Sunday, November 20, 2011

World War II and Superman

There is no doubt that major events in the world shape fiction. Even classic comic book characters, in both their creation and development over time, show the influence of events as far back as World War II all the way to the present. As always it is difficult to say with any certainty what really went into the creation of any piece of fiction, but I believe there are some very clear parallels between these stories and the emotions of the times.

Superman was one of the earliest super heroes and grew to become the very symbol of comic book super heroes. He was a Kansas born farm boy, raised on Middle American values. As an infallible hero, he was able to protect people anywhere from anything at a moment’s notice. He was at his core a character that embodied all of the things that made America great. He stood for truth, justice and the American way. Hell, he even wore red and blue.

A character created in the years following World War I, and developed throughout World War II and the early days of the Cold War reflected the era that was characterized by the presence of a clear threat in a singularly nationally unifying enemy, first with the Nazis and then the Soviets.

In a time when the safety of the very world was in question it only makes sense that a larger than life character, which stands for the core values of America, was an attractive idea. This was especially true in the years of the cold war when nuclear annihilation seemed possible, and Superman was just the kind of hero who could keep the world safe. Fiction has always been an escape from real life and comics were no different.

This is only the beginning though, the later days of the cold war and beyond brought a great deal of change to the world. Next week I will cover Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns and the way that Batman changed to reflect the times.

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