman being a Lutheran would definitely be pretty cool:D but I don't think his creators would be too happy with that.
And I have been known to discuss religion in public, however, it was at the locan Christian youth hangout with some of my friends from my church youth group. I was the one trying to convince my friend of the existence of evolution.
From: Daniel J. Phillips, "Superman... a Methodist? Batman an Episcopalian? Holy WCC!", posted 18 April 2006 on "Biblical Christianity" blog website (http://bibchr.blogspot.com/2006/04/superman-methodist-batman-episcopalian.html; viewed 9 May 2007):
Wow... "holy" and "WCC" so don't go together...
A dear friend (Terry Rose) just sent me a link to a page called The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters. It's a quite-serious look at the world of superheroes, super-villains, and the other ink-and-pen creations kids have been devouring for decades.
I was quite the aficionado in the 1960's, but have long-since stopped following comic books, except when they're turned into movies. This page takes a pretty serious approach to identifying and documenting the implicit and explicit religious leanings of the characters in the Marvel, DC and other comic universes.
You'll find out that Superman is a Methodist, Batman is Episcopalian/Roman Catholic, the Fantastic Four's The Thing is Jewish, and that God's religion is described as... God.
You who've kept up on comics will have more intelligent observations on this than I have. I'll say this, though: the page depicts a much better-balanced and "real" world than TV or the movies. From those media, you'd assume that virtually no good person seriously practices any identifiable religion. For instance, I've made this observation about one of the most otherwise creative minds in Hollywood, Joss Whedon:
...Whedon has evidently never known, liked and understood a real-live, practicing, Bible-believing Christian. He shares that with most Hollywood writers, sadly. Whedon can create believable murderers, maniacs, flawed heroes, monsters, in-betweeners, and a hundred other types. But he seems unable or unwilling to create a credible, likable, genuine, openly Christian character -- let alone create one and go anywhere with that character.
Contrast that with history, and the real world inhabited by most of us outside of Hollywood.
Funny, isn't it? Comic books being more real than live-action media?
From: Jean-Claude Van Doom, "Which god's side are they on?", posted 20 August 2006 on "Legion of Doom" blog website (http://legionofdoom.cheeksofgod.com/?p=170; viewed 9 May 2007):
...Sadly, as a Presbyterian, my only protectors are Wolfsbane and Speedball, apparently...
However, I was raised Methodist, so if I fall back on that (and really, how much different are Methodists and Presbyterians?) I can claim Superman, Supergirl and Superboy (although he's dead now/for now)...
From: John Schroeder, "Did You Know?", posted 1 July 2006 on "Blogotional" blog website (http://blogotional.blogspot.com/2006/07/comic-art_01.html; viewed 9 May 2007):
[Did you know] That Superman was a Methodist? Sombody did a lot of work to figure out the religious affiliations of numerous comic book characters [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html]. (HT: Rebecca [link to: http://everydaymusings.blogspot.com/2006/03/round-sphere-again_29.html])
I have not bloggeed about the role of religion in comics because it is an incredibly complicated subject, and the comics get it wrong so often, or in order to avoid controversy they stick to the clearly mythological elements of religion. However, reading recently C.S. Lewis fantasy and his invocation of figures like Merlin in That Hideous Strength, I wonder if there is not a role for genuine religion in the comics.
At any rate this is a great resource. If you are interested in more or a discussion, let me know, we'll see what we can do.
[Comments posted by readers of this blog:]
Superman a Methodist? And his pastor is named Linquist. Chances are with a pastor bearing a Norwegian moniker like that, the Kents are Midwestern Lutherans. Besides, everybody knows that after serving Smallville, Pastor Linquist went on to serve as pastor of the Lutheran congregation in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota.
Mark Daniels | 07.01.06 - 7:30 am
From: Mark Daniels, " Superman a Methodist? Nah, He's a Lutheran!", posted 1 July 2006 on "Better Living: Thoughts from Mark Daniels" blog website (http://markdaniels.blogspot.com/2006/07/superman-methodist-nah-hes-lutheran.html; viewed 15 May 2007):
Church elder and deacon, chemist, businessperson, blogger, and comic book aficionado John Schroeder points to a study that tries to pinpoint the religious affiliations of various comic book heroes [link to: http://blogotional.blogspot.com/2006/07/comic-art_01.html]. Three panels on the left of John's post (seen here on the right) shows a young Clark Kent speaking with his pastor. The pastor's name is Linquist, which made me wonder how the author of the study John cites could say that Superman was a Methodist.
Superman a Methodist? And his pastor is named Linquist[?] Chances are with a pastor bearing a Norwegian moniker like that, the Kents are Midwestern Lutherans. Besides, everybody knows that after serving [in] Smallville, Pastor Linquist went on to [become] pastor of the Lutheran congregation in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota.
posted by Mark Daniels @ 9:30 AM
David Thompson, "Secret Knowledge, Revealed", posted 1 March 2007 on "David Thompson: Culture, Ideas and Comic Books" blog website (http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/comic_books/index.html; viewed 15 May 2007):
...Naturally, the database also includes extraterrestrial belief systems (e.g. Kryptonian metaphysics and Apokolipsian Darkseid Worship)...
From: "The Church of Superman" forum discussion started 19 June 2006 on the "James Randi Educational Foundation" website (http://www.randi.org/forumlive/showthread.php?t=58627; viewed 15 May 2007):
19th June 2006, 06:03 AM
The Church of Superman
Hmmmm... the "religious" affiliations of comic book characters. Huh?
19th June 2006, 09:08 AM
Superman a Methodist? Don't be silly.
Of course he's Jewish.
He's a member of the 'El' family and Superman rhymes with Cooperman.
From: "Whose family attends what church?" forum discussion started 11 March 2007 on ComiCon website (http://www.comicon.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=2;t=009521;p=0; viewed 15 May 2007):
posted 04-12-2007 10:16 AM
A few thoughts...
Superman's a fellow Methodist! Ha, I knew he was one of us, mainly cuz Ma and Pa Kent seemed to be Methodist...
From: "How many Atheist superheroes/heroines are there?" forum discussion, started 20 May 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=113333&page=2; viewed 24 May 2007):
05-20-2007, 04:47 PM
Haven't there also been multiple stories that demonstrate that superheroes are often called "gods" when they aren't? That the word is thrown around a lot by people and should therefore not be trusted?
For example, there was a recent issue of Superman where a woman prayed to "God" to help her, and Superman showed up and helped her. She then began calling him the hand of God and believed he was some type of spiritual entity.
From: Keiichi, "Religion, politics and super heroes", posted 13 May 2007 on "Minitokyo" blog website (http://forum.minitokyo.net/thread/56752/religion-politics-super-heroes/1/#p1215679; viewed 28 May 2007):
Now with the Spidey hype, I was looking for info about our friendly neighbor and I found an article about the superheroes' religions here: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/SpiderMan.html
...As for Tony Stark, I think that his church is Wall Street, his god is The Money and he is probably Republican. But surprise, surprise, Captain America maybe is Democrat... and Protestant. Superman... Methodist and probably Republican too.
From: "Is Spider-Man Jewish?" forum discussion started 15 January 2007 on "Comic Book Resources" website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-160187.html; viewed 28 May 2007):
Brian "Vash" Ashby
01-17-2007, 01:15 AM
...Also, for some reason Superman being a Christian seems weird considering he's an alien. Shouldn't he have some sort of Kryto-faith?
01-17-2007, 01:20 AM
Well, he believes in Rao, if that helps.
01-17-2007, 04:35 AM
He was raised on Earth by adopted Christian parents. He might be interested in the religion of his ancestors, but I doubt he would convert to that religion without a significant religious experience.
Brian "Vash" Ashby
01-17-2007, 04:42 AM
Well his parents' Methodist (that seems to be the popular consensus) faith doesn't really explain anything about Krytponians. When he learned he was an alien and such I would expect him to leave behind human religion.
From: "There Are No Lions Here", posted 15 October 2006 on "Pretty, Fizzy Paradise" blog website (http://kalinara.blogspot.com/2006/10/there-are-no-lions-here.html; viewed 30 May 2007):
At 7:48 PM, david brothers said:
...I've seen the Adherents site, and I think it's a great thing. A lot of it, though, is conjecture, and a lot of that conjecture is telling. Most of the usenet posts tend to start "What religion is X" or "I never really thought that X character had religion..." Most people don't realize that these characters have fleshed out backstories that include religion because it's never mentioned. If you were to suggest that Superman were Methodist or Batman anything but atheist/agnostic (I lean toward the latter more than the former) to the average comics fan, they'd laugh at you. But, for every Wolfsbane or Ben Grimm we have that does show their religion, we've got a Stryker, a crazy Austen nun, or whatever...
At 10:03 PM, David Horenstein said:
I'm sorry, but Superman is clearly Jewish. Several people have done detailed explanations as to why he is Jewish and his creators were Jews and based most of Superman's beliefs and personality on themselves (including having a crush on a girl that didn't know he existed).
Any reference to him being otherwise is false. :P
At 11:32 PM, Tom Foss said:
David: Superman has never explicitly been given a religious affiliation. Yes, Siegel and Shuster were Jewish, and Superman was based on the stories of Moses and Samson as well as Flash Gordon and Hercules. But the religion of the creator certainly does not necessarily translate to the religion of the creation. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were both Jewish, yet the only explicitly Jewish character to come out of their many collaborations was Ben Grimm.
Indeed, it's the nature of serial storytelling to privilege the creators' intent over those who have worked on the property since then, but much of what we consider the "Superman" story was developed by others, of varying faiths, even while Siegel and Shuster had some measure of control over the property. Many people have left a lasting mark, and major contributions, to the Superman mythos, regardless of their faith orientations, and I imagine quite a lot of them had their own ideas about what Superman's belief system was. Elliot S! Maggin, with whom I often do not agree on Superman interpretation, nonetheless contributed a great deal to the character, and while he's Jewish and well-versed in the character's history, he's the one who suggested (out of continuity, of course) that Superman was Methodist.
The matter of Superman's religious beliefs is up to interpretation; any blanket statements as to the truth or falsehood of Superman's belief system is unfounded. There's a good case for Superman being Jewish, but there's an equally good case for him being pretty much any other religion (and while I've seen him celebrate Christmas, I've never seen him in the moral quandary of needing to save people on the Sabbath). The fact is that Superman's beliefs weren't addressed by Siegel and Shuster, and while they indeed based the Man of Steel on their own lives, they based him also on the pulp heroes of the time, and the mythological and classical heroes that predate him. The subject of Superman's faith is certainly not set in stone.
From: "No Hugging No Kissing Discussion" page on "TV Tropes Wiki" website (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NoHuggingNoKissingDiscussion; viewed 30 May 2007):
Red Shoe: The authors of the "Completely Useless Encyclopedia" suggest that the distaste many fans have for the notion of smooching in Doctor Who is based in a fear that if the Doctor ever has sex, they won't be able to relate to him any more, since it's something none of them will ever do. Though it's obviously meant as a joke...
Seven Seals: For the same reason, Superman no longer overtly stands for "the American way", and the question of whether Superman is religious (never mind who he votes for) can never be addressed without alienating a lot of fans, no matter how you answer it. Fans need to be able to identify with a certain kind of hero; Superman and the Doctor are of that kind. It's probably a sign of immaturity if fans need to identify so closely that the character must or must not have certain traits they themselves have or lack, but writers do well to cater to it anyway.
Heart Burn Kid: I thought the question of Superman's religion has already been answered; doesn't he follow some weird Kryptonian religion? Or was that just before Crisis?
Ununnilium: Pre Crisis, yeah. Back then he was a few years old before being shot to Earth; now, he was barely even born, so didn't have time to pick up the culture. A fictional religion is probably the only one you could give him, for the reasons above.
Seven Seals: Pre Crisis Superman would shout "Great Rao!" every so often. Some background on Rao has been established over the years, but not much, and you'd be hard-pressed to find even one fan who can tell you anything about it. Even so, this doesn't really touch the issue of whether Superman's religious, no more than Marvel's Thor being a god has much to do with religion.
But I digress... Let's just leave it at the observation that the writers wouldn't come out and mention that Clark Kent votes Republican; it would destroy the ability of a lot of fans to identify with him, and being an icon, the character needs that. The Doctor's very much an iconic hero too.
Seven Seals (much later): Still off-topic, but apparently, Superman's a Methodist. But all the other angles are explored too, in this exhaustive page: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/Superman.html Worth reading if you're into this sort of navelgazing.
Ununnilium: I think the most interesting part of that is that Elliot S! Maggin thinks that Lex Luthor is Jewish.
From: "Legion of Atheist Super-Heroes" forum discussion, started 17 November 2006 on "Comic Book Resources" website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-152692.html; viewed 30 May 2007):
11-17-2006, 05:19 PM
11-18-2006, 07:56 AM
...And if Superman is Methodist, why did he go to a Catholic priest in the "For Tomorrow" arc?
11-18-2006, 10:16 AM
I think the rationale I read once was "well, most people in Kansas are Methodist". Eh.
From: "Superman is a Methodist..." forum discussion, started 6 Marach 2006 on "Catholic Answers" website (http://18.104.22.168/showthread.php?t=102037; viewed 31 May 2007):
Mar 6, '06, 11:46 am
Superman is a Methodist, and the best we [Catholics] can do is Nightcrawler?
Who is Nightcrawler?
Sorry -- just tickled me the right way.
Mar 6, '06, 12:04 pm
Nightcrawler is so much better than Superman. He can teleport short distances, which is better than being the "man of steel," and he's with the X-men...
From: "Religion of Comic Book Characters" forum discussion, started 29 March 2006 on AllSpark.com website (http://www.allspark.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4168; viewed 1 June 2007):
post Mar 29 2006, 08:38 AM
I found this great resource entirely by accident:
post Mar 13 2007, 10:59 AM
I refuse to believe that a character designed by two Jewish men, to represent Jewish ideals of the Messiah, would be a Methodist.
Superman is Jewish, nothing can convince me otherwise...
post Mar 13 2007, 01:51 PM
I refuse to believe that a character designed by one Canadian man, to represent Canadian ideals of the Messiah, would be a Kryptonian.
Superman is Canadian, nothing can convince me otherwise.
post Mar 13 2007, 02:01 PM
re: Superman is Jewish, nothing can convince me otherwise.
Dude, he's from Kansas. Kansas has like three Jews...
post Mar 13 2007, 02:21 PM
I don't care if he's from Antarctica, or the depths of the Congo, he was originally created to be Jewish.
post Mar 13 2007, 02:29 PM
He [Superman] wasn't created to BE Jewish. That's not the entire picture. Rather, figuratively, he's a Jew adopted by Protestants and raised Protestant. I think you read something halfway and then stopped.
(Of course, this is an analogy that trades "Kryptonian" for "Jewish" and "American" for "Protestant." To say that Superman is Jewish ignores that it's an analog to the human experience in the first place. It's like saying that all the X-Men are black because their story is an analog to the civil rights movement.)
QUOTE from http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/Superman.html:
Superman's Moses-like origin and his Midwestern WASP-ish (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) persona are widely regarded as a symbol of Jewish assimilation. Children of immigrant Jews, Siegel and Shuster were not unlike many in their generation in their desire to fit in to the general goyim population. The creation of Superman and his alter ego Clark Kent was a manifestation of the desire by Siegel and Shuster to "pass" in mainstream population and also to assert control in a world that had often left them feeling powerless, such as when Siegel's father was murdered.
And Batman's as Catholic as you can get.
Alvatron! [a self-described atheist]
post Mar 13 2007, 02:58 PM
Meh, I'll give you Superman, but Batman is NOT Catholic...
I know there's PLENTY to support... "Superman is a Christian"..., but you show me ONE panel where the Bat is attending a church service, or practicing his faith, and I'll eat my copy of the 10 cent adventure, I will LITERALLY eat it, I will take pictures of it, and post them here...
post Mar 13 2007, 01:54 PM
Meh, they lived in Cleveland when they came up with him, Metropolis is in Ohio.
post Mar 13 2007, 03:16 PM
re: Superman is Jewish, nothing can convince me otherwise.
The tools the mohel needed for Kal's circumcision must have been made out of Kryptonite.
From: "Up, Up and Oy Vey!", posted 19 June 2006 on "Justice League Animated Forum" website (http://www.passfailstudios.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8674&sid=dd2468fb558cd29c0667f991f8a127e1; viewed 4 June 2007):
Posted: Mon Jun 19, 2006 10:19 pm
While I would really like to get my hands on this book [link to Amazon.com page for Up, Up, and Oy Vey!: How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero, written by Rabbi Simcha Weinstein: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1881927326/sr=1-1/qid=1150754871/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-5069577-0562468] (from the library one day, I guess), the article in the NY Post about it bugged the crap out of me. They were saying that Superman is Jewish, which nothing in the book description on Amazon actually says. The friend who sent me the article said the writer (of the article, not the book) is a bit of an idiot (well, actually, he used an expression I can't repeat on a family-friendly board).
I definitely don't dispute the Moses parallel, but as the same (Jewish) friend pointed out, "That's more MYTHIC than anything else."
Anyway, here's the abstract for the article [link to: http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/nypost/access/1062600861.html?dids=1062600861:1062600861&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Jun+19%2C+2006&author=ANDREA+PEYSER&pub=New+York+Post&edition=&startpage=021&desc=MENSCH+IN+TIGHTS+-+SUPERMAN+IS+A+SUPER+JEW%3A+RABBI], which has the totally erroneous statement that Superman can't get a girl or a job.
Posted: Mon Jun 19, 2006 10:34 pm
Well, he's also compared to Christ, and the whole "refugee from the stars" thing smacks of Jewishness in the 30s. I think Siegel and Shuster were Jewish immigrants themselves, weren't they?
Posted: Mon Jun 19, 2006 10:51 pm
Sure, they were Jewish, but that doesn't make the character Jewish.
The JL/JLU [Justice League/Justice League Unlimited] version is definitely not Jewish.
Oh hold on, I'll find that website someone pointed me to the other day...at this point, with everyone treating me like comics are the only thing I'm interested in, I don't even know if the link was given to me by someone off the board or on.
I got there from here:
which points out a few Jewish heroes that, y'know, SAY they're Jewish.
Atom Smasher is Jewish, too, right? And who is it in the Crisis that says they're Jewish? (TheMoosh is going to check it out...la la la... Ragman.)
Posted: Tue Jun 20, 2006 12:51 am
I've heard this before, and I tend to think it's just a general characterization tag that keeps getting attached to the MOS [Man of Steel] because his creators are Jewish.
I've not completely read The History of Superman entirely, but I've always wondered if S&S [Siegel and Shuster] deliberately inserted these Christ-like parallels deliberately. I tend to think it came unconsciously, like most stories are just sort of repeats of things and parables you've heard before. I think over the years as Superman's popularity has grown these things are just thrown at him, but there isn't really a lot to back it up.
I didn't read any of the articles are whatnot...these are just my own thoughts.
Has anyone ever read anything that says that S&S [Siegel and Shuster] deliberately made him Jewish?
That may be mentioned in those articles that were posted and when I have a bit of time I'll read them later.
Posted: Tue Jun 20, 2006 5:19 am
He [Superman] isn't Hassidic. ["Shocked" emoticon]
Really does it matter?
Posted: Tue Jun 20, 2006 7:27 am
Hey, if he was Hasidic it would explain that curl of hair always on his forehead. ["Wink" emoticon]
Posted: Tue Jun 20, 2006 8:13 am
I agree in the sense that I don't think he attended Smallville Synagogue, but there are a lot of Jewish influences on him from Jewish creators.
Posted: Tue Jun 20, 2006 8:46 am
Most of your personal influences will direct the flow of a story. I've always found it interesting that the triangle for two dynamic btw Lois and Clark was because some girl didn't take notice of one of the creators. I wouldn't doubt that the enduring love Superman feels for Lois is because one of them had a crush on the model who posed for her... lol... didn't she marry one of them later?
Anyway, who knows if in their heads they said, "yes, Superman is Jewish" when they originally created him? Though, I have to agree with Chadders that their Jewish upbringing, or whatever type of influence was had from their religious culture, definitely influenced some early aspects of Superman.
LOL... at this point though... considering how far DC is willing to go to attempt to disassociate Superman from religion (For Tomorrow excluded), I'm sure that whatever Jewish elements may have been there have been blended so Superman is appealing to all religions.
Posted: Wed Jun 21, 2006 1:20 am
Is anyone here implying there that it's a problem being Jewish?
Posted: Wed Jun 21, 2006 1:49 am
In general? No, no one's saying that. For the character? Maybe.
I disagree that religion doesn't matter in the creation of a character. (And absolutely disagree that the religion of the creator is the religion of any given character, necessarily.) Religion, especially dependent on WHICH religion, can have a very strong influence on how the character acts, thinks, etc.
Do I see Superman as a Jew? Not at all.
Why? Well, partially things like this:
The religious affiliations of the people of Kansas are as follows:
Christian - 82%
Protestant - 60%
Methodist - 14%
Baptist - 14%
Lutheran - 4%
Presbyterian - 3%
Church of Christ - 3%
Mennonite/Pietist - 1%
Other Protestant - 21%
Roman Catholic - 20%
Other Christian - 2%
Other Religions - 1%
You tell me that a character's from the Bible Belt, and my assumption is that he's some form of Christian unless/until I'm told otherwise.
Then there's the bland, Britishy name of the family: John and Martha Kent.
Would I care if there were a Jewish Superman, or if he were portrayed that way? I think that'd be a fantastic story, actually. However, given the existing backstory, I don't see how the writer of the original article sees more than the Moses parallel, which, as I quoted before, is "mythic" as much as it's religious. How many stories are about a man or woman being raised a family not their own? How many secret princes, princesses, kings, queens, even superheroes? (Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, anyone?)
Point of the post: I never thought Superman was anything but raised Christian, and I think that's completely supportable, while other evidence seems weak to me. The Superman in JL/JLU is a Christian. And that's actually all I have here, no other real opinion.
Anyway, time to watch season 2.
Posted: Wed Jun 21, 2006 2:00 am
To be honest...I've always thought Supes was a Christian, but he's the most left-winged Christian on the market.
He's not a Jew. He's not a Catholic. He's for God-like apparitions that do good on the Earth. Those apparitions could be of any religion; so for me Superman believes in a higher power and that's it!!!
Did S&S [Siegel and Shuster] create him to be Jewish? I don't know. Can we ask them? Even if we could do you think they would say he's Jewish?
Superman is everyman and...in some part woman. He is ultra-religious, but bears the distinct pleaure of not actually having a religion.
At least that is my take.
Posted: Wed Jun 21, 2006 11:16 am
I happen to be Jewish. I thought Superman worshiped Science, like all Kryptonians.
Posted: Wed Jun 21, 2006 12:29 pm
When I asked TheMoosh what he thought Superman's religion was, he said right off the bat, "Kryptonian." I'm not really sure why though. Maybe he meant through the matrilineal line? Or something he CAME to, I guess, but if I were raised by wonderful adoptive parents, I wouldn't reject their heritage outright either. (And, of course, Superman generally doesn't do that--he sees himself as just another guy, but blessed with powers and, therefore, responsibility.)
Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 1:24 am
No, I said what I said because people want to promote something by starting a stupid thread like this. A few months ago, it was gay superheroes. So I toss it right back in their face!! I mean, how stupid do you have to be to ask if Superman is Jewish? Mr. Siegel, the creator might have been Jewish. But for God's sake, Superman is Kryptonian! Just the talk of ethnic or religious backgrounds of superheroes disgust me. There must be 100 websites of "Jewish superheroes", "gay superheroes", or "gay Jewish superheroes". Who the [expletive] cares??! If you want to attribute the character of Superman and Jews to truth, justice, and the American way, do so in your own mind. That propaganda only works on children, which is why I suspect many Jewish parents are telling their kids that Superman is Jewish.
Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 1:30 am
JL [Justice League]'s Superman celebrated CHRISTmas in 'Comfort and Joy'. I saw a CHRISTmas tree in the Kent household and Martian Manhunter was sitting where the menorah usually is at the end. Clark was raised the right way. You want a Jewish superhero? I'm pretty sure The Hebrew Hammer is Jewish, at least he was in the movie.
Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 1:53 am
Wait... are you saying that he's Kryptonian or he's Christian? The second post threw me off.
I'm not sure what you thought I was promoting by putting up this topic (I didn't see your comment before the mods got to it). I was talking about the book, the description of the book, and the way it was portrayed in the article I read that told me about the book. I was saying that the last two things in there--the description of the book and the article about the book--did not really feel like they were synching up. I think the writer of the article may have had her head up her rear end and misunderstood the book's intention, or else had her own agenda--or else, of course, the book really is about how Superman is Jewish, rather than what the Amazon description says, which is this: "While the Jewish contribution to film, theater, music, and comedy has been well-documented, the Jewish role in the creation of the All-American superhero has not been--until now!" If I read JUST that, I would think the book was a kind of behind-the-scenes, real-life type Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. But instead, I read this in the article:
"He's the bumbling, nebbish, Jewish stereotype. He's Woody Allen. Can't get the girl. Can't get the job - at the same time, he has this tremendous heritage he can't express."
That's the author, not the article writer, by the way.
"Can't get the job"? Is that about Lois Lane getting the headlines? Because I've only ever seen him as a writer at the Daily Planet, definitely employed.
"Can't get the girl"? But... they're married!
This piqued my interest in the book even more because of my confusion, but mostly, I posted the article because it was a Superman article and this is the Superman thread.
Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 2:01 am
Re: Wait...are you saying that he's Kryptonian or he's Christian? The second post threw me off.
I think he's just saying that Superman may be either one of those but he certaintly is not Jewish.
Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 2:11 am
Superman is a mythical character... People can say whetever they want about them as long as it suits their agenda. I can find hundreds of people who will say Superman is Jewish and hundreds who will say he is Christian. Just Google it if you don't believe me. Here's an example: [includes quotes from Elliot S. Maggin interview conducted by Bruce Bachand.]
Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 2:22 am
I tracked down the source of the 'Superman is Jewish' theory. In Superman 2, the 1980 movie, here's a line:
[Witnessing a Superman rescue.]
Woman: "What a nice man! Of course he's Jewish."
Doesn't that make you want to throw up? Well, they control Hollywood, so I guess they can have the characters say whatever they want. Just like the TV shows Seinfeld and Friends. They live in NYC. Jewish. No black people. Yeah, okay.
Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 2:33 am
That reminds me of someone saying to me the other day that it could be argued that Magneto wasn't a Jew but a Gypsy or really, from any other persecuted people during the Holocaust.
Things like that are what I was saying before about Superman: My assumption was that Superman is some form of Christian, because I assume that Kansas has a high Christian population. I assumed Magneto was a Jew because of the Holocaust references.
We have these ideas as children, or assumptions, but they seem right to us, and if someone comes to us later and says "But what about...?", our world-view is knocked out of place for a second. You could debate, you could check it out, you could change your opinion--that's not what matters, that's just the result.
So I could completely understand if a (say) eight-year-old Jewish kid is reading Superman, finds that the creators are Jewish, and applies that to the hero himself. I could understand growing up believing that because the creators are Jewish, Superman was a hero for the Jews.
What I want to know now is how that could apply to the book, or does apply to the book. Are we talking about contribution or the creation itself? It's opinion and debate-fodder until the book is read, I suppose.
Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 3:09 am
re: I saw a CHRISTmas tree in the Kent household. Clark was raised the right way.
The Thing is Jewish in the comics, and yet he celebrates Chistmas. Go figure.
From: "The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters (website)" forum discussion, started 4 December 2006 on FanHost Networks website (http://forums.fanhost.com/music-cartoons-and-celebrity-info-124/cartoons-and-comics-175/152132-the-religious-affiliation-of-comic-book-characters-website.html; viewed 4 June 2007):
04-12-2006, 11:14 PM
I found this site very informative:
4-12-2006, 11:19 PM
Yeah, I read this. Superman a Methodist... doesn't seem too farfetched, I suppose...
04-16-2006, 12:46 AM
Believe it or not I have actually seen that site before. I found it really interesting reading about how religion comes across in different characters. Thanks.
From: Clark Goble, "Unpractical Ethics: Superheroes", posted 11 October 2005 on "Millenial Star" website [which comments on topics relating to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] (http://www.millennialstar.org/index.php/2005/10/11/unpractical_ethics_superheros; viewed 5 June 2007):
Even as comics have sort of become marginalized again, superheroes have experienced a renaissance the last five years or so. It seems every year brings two or three big budgeted superhero films. Admittedly most aren't terribly good. But while I've not read comics for quite some time, I do enjoy the Spiderman, X-Men, and Batman pictures. I have to confess I'm eagerly awaiting the forthcoming rebirth of Superman by X-Men's Bryan Singer. (And dreading Brett Ratner taking over X-Men). Anyway, I thought for a change of pace rather than doing a "practical ethics" I'd do the opposite. The most unpractical ethics of all: analyzing superheroes.
Now I know at least one person is preparing a post on an other blog taking exception to some of my views. And I'll further confess that with a few exceptions while reading graphic novels at Borders, I've really not read comics since the early 80's when I was a kid. Since comics are re-invented a lot, things may have changed. But here's my views.
Superman. Superman is the most interesting of the superheroes for Mormons. In a way he's sort of the ideal Mormon view of a superhero. He's for self reliance, justice, and has a strong sense of moral conviction. In many ways he's the opposite of Batman, working purely within the system. (This was played up a lot in the graphic novel The Dark Night Returns back in the 80's by Frank Miller) Superman, no matter how hard he tries to be in the world never is of the world. It's hard to find too many ethical issues with Superman, although I think all of us are uncomfortable with the sex added in by some producers. (Such as his hooking up with Lois Lane in Superman II or the recent hook up with Lana in Smallville)
Comment from: Ivan Wolfe - http://inmediasrays.blogspot.com
I say this as one who loves and still reads comics (check out my blog, which I need to update):
Most superhero comics are about adolescent angst. There are exceptions: Kurt Busiek's Astro City takes the idea of heroes to realms no one else has, making superheroics stand-ins for family conflicts, post-modern concepts of the truth and the responsibility of the news media.
Alan Moore, on the other hand, sees heroes as much more deadly. Watchmen is his prime example, with one hero so out of control, he murders thousands of New Yorkers to ensure world peace. However, his other works deal with the same thing. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (not the movie - the much superior comics) main thesis could be said that there are no real differences between our heroes and our monsters. Even Tom Strong which seems to be a nice tale about a family friendly super-hero is really about how hero worship leads to fascism - even if the fascist is a nice guy with the best of intentions.
But overall, super hero books are, by and large, about adolescent angst. That's why the Punisher is so popular.
In the comics, at least, Superman married Lois Lane first (there were some hints by some writers, but the editors wanted the relationship to appear fairly pure until they got married) - the movie makers and TV show makers have no idea that Superman was popular because he's the ulitmate Boy Scout (in the comics he actually was a Boy Scout. In Identity Crisis he identifies a certian knot before Batman does, and Batman seems shocked Supes figured something out before he did, but then he mutters "oh, yeah - Boy Scout" under his breath) and will always hold himself to the highest standards.
Heroes in general, though are problematic. Even squeaky clean Superman is on some level, a vigilante working outside the system.
As for the Spider-man comment, you should read the new Sentry comic by Marvel (not the older one from a few years ago, although that's a good one as well). The main character is basically Marvel's Superman, and he has a computer that assesses problems throughout the world and tells the Sentry when and where to go. Sometimes he has to balance a bank robbery in New York with a tsunami in Alaska with genocide in Africa - he goes to whichever one he can do the most good. Of course, his marriage is suffering, since he spends all his time saving the world, and no time on his personal life. An interesting read.
10/11/05 - 18:45
Comment from: DKL
I see Spiderman as the ultimate Mormon. By definition, there can only ever be one Superman (and good call on Astro City, Ivan; I think that Busiek's Samaritan is actually the best Superman story told--Frank Miller's Superman story is a Batman story with Superman as a guest star). Spiderman represents all of us. He's the underdog that is always in over his head. Even if we can't swing from building to building, we can all make a difference the way that Spiderman does. Not only that, but Spiderman sets an example (let's his light so shine...) while Peter Parker remains anonymous (waiting for his reward in the hereafter).
Batman is the most extreme super hero. Being a super hero requires one to be a vigilante in some sense, and therefore to assume a moral authority in one's own right outside of the authority structures of society and culture. Batman, therefore, is Joseph Smith with a family fortune.
As far as the X-Men, I've only read it sporadically. I think that the Danites is a good comparison.
Ivan, I disagree with your reading of Moore's The Watchmen. Superheroes everywhere live out the fantasies of mere mortals. In The Watchmen, Moore just picks fantasies that are more realistic (and less ideal) than comic book writers had hitherto chosen. I believe that your right about League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where Moore makes mere mortals out of heroes. I believe that this represents the thematic continuity between the The Watchmen and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
10/11/05 - 19:09
Comment from: Clark Goble
Alan Moore's Watchmen is very interesting precisely because of how it analyzes superheroes. I only read it a few years ago when a roommate had it. What's weird about it is that the main guy who kills thousands of people faking an alien invasion so as to produce world peace is hard to argue with. Did the ends justify the means? That whole bit with Nephi and Laban came immediately to mind. It was particularly disturbing because of that.
I've often wondered just about that sort of thinking and I think superheroes ought bring it ought. Yet the demands of the comics deny this. Look at what comic books require. You have these near God-like characters but you have the requirement that they don't really change the world that much. Yet what effect would Superman have on the world? Consider having that level of power prior to the invasion of Iraq. What should Superman have done? Should he have captured Sadaam Hussein for the US? How should Superman react to the Third World? In the comics almost of necessity he spends his time curing the relatively few ills in the US. If it weren't for Supervillains he'd be almost unnecessary. Yet what about the Third World? What about wars? Alan Moore deals with that with the nearly Superman like character. (Actually, if anything, more super than Superman - having a kind of omniscience)
There are all sorts of ethical dilemmas raised. If you had that much power, but simultaneously believed in the plan of salvation and thought that some evils were necessary, how should you act? Should you keep your secret powers secret? i.e. act from the shadows? Sort of how some Mormons see the Three Nephites and John? (Are they the Mormon equivalents of Superheroes?) Or if you had that power ought you reshape the world? Or do you proclaim peace but limit your activities to one land, much as Enoch apparently did.
As I said, I think there are really interesting questions here. If Superheroes - especially the more powerful ones - are basically like limited Gods, how should they be acting from a Mormon point of view? Moore in effect fears them because of a kind of fascism. I think the Mormon view is a similar one. In a very real sense we don't want Zion to be given. It has to be earned. But is that just?
10/12/05 - 01:41
Comment from: Sarah
I was semi-seriously considering entering the Comic Arts Conference (held in conjunction with Comic-Con International) on a similar theme (trying to compare the ethical systems various superheroes espouse/act within -- perhaps asking "how much worse would things have to get in modern America before the average citizen would tolerate a masked/hooded vigilante solving crimes for free, without criminal charges being pressed against him" type questions. Fun stuff.
Personally, I'd be alarmed and concerned about superheroes going around, acting they way they do. It's very much a "I see the Truth, I will set you all Free!" thing... I have a feeling Superman wouldn't take kindly to a "dude, okay, you're doing good works and all that, but could we please work out our own salvation without you trying to rescue us all the time?" discusion.
10/12/05 - 09:52
Comment from: Charles - http://job21-3.blogspot.com
It seems to me that Marvel was one of the first to really start portraying its heroes as human with real problems. Spiderman is a great parallel to Mormon culture and responsibility. He knows he has a responsibility to family and still tries to temper his powers with his social responsibilities. I've never read the Fantastic Four, but I'm under the impression that in the comics they have similar problems as everyone knows who each one is, they don't really have hidden identities.
Superman is another great example. I liked the idea about living in the world but not being of it. However, most of the storylines are pretty weak as to why he does what he does. The two best are from Smallville, where he feels responsible for causing so many problems when he crashed on Earth and the second is from the book I mentioned earlier where Superman has a deep sense of wanting to belong in a world where he is different. These are pretty selfish reasons, but because of his ethics and the way he uses his powers he gains a strong following.
Batman is the most real. He has no powers other than a keen intelect and a super bank account. He made a choice to do good and go after those that were above the law. In a way he is taking his cue from the constitution, where it states that we have a moral duty when the government fails to take up our own arms (don't turn this all legal, its just an observation and a way that it fits into the Batman universe).
Batman is my favorite, not because he has any powers, but because he doesn't. He only has his devotion.
Unfortunately not many comics deal with religion. Daredevil is a Catholic, but not a very active practicing one. Spawn deals with redemption but doesn't really look at religion in the traditional sense, it seems to hang on the Dante view of hell and the magical properties of the spirit world, where demons have physical bodies and unique abilities. Its not so much about faith, but redemption - but redemption in who's eyes?
The X-men comparison is interesting.
Its interesting to see that people try to find the values that they themselves hold dear in popular culture. We try to see the Mormon Parallels in characters that are decidely un-Mormon. I think everyone has that same sense of belonging and this is one way we manifest it, to claim someone as our own, or see how they could, if only the writers would put pen to page and tell us the personal faith driven stories that never make it onto the pannels in the comic books.
10/12/05 - 11:00
From: Paul, "Superman, Wish Fulfilment, and Eschatalogical hope", posted 9 May 2007 on "Holy Heroes!! Religion in Comics" blog website (http://holyheroes.blogspot.com/2007/04/superman-wish-fulfilment-and.html; viewed 6 June 2007):
Superman's roots are undeniably Jewish.
The co-creators of Superman, Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster are both ethnically Jewish, although according to Gerard Jones' excellent history of the origin of superhero comics, The Men of Tomorrow [link to: http://www.amazon.com/Men-Tomorrow-Geeks-Gangsters-Birth/dp/0465036562], neither were religious. Likewise, Harry Donnefield, the founder and first president of DC. Even Donnefield's sometime accountant sometime vice-president Jack Liebowitz was Jewish. All of these people were secular Jews and Siegal and Shuster disavowed or downplayed any influence of relgious Judaism on their works.
Siegal and Shuster's first Superman was in a short story written by Siegal and illustrated by Shuster. This story, titled The Reign of the Superman features a scientifically enhanced Nietzschian superman who reaks havok before being finally overcome. In 1933, as Hitler ascended to power in Germany, calling himself the Nietzschian superman, Siegal and Shuster re-imagined Superman as a hero.
It may be a coincidence that the two Jewish young men's creation of a heroic superman coincided with Hitler's rise, or it may not. Regardless, Shuster and Siegal's creation eventually sold, and in popular consciousness the Superman was forever linked with protecting the weak, instead of with the use of power to dominate and destroy the weak.
Superman is the ultimate immigrant: he comes from some other place, and lands in America. He masquarades as one of them, but at his core he isn't. As Clark Kent he seems meek and weak and easily pushed around, but behind his secret identity he is a powerful warrior for good. He's not an American, but he fights for the American Way.
Even deeper than the political symbolism is the religious symbolism of Superman. Superman is rooted firmly in the talmadic injuction to do good for its own sake. He is, in short, a very Jewish superman, and his strength comes with a moral compass.
Kal-El's arrival in a basket is strongly reminiscent of Moses' appearance in a basket in Exodus. The Exodus is the central story of the Torah, and its most significant instance of salvation. As such, Moses is the most important saviour in the story of Israel. Superman is a Moses figure in more than his appearance as a baby in a basket, but also in that he is a saviour, whether that means in his very person symbolically saving Krypton from complete extinction, or saving an man from being wrongfully executed for a crime he didn't commit, as he did in his very first appearance. For much of his history, and especially in his original incarnation, Superman spent more of his time protecting the innocent than fighting supervillains.
Yet since Moses is a prophetic precurser of the Messiah, Superman is also a Messiah figure. He is a Messiah figure even before he is a Christ figure. This distinction requires some clarification.
Though as most Christians and Jews already know, "Christ" (Greek) and "Messiah" (Hebrew) both mean "Annointed One", the terms are, especially for Jews, not synonomous. I use "Christ" to refer to Jesus of Nazareth, but "Messiah" to refer to the promised savour of the Jews. As a Christian myself, I believe that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, but a distinction is still helpful.
But Superman is a Messiah figure even before he is a Christ figure. He represents the Jewish eschatological hope of salvation, the hope of God's intervention, the hope that things will not always be as they are now. Superman symbolises the Jewish conviction that the world can be better than this.
Superman is often accused of being adolescent wish-fulfillment in action: a super-strong hyper-masculine muscleman created by two geeks, a bullet-proof man created by Jerry Siegal, whose father was shot dead by a petty thief. He is all of this. But even more than this, Superman, despite Siegal and Shuster's supposed secularism, is a Jewish messiah figure--a personification of the hope of Judaism. He is a protector of the weak and champion of good in a world with too much evil.
From: "MSNBC talks religion of superheroes" forum discussion started 15 June 2006 on BKV.TV website (http://www.bkv.tv/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=117679&sid=4ea823f1318d399750740ae4287a02f5; viewed 6 June 2007):
Brian K. Vaughan
Posted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 12:22 pm
MSNBC talks religion of superheroes
Also references this page: http://www.beliefnet.com/features/comicbookfaith.html
Posted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 1:43 pm
I heavily dislike defining Superman's religion, because I feel it takes something away from him, limits the character and the whole ideal behind him. My personal image of Superman has always been one of "all faiths," if there is such a thing.
And Batman is a very lapsed Episcopalian/Catholic. First off, the entire idea behind Batman is self-fulfillment through rigourous training and secondly, I honestly don't believe he, if he does believe in a God that isn't just some warped cosmic non-omnipotent deity (he has meet plenty of "Gods" but none of them have been all-powerful or all-knowing), does not resent God for not only what has happened to him, but what has happen to millions and millions of people. I mean, he blames Superman for not helping enough sometimes, so how do you think he'd feel about an omnipotent entity?
One might want to know though that Deadman, Boston Brand, has actually meet the Hindu goddess Rama Kushna, so I always assumed that all the Gods, no matter the religion, existed in the DC universe, which is why there aren't a lot of religious discussion or attempted convertion between the characters, I mean, why try to convince someone that one religion is more valid than the other, when all the Gods have been proven to exist? That's not to say characters haven't converted, just that converting is more about finding a relgion that suits that characters' sensibilities.
And Adherents.com's section on this topic, as mentioned in the article, is pretty good...
Posted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 3:53 pm
[Quoting from Newsweek/MSNBC article posted at top of forum discussion.] "They can be a great people ... They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all - their capacity for good - I've sent them you, my only son." Yes, Superman is a Christ figure. "A heavenly father sends his only son to save the Earth; in his mission or ministry, he will fight for truth and justice; he will die and be resurrected; he will ascend into heaven, and now is the time of his second coming," says Stephen Skelton, author of a new book "The Gospel According to the World's Greatest Superhero." "This is the story of Superman."
Um, no father sent anyone anywhere to save anything in Superman.
Wasn't baby alien Kent sent because his home planet was being destroyed? Wasn't he just sent to be protected?
Posted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 5:28 pm
I think it's kind of mixed. Above all, Jor-El sends his son off in the ship so that the boy may live. However, in several interpretations of the origin, Jor-El and Lara are aware of the planet they are sending their child to, and how it will affect his physiology. So in a way, they know what potential lies there and that he could be either a savior or a tyrant; but I don't believe they intended for their son to be a messiah, rather just the opportunity to be his own man.
That said though, with the themes involved I think it's hard to not at least mention the parrellels.
Posted: Fri Jun 16, 2006 9:58 am
Keep in mind that they specifically reference the 1978 movie. I haven't seen it (well, not since I was a kid and I can't remember any of it so it's as good as not seeing it) but I think it's the same quote as they're using in the current trailers.
That being said, I do think that Waid kind of wrote in a knowledge on Jor-El's behalf that Kal-El would be a god on Earth in Birhtright (but I can't recall if there was anything in there about giving him a mission so to speak).
Regardless, this is a pretty neat article!
Posted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 10:08 pm
If Superman is Jesus, then Superman in Jewish...
Superman = Jesus : Jesus = Jewish :: Superman = Jewish
Posted: Fri Jun 16, 2006 8:04 am
I've always thought of Superman's story as being more an allagory for the Jewish immigrant experience in America. He comes from a far away place, with a very ethnic name, Kal-El, to the heartland of America where he becomes the very WASP-y Clark Kent. He's even clothed in the colors of the American flag, minus any white...
Posted: Fri Jun 16, 2006 9:45 am
Superman isn't Jesus. That's just some retarded, modern, english lit class interpretation.
Superman is a sick ass superhero, with super strength, laser eyes, really cold breath and a spandex suit. Embrace it.
David the Amazin'(Mighty)
Posted: Fri Jun 16, 2006 11:21 am
While there have definitely been Christ allusions to Superman lately (the whole "coming back from the dead thing") I tend to find more comparisons to Moses.
Both were last of dying breeds (Superman of Krypton, while Moses was the lone survivor of his generation of children. Pharoah had ordered all Jewish male babies killed, which is why his mother...well that my next point)
The whole rocket coming to Earth, Moses placed in a basket through the Nile thing.
Both were adopted.
Both have Hebew names. Moses or Moshe means "drawn out of the water" (back to that whole basket in the nile thing) while Kal-El is basically two different ways of saying God, without saying god (which is taboo to use as per the whole "dont take the lord's name in vain" thing).
Both eventully discovered their true heritage, and it changed their lives.
and uhm...both fought evil bald men (sorry BKV) Lex Luthoer and Yul Brenner!
...Just my 2 cents.
Posted: Mon Jun 19, 2006 12:26 pm
After reading this, my assumption about Superman in my first post makes more sense now. http://bkv.tv/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=91804&highlight=#91804
From: "Super Hero Religions" forum discussion started 15 June 2006 on "RonFez.net" website, home of the Ron & Fez radio show (http://www.ronfez.net/forums/archive/index.php/t-50765.html; viewed 11 June 2007):
06-15-2006, 02:10 PM
Ron and Fez did an awesome bit on this years ago... Popular Comic Book Heroes Faith-by-Faith...
06-15-2006, 04:36 PM
Excus me, but Superman is Catholic. Most super-heroes are. Why? Because you can't be a hero if your a Evangelical Protestant. Simply how do you be a hero if you defy the absolute truth of the Bible. He is a Catholic, raised on strong Catholic morals. He was an altar boy, darn it, not an Evangelical Catholic, but a Catholic darn it!
06-15-2006, 04:48 PM
So there was a Kryptonian Jesus? You think he would have mentioned that the planet was going to blow up at some point? [Not a very effective] savior!
From: "Here, God exists in Four Colors and Two Dimensions", posted 7 March 2006 by grabbingsand on Metafilter website (http://www.metafilter.com/49827/Here-God-exists-in-Four-Colors-and-Two-Dimensions; viewed 11 June 2007):
Jimmy Olsen is a Lutheran. Really. And Clark Kent? Methodist, it seems. Daredevil, Gambit, Huntress and The Punisher? Catholics, all of them, though I have to wonder when Frank Castle last went to Confession. With about half of DC Comic's line-up heading to church in the latest issue of Infinite Crisis and knowing that Civil War is imminent in the House of Marvel, what better time than now to contemplate the particular faiths of our two-dimensional heroes.
Superman was raised Methodist, but he was born Jewish. Yes, on Krypton. What?
posted by kyrademon at 1:56 PM on March 7
Superman is definitely Jewish. He sets my Judar a-beeping.
I also suspect Spiderman and Plastic Man.
But Batman? So goyish! [i.e., "non-Jewish"]
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:34 PM on March 7
re: "Is that canonical? In some versions at least, Kal-El is two or three years old when he leaves Krypton"
Dunno about the cannon - according to some sources he was technically born here because the space ship was in fact a Kryptonian birthing matrix.
(Yeah, whole lotta nothing to do between jumps and I don't smoke...)
One guy worshipped Superman, which it seems to me there would be a lot of.
(whats-his-name, the guy with the horns and the staff? Magog?)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:51 PM on March 7
Siegel and Shuster are on record as saying that Superman is Jewish. Of course, they don't own the character now; DC does.
posted by Clay201 at 5:01 PM on March 7
I'd agree that Superman was indeed a Jewish superhero [links to: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/printFriendly/0,,1-196-1509594,00.html and http://www.jewishsuperhero.com/].
I've posted these links before. I'm just gonna come up with five comments for recycled posting on the blue ad infinitum.
But yeah, the whole "send your kid off in a little vessel to be raised within another group, and later on he'll fulfill his destiny to be awesome as is his birthright" plotline is present in not too many storylines. So yeah, Superman's totally a Jewy McJewerstein.
posted by neda at 5:21 PM on March 7
As a Jew, I don't want to claim Superman. He's a total jerk.
posted by piratebowling at 3:42 AM on March 8
No. You know who was a total jerk?
Superhitler [link to: http://www.comics.aha.ru/rus/stalin/1.html].
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:17 AM on March 8
From: "Comics and Religion", posted 8 March 2006 on "Savior Machine" blog website ("Personal blog of a Kuwaiti who works on building a community for his peers") (http://www.2by4.org/content/2006/03/08/comics-and-religion/; viewed 19 June 2007):
I've never considered what a super hero's religion was; it was a moot point. It was kinda given that Spiderman, or Superman would be raised under some Judo-Christian values, but it was never evident in the writing or the story. All you knew and cared about was that they were the good guys and were fighting the bad guys.
So when I saw this list of comic book characters religions I was amazed to see the level of research in the writing of these guys. Just look how they figured out that Spiderman is Protestant or Sasquatch is Jewish.
There are about 8 or 9 that are Muslims, but that is more obvious due to the natures of their story.
So this got me thinking, imagine the regular super heroes that we know - like Batman, Spiderman, Hulk, etc. - were actually Muslim. Would it change things much? ...
If Superman was a Muslim and he flew into buildings, the guy would have been labeled Al Qaida and would be in Guantanamo with Kryptonite treatment.
Comment by fadibou - 3/8/2006 @ 23:03:10
From: "Religions of super heroes" forum discussion page started 14 August 2006 on "Wizard Universe" website (http://wizarduniverse.invisionzone.com/lofiversion/index.php/t1595.html; viewed 20 June 2007):
Aug 15 2006, 08:28 PM
re: ...how did they figure all of this out? [referring to the religious affiliation of comic book characters]
Well, consider that a lot of comic creators are Jewish. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Bob Kane. Gil Kane. Consider that when Gil Kane created the Silver Age Green Lantern [Hal Jordan], he modelled the Guardians of the Universe after the very first Prime Minister of Israel. Also, Stan Lee is Jewish. Can't think of any more; but I am sure there are.
I believe there is even a book entitled "Up, Up and Oy Vey!"
Aug 16 2006, 11:13 AM
Actually, I read somewhere that Kal-El is the Hebrew word for "Voice of G-d".
Aug 16 2006, 02:59 PM
I'm Jewish. I've written stories. I've submitted stories. [But I have never had anything accepted or published.] Maybe my fault is not considering the religious aspects of a character.
I don't think may writers take it into consideration when writing a character though??
Aug 16 2006, 09:40 PM
I don't know, I think a lot of the epic stories religions give us can be for some good inspiration. For example, I recently wrote some work for a manga where the character borrows some elements from the story of Moses. I know a lot of people compare Superman's origins to Jesus and Moses. I don't know if it's a necessity, but it could help.
It may also help that I think Jews have had a bad rep for centuries (heck, I was reading in Ivanhoe that they were hated across Europe and could only get jobs as money lenders). I remember hearing Jews weren't being allowed into Ivy League Colleges, but they ended up making some smaller schools into sought-after institutions (maybe someone could help me a bit, I don't remember the names of the schools that benefitted). Perhaps there were so many Jews in comics because even today comics aren't really regarded very highly by the US public and they couldn't really get work elsewhere.
Aug 17 2006, 11:40 PM
Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na BATJEW!
LOL, my friend and I actually came up with this character, along with SuperJew, who, instead of having an s on his chest, he has the hebrew character for s.
I hope no one is offended by this, especially since the friend who helped me come up with these characters is Jewish.
Aug 18 2006, 12:10 PM
They all ready made the Superjew movies. Haven't you seen Mystery Men?
Myself, being Jewish, enjoyed the all-Jewish cast very much.
From: "Wonder Woman and Religion", posted 21 February 2006 by Ragnell on "Written World: Hyper-Feminist Comic Book Culture Commentary" blog website (http://ragnell.blogspot.com/2006/02/wonder-woman-and-religion.html; viewed 20 June 2007):
re: But as a rule, comics writers are so immersed in the default assumption of the Protestant God being the one real God -- even if they themselves aren't believers -- that they can't get outside that headspace.
Sorry to hijack Ragnell's blogspace but I disagree with this completely. A great many comic book creators *aren't* actually of a Protestant background. For example, the original creators of Superman were Jewish (and a lot of the alien-passing-among-humankind is thought to be a metaphor for their own struggles with their religion and dominant culture). Superman, the character, is Methodist because he was raised in rural Kansas, and that's one of the more common religious affiliations associated with that area...
Kalinara, I agree with everything you said... and where we seem to disagree may just be a result of me having chosen my words poorly. (Which happens a lot... which is why I'm trying to make a concise reply to replace the longwinded and pompous one I deleted.)
I don't claim there's any all-pervasive Protestant bias in comics... or certainly not a conscious one. But we Americans all grow up in a culture so immersed in certain assumptions and values that we don't even recognize them as such. A lot of our values come from early settlers who came here to practice their religious beliefs, and these values are so engrained in our way of life that we view them as simply "American" values without recognizing their religious roots. Even for a Jerry Siegel or a Stan Lee or a Jack Kirby, a lot of the "Protestant ethic" was the default norm of being American.
From: "Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters (Doug Ramsey Fans, please help)" forum discussion, started 17 October 2006 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-87949.html; viewed 20 June 2007):
10-17-2006, 02:42 PM
I found this site white tries to identify the religious affiliation of comic book characters.
10-17-2006, 04:56 PM
Silly site lists Superman as Protestant... LOL.
From: Kevin C. Murphy, "Can I get a (super)-witness?", posted 3 April 2006 by (kevincmurphy) on Triptych Cryptic/Ghost in the Machine blog website (http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/003749.html#003749; viewed 21 June 2007):
The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html], with a handy graphic of who's a member of what "legion." The site also includes impressively detailed individual entries on each character -- not only the big guns like Methodist Superman, Episcopal Batman, Catholic Daredevil, and Buddhist Wolverine, but also everyone from Presbyterian Wolfsbane to the Mormon Power Pack.
From: "Does Batman Go to Church?" forum discussion, started 21 March 2006 on AppleGeeks.com website (http://www.applegeeks.com/sm/index.php?action=printpage;topic=6662.0):
Title: Does Batman Go to Church?
Post by: gabrielzero on March 21, 2006, 01:11:16 PM
Well find out here:
and other inqueries on which superhero worships which religion. Its a pretty extensive sight with theories and findings...
Post by: Arkwright on March 24, 2006, 05:49:00 PM
I would have thought Superman would be Jewish. Guess it's not really worth arguing over, though.
Post by: ebil_m00fin on April 08, 2006, 01:33:03 PM
re: I would have thought Superman would be Jewish...
That's in an issue of Mad Magazine.
Post by: BAMikeyD on May 22, 2006, 07:08:07 PM
How would you circumsize him? LOL ["laugh out loud"] He worships the Kryptonian gods right?
Post by: TooCool on June 08, 2006, 08:49:26 PM
HEY, Superman ISN'T even from this World . . . How does he have an Earth religion?!!!!!
Post by: JulyFlame on June 14, 2006, 03:47:35 AM
He was raised a farmboy in what's pretty much the Bible Belt. Kansas, Y'know?
That'd do it for Superman, I think. XD
Thank God Superman did not become one of those Mormons who still believe in polygamy as a God-given right to them. I mean, think about that for a bit. [Mainstream "Mormons", i.e., members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abolished their observance of the Old Testament practice of polygamy in the late 1800s. This poster is cognizant of this fact, but is referring to the small enclaves of people who practice polygamy and identify themselves as "Mormons" but are not members of the mainstream Church. They are instead members of small splinter groups or practice independently.]
Post by: BAMikeyD on June 14, 2006, 05:38:31 PM
Yeah, but think, if he was a Mormon and he went on Mission [for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] in your home town. If you didn't convert, he'd smash your house.
Excommunicating people would be a lot easier with Superman at the helm too.
"Uhhh, Elder Kent, we need to excomunicate the Parker family..."
*Clark picks up said family's house and throws it out of Utah.*
"Done and done."
Post by: JulyFlame on June 15, 2006, 02:20:41 AM
Well, I was more thinking about the mostly large families and a ton of Superman offspring. I mean, we'd be up to our knees in Kryptonian/Human hybrids.
Post by: BAMikeyD on June 15, 2006, 09:57:25 AM
I dunno. I take the Mall Rats approach to this problem. Superman's [reproductive process would probably be] like a shot gun... Plus the super baby would kick right through Lois Lane and any other woman's womb.
But as far as him getting an Earth religion, I guess that would make sense, but only while he was growing up. After he discovered those crystals and learned about Krypton, then one would assume that he converted to his true religion.
Post by: JulyFlame on June 15, 2006, 02:13:25 PM
re: ...one would assume that he converted to his true religion.
Hmm. Maybe, maybe not. Let's use this analogy. You find out your parents adopted you and your birth parents worshipped giant mutated intelligent cockroaches. Are you going to worship the giant mutated intelligent cockroaches too? After all it is your true religion.
Post by: BAMikeyD on June 15, 2006, 04:55:07 PM
I dunno... Does Christianity actaully affect Kal-el? Now we're diving into a whole other topic here. Would Kal-el accepting Jesus really save him? I mean Jesus died for all of man kind, not Kryptonian... unless Jesus died for the sins of all the people in the universe... then I guess Jesus had a bigger burden than we thought, huh? LOL. I mean if the Giant Mutant Cockraoches showed me a true (to my view) path to heaven/paradise/etc., then yeah I'd probably follow that religion ;)
From: "Superheroes/villains and their religions" forum discussion, started 16 March 2006 on "Animation Insider" website (http://www.animationinsider.net/forums/archive/index.php?t-17835.html; viewed 28 June 2008):
03-16-2006, 05:16 AM
Someone pointed this out at another forum. I found it to be quite amusing that someone would actually have enough time on their hands to ponder about this.
09-19-2006, 09:25 AM
Does this include animated DC continuity or not? Because I know on Superman: The Animated Series, Clark did not attend church regularly in Metropolis. In "The Late Mr Kent", a funeral is being held for Clark (everyone thinks he has been murdered) and the Preacher says, "I didn't know him myself, but based on what I've heard from a number of you...." (and so on).
However in animated Smallville, Supergirl mentions a Pastor Ross ("Unity"), and a church is shown a lot, indicating that he does (or did) attend church in Smallville...
From: "Jews and Catholics rule" forum discussion, started 9 July 2006 on "Pop Culture Shock" website (http://www.popcultureshock.com/pcs/forums/showthread.php?t=13549; viewed 28 June 2007):
07-09-2006, 09:18 PM
Default Jews and Catholics rule. [By this, the poster means that Catholics and Jews have the most representation among comic book superheroes.]
The Mormons are rocking out too!
(Fastest growing religion though, I hear, so I guess they deserve the reppin [i.e., representation].)
But the Muslims (22% of the world), the Hindu (15% of the world), the Sikhs (totally typecast as supporting characters only!), Confucianists (7% of the planet), (and Atheists/Agnostics (17% of the world and growing fast!) all get the raw deal from comics:
Also be sure to check out the individual portraits. (i.e.: Superman is a Methodist but Lois is Catholic, Power Pack were all Mormons, Wolverine's a Buddhist, and Colossus, Booster Gold, and Iron Man are atheists. Their practices and more are described here:
From: "superspaceman/wolf (dog)", posted 22 May 2007 on "All Spaced Out" blog website (http://antitype.livejournal.com/474817.html; viewed 28 June 2007):
May. 22nd, 2007 | 12:23 am
lostcosmonaut writes a post on dogs and personality [link to: http://lostcosmonaut.livejournal.com/153295.html]
It's great, read it before you read my c/p'ed quasi-post here.
I comment with a response:
Clark stopped attending church services when his super-hearing, X-ray vision and other super senses began developing. As Clark later told his wife, Lois Lane, he stopped attending services because he "knew too much about their lives -- their problems -- their lies... [he] was afraid" that he might lose his faith in people. So he decided to distance himself from such close-contact, frequent congregational worship and put his faith in "the best that humanity has to offer" (Action Comics #849, July 2007).
And then there are the arguments that Superman is gay (w/ Clark Kent being his closeted alter ego), Superman is Christlike, etc.
Though taken out of context, I've always enjoyed this frame:
As you know, I'm quite keen on comic books. Especially the ones about superheroes. I find the whole mythology surrounding superheroes fascinating. Take my favorite superhero, Superman. Not a great comic book. Not particularly well-drawn. But the mythology... The mythology is not only great, it's unique. Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there's the superhero and there's the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he's Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn't become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he's Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red "S", that's the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears -- the glasses, the business suit -- that's the costume. That's the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He's weak... he's unsure of himself... he's a coward. Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race.
-- Bill, Kill Bill
I guess I think Superman kind of was in deep (inner) space (inside of Clark Kent), loving everyone and everything with a fierce calm. Being human -- being a dog, being Clark Kent -- is what made him weak and vulnerable; it's what made him need other people (Lois Lane and such), and what taught him how to be human. This, of course, is why Clark Kent had more personality than Superman. Weirdly enough, that's not who he really was. Superman was the lone wolf inside.
I dunno, man, I guess I'm saying what [mZA is] saying [in my own way, hopefully].
Though really, these days I feel more like Superman [w/ an imagination] flying around in space. It's hard to be a dog.
date: May. 22nd, 2007 08:06 am (UTC)
Something a lot of people overlook when thinking of Superman is that Superman didn't grow up Superman - he grew up Clark Kent. Clark is not a facade he invented, though he does intentionally tone it down, but an entire character he's been since birth.
Superman didn't grow up an impersonal god-powered being like The Enigma, he grew up human and for a good portion non-powered. (At least in accepted canon.)
Clark Kent isn't the alter-ego of Superman - it's a lot more complicated than that. Superman is Clark Kent with powers.
date: May. 22nd, 2007 03:38 pm (UTC)
That's true. I suppose the Kill Bill quote makes more sense when you think about Clark Kent/Superman in his adult life. To bridge the gap, he grew up Clark and Superman was the realization of his inner self? Clark Kent, even from youth, was, as I said, Superman learning how to be human. Maybe Kryptonians weren't so different from humans --- more human than human, even, being so much more evolved physically, mentally, even spiritually? For the sake of what I'm sort of getting at here, though, thinking of Superman as Kal-El, Hebrew for "vessel of God", roughly, it might not be so difficult to imagine Superman as some impartially loving messianic being from a distant planet. But because he was Clark Kent, too, he was not impartial, and he loved the people he knew.
Anyway, the Superman mythology is vast and what counts for canon is apparently up for debate, but I'm really just trying to add something to what lostcosmonaut had already said about people and personality, the dog/wolf thing, etc.
date: May. 22nd, 2007 08:22 pm (UTC)
Kryptonians were actually spiritually dead. Their entire culture was supposedly scientific and rational - though this has been subjected to a few diversions whenever being written by someone who needed a spiritual bent to their story.
On that note, I'm not really sure you headed in the same direction lostcosmonauts' remarks about Superman sent me.
date: May. 22nd, 2007 08:45 pm (UTC)
I just took the comments as rather flippant, I mean Superman is not really that analogous to Jesus. Jesus was human, for a start, and comes with a message that anybody can live up to him. You can't live up to Superman, he's the way he is because he's not human. I would say he triggers the same mythological centers as demi-humans, Herakles and all that jazz, do in classical myth. You could almost mistake them for a gifted person, but they're not, they're something more than human because the perception of humans as weak and helpless is our critique of ourselves.
We need greater-than-human beings to do good works for us because we don't feel capable of them ourselves. Worse, we don't even think they're possible by mere mortals.
From: "Stuart Moore's A Thousand Flowers: O Deadly Night" forum discussion, started 2 December 2003 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-6949.html; viewed 28 June 2007):
12-02-2003, 09:00 AM
...Which brings us to Christmas comics.
On the face of it, Christmas comics are an odd phenomenon. The whole point of the holidays is communal experience -- reunion with loved ones, families gathering together. But comics-reading -- any reading -- is an inherently solitary activity. How does this fit together?... But now we're getting awfully heavy for a column about holiday comics. Pour yourself an eggnog (ecch -- does anybody really drink that stuff?) and let's look back at some of the best, and strangest, examples of the genre from years past.