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Old 09-09-2006, 10:59 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Originally Posted by Beware of Doug
What Superman was, right from square one, was an American. A vigilante American, not a main-street flagwaver (not yet), and without much patience for any Bill of Rights. More a kind of futuristic frontier lawman. The kind of guy you'd call on to clean up a bad neighborhood in Cleveland.
Well, yes and no. The people that Siegel sent Superman after in the first few issues were not breaking any laws. The mine owner, the munitions maker, the head of a foreign government, they were all legally sanctioned, well respected, wealthy, powerful - and morally wrong. Superman was a vigilante, but not a frontier lawman. He was a moral crusader for social causes. This was wildly different even from the pulp superheroes that he was mostly modeled on and bore no resemblance to the western lawmen in the movies that Siegel loved.

Siegel got away with it because nobody was paying him any attention. As soon as the Powers That Were noticed they shut it down. Vigilantes were fine. The rest of the superhero comics were filled with vigilantes. But they didn't go after respectable capitalist businessmen, which was exactly what the people running DC comics saw themselves as. For them, labor was the troublesome, unreliable, crackbrained, lower-class hustlers that made up the writing and art staffs. They didn't want to stand for labor: they wanted to exploit it. Even though many of them came from the same sort of backgrounds, they were now on top of the pile and that changed everything.

So they changed Superman into a Boy Scout and gave Batman a Boy Wonder and made all the plots resonate with kids who had no social consciousness. It worked, spectacularly. And Lois mooned over Superman and blacks were invisible and religion was never mentioned and the law was paramount and Superman and Batman were not wanted by the police but were given medals by them. Real Americans.

And Jerry Siegel became a bitter paranoid recluse who considered jumping off the Empire State Building (a real incident that Chabon adapted for his book).

That's also American, unfortunately.