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SUPERMAN at 75

In 1938 two things happened that would impact my life in huge ways. That June my Father was born, second son of German immigrants who came to this country with hope in their hearts and a strong work ethic. Also 1938 saw a man from a faraway place enter their lives, named Kal-El, and later renamed by adoptive parents Clark Kent he would grow up to become known as Superman.

A Father’s influence on his son should be obvious. My Father’s influences on me are felt every day and I was lucky enough before he passed to let him know that. Superman had similar influences, a lot of them from Jonathan Kent who taught him to be fair and good and just. The combination of these two events in 1938 probably has some impact for me and as such Superman has always been a favorite character.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created him, National Periodical and later DC Comics own the rights, but in truth Superman now belongs to all of us. There are hundreds and hundreds of stories about him, in comics, novels, television and movies, radio plays other assorted areas used for telling stories. The number of people who have told these tales is staggering, writers, artists, script writers, directors, editors, actors. A overly large family if you will, telling stories and sharing them with the world. Everyone who knows the stories has their own take on it, and upon getting the tales we make them our own. People who have never seen a movie or read a Superman comic book know what that big “S” on his chest stands for. The families of Shuster and Siegel can argue ownership with publishers and producers, but you know what, there is a Superman out there that will always be mine and they can’t influence that at all.

Part of the celebration of Superman turning 75 is of course a number of books from DC Comics. SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL: BELIEVE is a digest collection of stories. In these particular stories is MY Superman. A man who still sees this world with wonder in his eyes, a man who wants to help everyone and in turn makes us want to be better. A Superman going to 25 time zones on New Year’s Eve to watch the new year come in over and over, each time touching a life and making it better. A Superman who has time to stop and get a cat out of a tree. A Superman who respects what firemen and cops do because they rush into danger without powers. I read story after story in this book and each on made me smile. The buzz I used to get when I was 7 years old sitting in the backyard in the middle of summer reading comics came rushing back to me. Legal precedents aside, this is MY Superman.

DC also has two other very nice collections celebrating Superman at 75. SUPERMAN: A CELEBRATION OF 75 YEARS and LOIS LANE: A CELEBRATION OF 75 YEARS. These are two hardcover collections of stories going back the very first tales and bringing them right up to now. The stories were chosen well, they show the subtle and not so subtle change through the years as the characters keep getting reinvented to mirror the times in which they were written. If I were to buy comics for someone who had never read any, these two books would be a great place to start. They are also perfect collections for people who have always read comics.

Not too long ago DC Comics rest things reinventing the characters again, and of course there was uproar and there was fanfare. As a long time fan I’ve been here before. In the 70’s they took away his powers for a while, later, they killed him. Superman was started with a fresh slate by John Byrne with a very similar response. Through all the changes and all the years he remains at his core MY Superman. We have 75 years of stories. I don’t even want to imagine how long it would take to read all of that. The latest version not quite your thing? That’s ok, DC has so much available in collections that somewhere out there on a shelf are the books with the Superman YOU love.

In a perfect world we’d all get along, we’d all make time to help each other and do the right thing. And if this Iconic character at 75 is still able to bring that out in people, even a little at a time, if reading these stories makes a feel a little better about the planet we live on and the people we share it with, well I think that is super.
Happy birthday Superman, Clark Kent, Kal-El. Thank you Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for sharing your dream with us. And thank you DC Comics for helping to facilitate 75 years’ worth of great reading.