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Cultural impact

Superman has come to be seen as both an American cultural icon


[124][125]
and the first comic book
superhero. His adventures and popularity have established the character as an inspirin force
!ithin the public eye" !ith the character servin as inspiration for musicians" comedians and
!riters alike. #ryptonite" $rainiac and $i%arro have become synonymous in popular vernacular
!ith Achilles& heel" e'treme intellience
[12(]
and reversed loic
[12)]
respectively. Similarly" the
phrase *+&m not Superman* or *you&re not Superman* is an idiom used to suest a lack of
omnipotence.
[12,][12-][1./]
Inspiring a market
0he character&s initial success led to similar characters bein created.
[1.1][1.2]
$atman !as the first
to follo!" $ob #ane commentin to 1in Sullivan that iven the *kind of money [Sieel and
Shuster !ere earnin !ith their superhero] you&ll have one on 2onday*.
[1..]
1ictor 3o'" an
accountant for 45" also noticed the revenue such comics enerated and commissioned 6ill
7isner to create a deliberately similar character to Superman. Wonder Man !as published in 2ay
1-.-" and althouh 45 successfully sued" claimin plaiarism"
[1.4]
3o' had decided to cease
publishin the character. 3o' later had more success !ith the $lue $eetle. 3a!cett 5omics&
5aptain 2arvel" launched in 1-4/" !as Superman&s main rival for popularity throuhout the
1-4/s and !as aain the sub8ect of a la!suit" !hich 3a!cett eventually settled in 1-5." a
settlement !hich involved the cessation of the publication of the character&s adventures.
[1.5]
Superhero comics are no! established as the dominant enre in American comic book
publishin"
[1.(]
!ith many thousands of characters in the tradition havin been created in the
years since Superman&s creation.
[1.)]
Merchandising
Superman became popular very 9uickly" !ith an additional title" Superman Quarterly" rapidly
added. +n 1-4/ the character !as represented in the annual 2acy&s parade for the first time.
[1.,]
+n
fact Superman had become popular to the e'tent that in 1-42" !ith sales of the character&s three
titles standin at a combined total of over 1.5 million" Time !as reportin that *the :avy
4epartment ;had< ruled that Superman comic books should be included amon essential supplies
destined for the 2arine arrison at 2id!ay +slands.*
[1.-]
0he character !as soon licensed by
companies keen to cash in on this success throuh merchandisin. 0he earliest paraphernalia
appeared in 1-.-" a button proclaimin membership in the Supermen of America club. $y 1-4/
the amount of merchandise available increased dramatically" !ith 8isa! pu%%les" paper dolls"
bubble um and tradin cards available" as !ell as !ooden or metal fiures. 0he popularity of
such merchandise increased !hen Superman !as licensed to appear in other media" and =es
4aniels has !ritten that this represents *the start of the process that media mouls of later
decades !ould describe as &synery.&*
[14/]
$y the release of Superman Returns" 6arner $ros. had
arraned a cross promotion !ith $urer #in"
[141]
and licensed many other products for sale.
Superman&s appeal to licensees rests upon the character&s continuin popularity" cross market
appeal and the status of the *S* shield" the styli%ed maenta and old *S* emblem Superman
!ears on his chest" as a fashion symbol.
[142][14.]
0he *S* shield by itself is often used in media to
symboli%e the Superman character.
[144]
In other media
2ain article> Superman in other media
0he character of Superman has appeared in various media aside from comic books" includin
radio and television series" several films" and video ames. 0he first adaptation !as a a daily
ne!spaper comic strip" launched on ?anuary 1(" 1-.-" and runnin throuh 2ay 1-((@
sinificantly" Sieel and Shuster used the first strips to establish Superman&s backround" addin
details such as the planet #rypton and Superman&s father" ?orA7l" concepts not yet established in
the comic books.
[,1]
3ollo!in on from the success of this !as the first radio series" The
Adventures of Superman" !hich premiered 3ebruary 12" 1-4/" and featured the voice of $ud
5ollyer as Superman. 5ollyer !as also cast as the voice of Superman in a series of 1) Superman
animated cartoons produced by 3leischer Studios and 3amous Studios for theatrical release from
1-41A4.. +n 1-4," the movie serial Superman made #irk Alyn the first actor to portray the hero
onscreen. +n 1-51 came the television series Adventures of Superman starrin Beore Ceeves.
0elevision series featurin Superman and Superboy !ould debut in the 1-,/s" 1--/s and 2///s.
+n 1-(( came the $road!ay musical It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman" remade for
television in 1-)5. Also in 1-((" Superman starred in the first of several animated television
series The Ne Adventures of Superman. Superman returned to movie theaters in 1-), !ith
director Cichard 4onner&s Superman" starrin 5hristopher Ceeve" !hich spa!ned three se9uels.
+n 2//(" $ryan Siner directed the feature Superman Returns" and in 2/1." director Dack Snyder
rebooted the film franchise !ith Man of Steel" !ith an e'pected se9uel to feature $atman.
Musical references, parodies, and homages
See also> Superman in popular music
Superman has also featured as an inspiration for musicians" !ith sons by numerous artists from
several enerations celebratin the character. 4onovan&s $illboard Hot 1// toppin sinle
*Sunshine Superman* utili%ed the character in both the title and the lyric" declarin *Superman
and Breen =antern ain&t ot nothin on me.*
[145]
3olk sinerEson!riter ?im 5roce sun about the
character in a list of !arnins in the chorus of his son *Fou 4on&t 2ess Around !ith ?im*"
introducin the phrase *you don&t tu on Superman&s cape* into popular le'icon.
[14(]
Gther tracks
to reference the character include Benesis& *=and of 5onfusion*"
[14)]
the video to !hich featured a
Spittin +mae puppet of Conald Ceaan dressed as Superman"
[14,]
*;6ish + 5ould 3ly =ike<
Superman* by 0he #inks on their 1-)- album !o Bud"et and *Superman* by 0he 5li9ue" a
track later covered by C.7.2. on its 1-,( album !ifes Ri#h Pa"eant. 0his cover is referenced by
Brant 2orrison in Animal Man" in !hich Superman meets the character" and the track comes on
Animal 2an&s !alkman immediately after.
[14-]
5rash 0est 4ummies& *Superman&s Son*" from
the 1--1 album The $hosts That %aunt Me e'plores the isolation and commitment inherent in
Superman&s life.
[15/]
3ive for 3ihtin released *Superman ;+t&s :ot 7asy<* in 2///" !hich is from
Superman&s point of vie!" althouh Superman is never mentioned by name.
[151]
arodies of Superman did not take lon to appear" !ith Mi"hty Mouse introduced in *0he 2ouse
of 0omorro!* animated short in 1-42.
[152]
6hile the character s!iftly took on a life of its o!n"
movin beyond parody" other animated characters soon took their turn to parody the character. +n
1-4. $us $unny !as featured in a short" Super&Ra''it" !hich sees the character ainin po!ers
throuh eatin fortified carrots. 0his short ends !ith $us steppin into a phone booth to chane
into a real *Superman* and emerin as a H.S. 2arine. +n 1-5( 4affy 4uck assumes the mantle
of *5luck 0rent* in the short *Stupor 4uck*" a role later reprised in various issues of the !ooney
Tunes comic book.
[15.]
+n the Hnited #indom 2onty Iython created the character $icycle
Cepairman" !ho fi'es bicycles on a !orld full of Supermen" for a sketch in series of their $$5
sho!.
[154]
Also on the $$5 !as the sitcom My %ero" !hich presented 0hermoman as a slihtly
dense Superman pastiche" attemptin to save the !orld and pursue romantic aspirations.
[155]
+n
the Hnited States" Saturday Ni"ht !ive has often parodied the fiure" !ith 2arot #idder
reprisin her role as =ois =ane in a 1-)- episode. 0he mana and anime series (r. Slump
featured the character Suppaman@ a short" fat" pompous man !ho chanes into a thinly veiled
SupermanAlike alterAeo by eatin a sourAtastin umeboshi. ?erry Seinfeld" a noted Superman
fan" filled his series Seinfeld !ith references to the character and in 1--) asked for Superman to
coAstar !ith him in a commercial for American 7'press. 0he commercial aired durin the 1--,
:3= Ilayoffs and Super $o!l" Superman animated in the style of artist 5urt S!an" aain at the
re9uest of Seinfeld.
[15(]
Superman !as featured in the Scre!Attack&s !eb series (eath Battle"
!here he fouht a hypothetical battle similar to 4eadliest 6arrior !ith the character Son Boku
and !on. Superman !as voiced durin the battle simulation by the voice actor
+ts?ustSomeCandomBuy.
[15)]
Superman has also been used as reference point for !riters" !ith Steven 0. Seale&s raphic
novel Superman) It's a Bird e'plorin Seale&s feelins on his o!n mortality as he strules to
develop a story for a Superman tale.
[15,]
$rad 3raser used the character as a reference point for
his play Poor Super Man" !ith The Independent notin the central character" a ay man !ho has
lost many friends to A+4S as someone !ho *identifies all the more keenly !ith Superman&s
alienAamidAdeceptiveAlookalikes status.*
[15-]
Superman&s imae !as also used in an A+4S
a!areness campain by 3rench orani%ation A+47S. Superman !as depicted as emaciated and
breathin from an o'yen tank" demonstratin that noAone is beyond the reach of the disease" and
it can destroy the lives of everyone.
[1(/]
Superman is also mentioned in several films" includin ?oel Schumacher&s Batman * Ro'in" in
!hich $atman states" *0hat&s !hy Superman !orks alone...* in reference to the many troubles
caused by his partner Cobin" and also in Sam Caimi&s Spider&Man" in !hich Aunt 2ay ives her
nephe! Ieter Iarker a !ord of advice not to strain himself too much because" *Fou&re not
Superman" you kno!"* amon many others.
Literary analysis
Superman has been interpreted and discussed in many forms in the years since his debut. 0he
character&s status as the first costumed superhero has allo!ed him to be used in many studies
discussin the enre" Hmberto 7co notin that *he can be seen as the representative of all his
similars*.
[1(1]
6ritin in Time in 1-)1" Berald 5larke stated> *Superman&s enormous popularity
miht be looked upon as sinallin the beinnin of the end for the Horatio Aler myth of the
selfAmade man.* 5larke vie!ed the comics characters as havin to continuously update in order
to maintain relevance" and thus representin the mood of the nation. He rearded Superman&s
character in the early seventies as a comment on the modern !orld" !hich he sa! as a place in
!hich *only the man !ith superpo!ers can survive and prosper.*
[1(2]
Andre! Arnold" !ritin in
the early 21st century" has noted Superman&s partial role in e'plorin assimilation" the character&s
alien status allo!in the reader to e'plore attempts to fit in on a some!hat superficial level.
[
A.5. Braylin" !ritin in The Spe#tator" traces Superman&s stances throuh the decades" from his
1-./s campain aainst crime bein relevant to a nation under the influence of Al 5apone"
throuh the 1-4/s and 6orld 6ar ++" a period in !hich Superman helped sell !ar bonds"
[1(4]
and
into the 1-5/s" !here Superman e'plored the ne! technoloical threats. Braylin notes the
period after the 5old 6ar as bein one !here *matters become merely personal> the task of
pittin his bra!n aainst the brains of =e' =uthor and $rainiac appeared to be independent of
bier 9uestions*" and discusses events post -E11" statin that as a nation *cauht bet!een the
terrifyin Beore 6. $ush and the terrorist Gsama bin =aden" America is in earnest need of a
Saviour for everythin from the minor inconveniences to the ma8or horrors of !orld catastrophe.
And here he is" the do!nAhome cleanAcut boy in the blue tihts and red cape*.
[1(5]
Scott $ukatman has discussed Superman" and the superhero in eneral" notin the !ays in !hich
they humani%e lare urban areas throuh their use of the space" especially in Superman&s ability
to soar over the lare skyscrapers of 2etropolis. He !rites that the character *represented" in
1-.," a kind of 5orbusierian ideal. Superman has JAray vision> !alls become permeable"
transparent. 0hrouh his benin" controlled authority" Superman renders the city open" modernist
and democratic@ he furthers a sense that =e 5orbusier described in 1-25" namely" that
&7verythin is kno!n to us&.*
[42]
?ules 3eiffer has arued that Superman&s real innovation lay in the creation of the 5lark #ent
persona" notin that !hat *made Superman e'traordinary !as his point of oriin> 5lark #ent.*
3eiffer develops the theme to establish Superman&s popularity in simple !ish fulfillment"
[1((]
a
point Sieel and Shuster themselves supported" Sieel commentin that *+f you&re interested in
!hat made Superman !hat it is" here&s one of the keys to !hat made it universally acceptable.
?oe and + had certain inhibitions... !hich led to !ishAfulfillment !hich !e e'pressed throuh our
interest in science fiction and our comic strip. 0hat&s !here the dualAidentity concept came from*
and Shuster supportin that as bein *!hy so many people could relate to it*.
[1()]
+an Bordon suests that the many incarnations of Superman across media use nostalia to link
the character to an ideoloy of the American 6ay. He defines this ideoloy as a means of
associatin individualism" consumerism" and democracy and as somethin that took shape
around 66++ and underpinned the !ar effort. Superman he notes !as very much part of that
effort.
[1(,]
Superman&s immirant status is a key aspect of his appeal.
[1(-][1)/][1)1]
Aldo Cealado sa! the
character as pushin the boundaries of acceptance in America. 0he e'traterrestrial oriin !as
seen by Cealado as challenin the notion that AnloASa'on ancestry !as the source of all
miht.
[1)2]
Bary 7nle sa! the *myth of Superman [assertin] !ith total confidence and a
childlike innocence the value of the immirant in American culture.* He arues that Superman
allo!ed the superhero enre to take over from the 6estern as the e'pression of immirant
sensibilities. 0hrouh the use of a dual identity" Superman allo!ed immirants to identify !ith
both their cultures. 5lark #ent represents the assimilated individual" allo!in Superman to
e'press the immirants cultural heritae for the reater ood.
[1)/]
0imothy Aaron Ievey has
arued other aspects of the story reinforce the acceptance of the American dream. He notes that
*the only thin capable of harmin Superman is #ryptonite" a piece of his old home !orld.*
[41]
4avid ?enemann has offered a contrastin vie!. He arues that Superman&s early stories portray
a threat> *the possibility that the e'ile !ould over!helm the country.*
[1).]
4avid Cooney" a
theater critic for The Ne +or, Times" in his evaluation of the play" +ear -ero" considers
Superman to be the *9uintessential immirant story...;b<orn on an alien planet" he ro!s stroner
on 7arth but maintains a secret identity tied to a homeland that continues to e'ert a po!erful
hold on him even as his every contact !ith those oriins does him harm
Video games
2ain article> =ist of Superman video ames
6hile Superman is larely considered to be the archetypal superhero" and the flaship character
of 45 5omics" he has en8oyed virtually no success in video ames. A variety of Superman video
ames have been released" startin !ith 1-),&s Superman for the Atari 2(//" none of !hich have
been commercially successful. Gne of the most notorious e'amples is the 1--- ame for the
:intendo (4" simply titled Superman ;althouh often erroneously called Superman ./ due to the
tradition of :(4 ames puttin the number *(4* at the end of several titles<" !hich is larely
considered to be one of the !orst ames of all time.