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Keeping it Real with The Man of Steel

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

"Superman - The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero" by Larry Tye

“Superman – The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero” by Larry Tye

Keeping it Real with The Man of Steel

by Ronald Sklar

Good thing Superman has strong shoulders, because he carries the weight of the world on them. We project all of our cultural fears and anxieties onto him, constantly ask him for help and rescue, and although times change, we prefer him not to.

Nevertheless, we tell his story over and over again. It never gets old. The Daily Planet has yet to go digital, and Clark Kent could no longer find a phone booth for a quick change, yet Superman remains stronger than Kryptonite. We continue to want to know what makes him make us tick.

In Larry Tye’s new book, Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero [Random House], we learn why we have Superman on the brain, and how the Superman story is actually Biblical (even more specifically, Jewish). We also examine why, in this digital age, Superman continues to outsell all the other sucker superheroes.

We think of Superman as a constant, but how can any character continue to inspire millions through so many decades?

It’s his never losing the sense of right from wrong. Dark heroes like Batman had a problem with that, and [Superman] was never fraught like Spiderman. He was always the familiar Dudley Do-Right kind of character.  In times of trouble, like what we are going through right now, I think he is really reassuring to people.

 In your book, you theorize that Superman’s story is actually based on a biblical theme.

Superman is — in my firm opinion — Jewish. I knew that his creators were Jewish and his publishers were Jewish, but everything from the fact that his name — when he came down from the Planet Krypton — was Kal-El, which in Hebrew suggests the vessel or the voice of God. His “truth, justice and the American way” were strained out of the Jewish book called The Mishna [which instructs that] truth, justice and peace are what Jews must strive for. He floats in from outer space and is rescued by his parents — two Gentiles named John and Martha Kent. They adopt him and raise him in the Midwest. If that’s not the Moses and Exodus story, I don’t know what is. Most compelling of all to me, any name that ends in “man” is either a superhero or a Jew. In this case, it’s both.

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