Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Cape

One thing that keeps coming up is the importance of Superman's cape. Alvin Schwartz insists that the cape is indestructible (in his book An Unlikely Prophet), and the cape appears to be the most common item donned by children when they pretend to be Superman. it's iconic and essential. You can't be Superman without the cape.

That being said, you can buy a reproduction (so is there a real one out there somewhere?) at a comic shop in cincinatti for $295. The article and shop in question (the shop's name is Up Up and Away, which is what I wanted to call this blog) are promoting Free Comic Book day, which is coming up in a week and a half. In case somebody beside me is actually reading this, and that person doesn't know, Free Comic Book Day is exactly what it sounds like. You go to a comics shop and they give you a few free comics that publishers send to the expressley for this pupose.

The cape is one of the two places where the S-Shield is featured. Its color scheme on the cape varies. But since Superman wasn't the guy's name on his home planet, and yet the S-Shield was explained to be part of the blanket or something that he had when he arrived on earth, people started to wonder what the S was all about. So, somebody came up with an explanation, one that involved creating a new language, Kryptonese (later, Kryptonian--they're #'s 10 and 11 on the list of languages on the site I linked). Kryptonian is becoming pretty common in tattoos, such as in this guy's tattoo of his name:

What's weird is that in that Kryptonian alphabet, there's no symbol like the one on the S-shield. The closest is the equivalent for the letter S. I seem to recall that the S-shield stood for the family, the House of El, if memory serves. I'll have to find out.


I suppose it's inevitable that the world turns into a musical someday. Half the world is busy lip-synching to some song or other on youtube. So why not revive the old Superman broadway show, with a new book?

This one's come up a few times now. Not sure what to make of it yet. Evidently it's in answer to a question about why the crime rate never ends if Superman is so great.

At long last, action-hero-pant-wearing day has the green light. In the UK, anyway. And it supports charity. Evidently, it's not a day when everybody wears a Superman costume they bought at the story; they simply put their underwear outside their trousers. There will be stickers, and the article makes use of the word "whilst." How very English of it.

A guy proposes to his girlfriend while he's wearing a superman outfit.

"She calls me her Superman because I look after her and make sure she doesn't do anything wrong."

That's not the first time this has happened. The Superman guy in Confessions of a Superhero does the same thing. Then gets married in his costume underneath the Superman statue in Metropolis, IL.

There's something called the superman punch.

I don't watch the show HEROES. I found this reference to Superman in the most recent episode. Are there lots of these sorts of things in the show?

You're noble like Superman, you believe in truth and justice like Superman. You're a little fascist like Superman.

Evidently this is a villain calling a hero superman in an attempt to make the hero out to be a fascist.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Superman is real...?

I've come across this kind of thing before. I've never known what to make of it.

And I was just reading about Superman being a mass hallucination. Then this came up.

This long essay is a good one to have on file. It's got lots of good pictures, including the one that caused much trouble recently--of Clark Kent drinking.


I'm trying to figure out exactly what to do with the fact that kids pretend to be Superman. A big part of me is already dealing with the concept of ostension, which is enacting a behavior that you read about or hear about (such as a kid playing russian roulette because he read about it in a comic book--see The Ten Cent Plague). There was, after all, a rumor that George Reeves killed himself because he felt guilty when all sorts of kids hurt themselves pretending they could fly.

So kids pretend to be superheroes. Scholars study this. Advice sites tell you how to deal with it. Frederic Wertham condemns it and the art form that prompted it. But what does it all mean? I'll get back to you on that.

More Nicknames...

Finally a baseball superman. Shannon Wilkerson of Augusta State.

Soccer. Derby's Superman, Oscar Machapa. The article doesn't refer to him as that except in the headline.

Boxing. Edwin Valero. He's from venezuela.

Mixed Martial Arts. Anthony Manacio. He's got superman tattoos, too.

Lacrosse. Ryan Fioretti. he's a goal keeper.

This one's not in reference to a specific person's nickname, but refers to the fact that superman is a character type. It's in reference to some Dodgers players realizing that they're not going to be "superman." Someone who plays even when they're not feeling up to it. So, you know, it's still sports.

Enough of that. Tattoos

This is funny:

Then there's Turk--Donald Faison of Scrubs. According to some, he's going to remove his superman tattoo.

From an interview in American Way:

I was 18. I wanted to get a tattoo. Superman was the coolest. He could solve every problem. He was the man of steel. I wanted to do it. My right arm is my strong arm, so I thought if I put the tattoo on that arm, it’d make me stronger. Didn’t really do anything for me. I’m just permanently marked with another man’s insignia. You live and learn.

And then there's this one:

Friday, April 10, 2009

More Obama

Just when i think I'm done working on this for the day...The Daily Show has to go and compare Obama to Superman.

"If you're going to steal from a Superman movie, don't make it Superman IV." That's a paraphrase. Evidently Obama's speech about ridding the world of nuclear threats echoed Superman's speech about throwing nuclear weapons into the sun.

Does anybody else think that the Daily Show will now only be making fun of Fox News?

Superhero decadence

Superman stands at the forefront of the superhero genre. And thus he comes up a lot in discussing its finer points, its tropes, its triumphs and failings. And so it's natural that he comes up as the first example of what's wrong with superhero comics in Bill Willingham's discussion of the degradation of the superhero, which has been referred to as the age of superhero decadence. More on this to come

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I've been considering Superman in folklore, but mostly in verbal folklore: nicknames, jokes, etc. I've gotten a few pictures here and there, mostly of Obama as Superman. I don't know why it's taken me so long to consider Superman tattoos. It took Scrubs to open my eyes. Turk has a Superman tattoo on his shoulder.

Here are a few pictures. This one from a forum on Wizard, but a guy whose screen name is Team Rocket:

This one's cool. It's on the arm of a guy named Dan Spaulding, of Scenic City Builders, which explains the hammer:

This one's on a thread at, and there are a whole lot of picuters here. I choose this one because it comes up first in a search, and because the placement of the tattoo is another traditional choice. It comes with many names, the placement, which I will not get into here. It's posted by txsupergirl87:

There will no doubt be more tattoo posts in the future. I hear Shaq's got one, too.
Recently, I've noticed a more populist view of Superman. I sense it lurking underneath All Star Superman, by Grant Morrison, and in a whole lot of articles. Here's one about Superman, Obama, and Warren Buffett.

Speaking of Obama, the Guardian calls him, President Barack Hussain Obama, the multicultural Superman for the globalised world. And i don't think I've posted this picture yet:

Then there's Indonesia. Apparently, Superman and other pop culture heroes have become icons for the ballot, with at least five aspiring legislators superimposing their faces on the bodies of superheroes and using the images on their campaign posters, according to CNN. They neglect to show pictures of these, unfortunately. The article I've linked to is fascinating, actually. It's largely about visual imagery and democracy--how candidates are employing pictures to win votes. It's light on the details of Indonesian democracy, which has only been around since 1998, but the few facts are interesting. I guess I just never expect for there to be other systems of democracy, which seems as if it's taught in schools as a monolithic thing: there's democracy, as opposed to monarchy, or despotism, or oligarchy or Felocracy. But there are forms of democracy. In Indonesia, until recently, voters could only vote for parties. And there is an election to determine which parties get on the ballots.

I guess the most surprising thing is how diverse the topics become when doing a search for Superman.

Monday, April 6, 2009

More Nicknames

Stephen Ireland, who plays soccer for Manchester City FC, is known as Superman.

Glenn Beck calls himself Superman. I don't think it's a nickname is you apply it to yourself. Probably won't stick.

New Zealand Chief's rugby player Dwayne Sweeney became Superman quite recently, if I'm reading the article correctly.

Li Ka-Shing's son, Richard Li, is apparently being called Little Superman, mostly because his father is called Superman. It's all about business acumen.

Here, a high school soccer team is like Superman because they play well when the sun shines.

Then there's Nolan Belcher. I'm beginning to wonder if all of these Supermans are speculative, like this one, or if there's more to it.

Maya Moore plays basketball for UConn, and is called Superman in this article. Evidently, she juggles, too.

This one's all about golf, not specific to any golfer:

The fashion experts can say what they like about the Green Jacket but it has transformative powers, like Superman's cape or a bite from a radioactive spider. Slip one over the shoulders of a golfer and it turns a man into a boy, a jaded professional into a joyful ingénue. The eyes widen, the arm hairs bristle and the spirit soars.

So the cape turns Clark Kent into a boy, a joyful ingenue. Interesting.

I can only describe this as an article confirming that technological progress will either transform us all into Superpeople, or will render Superman unnecessary. Here's a relevant passage:

This is the first of the lessons I have for new smartphone owners: You will drop your phone. You cannot reverse time by flying around the globe. Your phone will be OK. So don't baby it. You bought it to be used, not put in a display case in your living room.

The article itself opens with two paragraphs about the author imagining flying around the globe in reverse--as Superman did in the 1978 movie--so as to reverse time and prevent the accidental fall of a cellphone.

I suppose that the DC Comictitian is going to come up sooner or later. Might as well be now.

Everybody else is linking to this video on YouTube, so I will, too.

And I know that you can see my underwear

And you can joke about it all you want, I really don't care.

Finally. I suppose I should post a picture of Action Comics #1. In the beginning...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A central focus of my book is the morality at the heart of Superman. The jokes about him lead me there, as do the conversations I've had about the character. So I'm glad to see essays like this one, at It's a response the idea that Superman's morality would be shaped by his powers, that he would inevitably give in to the temptation to use them for his own selfish ends and because he doesn't, he's not an interesting character. The response is well articulated.

The list of people given the nickname Superman grows every day. Here's Shane McConkey, extreme skiier. Then there's Dr. Gahl, about whom I know nothing other than that he's associated with the fight against Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome.

The title for the Dr. Gahl post refers to him as "our Superman." I recently read that superheroes are not so much gods in the sense of a lot of gods whose nature gives them provenance over some force of nature or human institution (i.e., Zeus was god of justice and lightning; Athena was god of wisdom in battle and weaving), but rather superheroes are tutelary deities who protect specific cities. It's not entirely true, but super heroes are first and foremost associated with cities, especiallly Superman. Superman is also associated, with varying degrees of agreement, with "the American way," which makes him a patriotic figure more so than pretty much any other super hero. The iconography supports the argument.

What I'm getting at here is the "god's on our side" attitude. It crops up in sports, in war, and probably in lots of other places. Several religious people have written books on Superman, mostly to point out the parallels with Christ and show us the way, so to speak. John T. Galloway, Jr. wrote perhaps the earliest one of these, The Gospel According to Superman. More recent books attempt to demonstrate that Superman is Christ-like, and that this is a good thing. Galloway goes in the opposite direction, labeling Superman a false god and saying that the best response to his story is to compare it unfavorably to the gospels. In particular, he notes that Superman is "on our side," which he criticizes because of his belief that god is on everyone's side. I've simplified his argument perhaps too much, but I hope the point is clear.

If there's "our Superman" there can be one for other people, too. All of which is sort of beside the point. I think the post I've been discussing labels Dr. Gahl as Superman because of his tireless efforts attempting to find a cure for the disease in question. So "our" here isn't a form of patriotism, and in fact includes everyone. I don't even necessarily agree with Galloway. Just writing and writing and writing. Here's a patriotic picture:

Interestingly, the image came up on a website devoted to stem cell research, something Christopher Reeve advocated, if I recall correctly, because it could lead to advancements in treatment for the injuries he sustained. There was an episode of South Park about this, which pitted Reeve against Gene HackMan. Funny stuff.

Then there's this:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


One of the types of folklore in which Superman is featured is superstition, or folk belief. There are evidently some people out there who believe there is a Superman Curse. Evidently, just pretending to be Superman for a paycheck will lead to the end of your career or life. The evidence are the untimely demises of Christopher Reeve and George Reeves. Also cited are the less-than-thrilling post-Superman careers of Dean Caine, Kirk Alyn, and others. There's an article about it in Glenn Yeffeth's The Man from Krypton (in the Smart Pop book series). It takes the form of a letter to Brandon Routh on the eve of his debut in Superman Returns.

George Reeve contributes the most to this belief, it seems. Snopes has a page devoted to the rumors surrounding his death. There is evidently a book about it, which I have not yet read, and a recent movie called Hollywoodland, which I have not seen. I really need to catch up on my movie watching.

This picture is a custom figure, built by someone called Sillof, who does this sort of thing a lot. Custom figures are more common than I realized. The Superman guy from the Confessions of a Superhero documentary does this sort of thing as well. Here, Sillof imagines a Victorian Superman, based, he explains, on the idea behind Gotham by Gaslight, which imagined Batman solving the Jack the Ripper murders, if I recall correctly.