The Ages of Superman: Essays on the Man of Steel in Changing Times
Joseph J. Darowski
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Since Superman first appeared on the cover of Action Comics #1 in 1938, the superhero has changed with the times to remain a relevant icon of American popular culture. This collection explores the evolution of the Superman character and demonstrates how his alterations mirror historical changes in American society. Beginning with the original comic book and ending with the 2011 Grounded storyline, these essays examine Superman's patriotic heroism during World War II, his increase in power in the early years of the Cold War, his death and resurrection at the end of the Cold War, and his recent dramatic reimagining. By looking at the many changes the Man of Steel has undergone to remain pertinent, this volume reveals as much about America as it does about the champion of Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
to grieve with grace. “Where’s the dignity?” Martha Kent exclaims, watching the televised funeral deteriorate into a “circus.”35 The unruly masses turn into a mob requiring superhero crowd control; in the aftermath of Superman’s demise, innumerable frauds step forward to claim some link to him, including a “Mrs. Superman” who purportedly lived with him in secret in a New York penthouse36; others declare themselves his tailor, business manager, etc.37; and the aforementioned funeral merchandise
page the Golden Age Superman, his wife the Earth 2 Lois Lane, an alternate Earth’s Lex Luthor (known as Alexander Luthor), and another Earth’s Superboy (soon to be renamed Superboy Prime) watch from the paradise dimension in which they have been trapped since the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths. The four castaways of times and places that have ceased to exist watch the outside superheroes and discuss the heroes’ lackluster and poor performances, with Lois serving as the new superheroes’ only
reading has the same objective: the American Way is a path to achieve the American Dream. The American Dream is another hard-to-define concept that seems to adapt every few years. At its core, it is the possibility that an individual can achieve success or a better life in the United States unlike what he or she could elsewhere. Superman is an exemplar of this ideal, even as his dual identity reveals differing definitions of success. As Clark Kent, he is a self-made man who by dint of hard work
rather than his presence. John Darowski’s “In a World Without Superman, What Is the American Way?” discusses 52, Trinity, and The World of New Krypton and what each one reveals about the Superman’s symbolic meaning. Randy Duncan’s “Travelling Hopefully in Search of American National Identity: The ‘Grounded’ Superman as a 21st Century Picaro” looks at the final story to be published before the 2011 reboot of the Superman franchise. In a story called “Grounded” Superman decides to walk across
Games.” The Adventures of Superman #427 (April 1987). New York: DC Comics, 1. 16. Ibid., 2. 17. Ibid., 8–10. 18. Ibid., 12–13. 19. Ibid., 14. 20. Wolfman, Marv (w), and Jerry Ordway (a). “Gang War Part Two: A Tragedy in Five Acts.” The Adventures of Superman #433 (Oct. 1987). New York: DC Comics, 4. 21. Byrne, John (w, a). “Squatter.” Action Comics #584 (Jan. 1987). New York: DC Comics. 22. Byrne, John (w, a). “Legends from the Darkside.” Superman #3 (March 1987). New York: DC Comics. 23.