How do you select the greatest superhero of all time? How do you rank them? Raw ability, super-powers and toughness come first. Thousands of flashy names and uniforms have come and gone over the last century, so influence and staying power must be considered. A true hero should be able to transcend the legion of comic-book fans to affect the whole world. Who is the most powerful and influential superhero in history? I think none other than the Man of Steel.
Superman has everything. Invulnerability to any attack including nuclear explosions. Strength sufficient to throw mountains. Intergalactic flight. Laser and x-ray vision. Hurricane-force sub-zero breath. In one comic, he finds a villain among eleven million people with his super hearing: “You’ve got a very distinct heartbeat. Erratic breathing. And your kevlar costume squeaks when you walk. Easy sound grouping to pull out of a crowd.” In the first movie, he flies against the earth’s orbit with enough power to travel back in time.
No doubt in my mind that there’s no tougher, stronger hero out there. He’d bust Wolverine’s claws, melt Batarangs in mid-air and push the Hulk aside like a bug. But it goes much further than that. Can a superhero change a nation? Change the world?
If it wasn’t for Superman, there’d be no superhero genre. No comic books. No little boys and girls dreaming of fantastic powers.
In 1932, the heart of the Great Depression, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster invented Superman for Science Fiction magazine. The June, 1938, debut of Action Comics #1 featuring Superman led the way for Batman in ’39 and an explosion of heroes in the forties, including Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Captain America. He lasted a lot longer than Bulletman and Bulletgirl, the Red Bee, or Hourman. He survived the plagiarism of Wonderman and Amazing Man. Superman was a social activist with a strong moral code, fighting corruption and protecting the innocent. Inspired by its new hero, the country picked itself out of its Depression and powered into World War Two like it was also bullet-proof.
The bold, skin-tight suits that have become standard-issue for superheroes were pioneered by Siegel and Shuster. The S logo from Superman’s chest is a globally recognized icon to the same magnitude as McDonald’s Golden Arches. Catch-phrases and lingo from the comics, radio, television, and movies affect our daily English to an extent similar to Shakespeare.
“Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Look! Up in the sky! It’s Superman.”
“This looks like a job for Superman!”
“Up, up and away!”
Frequently repeated, paraphrased, misused and parodied, these phrases shape the way Earthlings speak.
Jim Croce warned us not to “tug on Superman’s cape”.
Have you ever had one of those weird days when you’re sure you’ve been transported to Bizarro world?
Recently I heard a sports reporter say that Superman goes to bed in Tim Tebow pajamas.
The first, the strongest, the toughest, the most recognized: Superman. Don’t believe me? Ask Empire Magazine. The grand-pappy of the genre. Would Pavarti K. Tyler even be talking about a Muslim superhero if there’d never been a Superman? She probably would have written about the Muslim Dick Tracy or Lone Ranger.
And I know what you’re about to say: Kryptonite. I did some research. The stuff doesn’t exist.