The consideration is blasphemous for some. But does that mean any honest exploration of the matter is innately anti-religious?
It’s an old comparison that has been around for years. Some say Superman is the Moses story retold. Others say Superman is nothing less than Jesus Christ in comic book form.
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, children of Jewish immigrants, created Superman in 1933. The earliest version of the venerable character, however, bore no resemblance to the hero as introduced in Action Comics #1 and remains a multimedia force to this date.
Siegel and Shuster leaned heavily on their Jewish identity in the recognized iteration of the enduring character as introduced to the world in 1938:
- Superman’s Kryptonian name, Kal-El, is written in Hebrew as קל-אל , translated as “voice of God.”
- He was, in part, inspired by the Golem of Prague, the clay monster of yore created by Rabbi Judah Loew to defend the Jews from their enemies.
- Samson was the strongest man in The Bible. Superman is the strongest man on earth.
- Superman escaped his dying home planet of Krypton on a spaceship, as Moses escaped Pharaoh floating on the Nile River in a basket.
In the earliest days of Action Comics and subsequently Superman in his own title, the Man of Steel’s real world enemies were entities as diverse as Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, in addition to the usual comic book super villains.
But is Superman truly a metaphor for Jesus, as numerous academics have concluded over the years?
I came to the question through a side door. I had not intended to write about this topic today.
“Can an argument be made that Superman is our most enduring science fiction character?”
I posed the above question on Facebook today.
This was my most enlightening answer:
“I was going to say ‘Jesus,’ but would that be wrong?”
And I was inspired.
The feedback took off from there, with a surprising number of comments judging the Superman mythos as not being science fiction (“It’s fantasy since there’s no real science in this story”), to Jesus Christ being the greatest science fiction invention of them all.
I found the ensuing debate fascinating.
To my mind, every exploration is fair game, especially as I personally strive to be a resonant, provocativewriter. Trodding my own honest thoughts bereft of affirmation is my daily compulsion; as such, pounding the keyboard or otherwise putting pen to paper is by its very nature rife with risk.
Respectfully, I ask that you turn away now if the title of the article offends you.
The comparison of Superman and Jesus is not new.
“Is God a sci-fi character or fantasy character? If the all-powerful Jesus is the son of God or God himself, what of Jor-El? Is Kal-El, Jor-El’s all-powerful son, the son of God or God himself? Only sci-fi and fantasy characters are all-powerful.
The Facebook comments continued on, and veered towards the philosophical.
The Superman article is the piece I had posted on Facebook that caused the ruckus. The preceding story, for what it’s worth, will give you some insight as to my mindset about religion and spirituality.
In essence, I do not believe The Bible was written by the hand of God, and the entity that is Jesus Christ is a metaphorical creation. This has nothing to do with my also being a Jew, as I feel the same about our team’s deity. I believe the character of Superman was not only in large part inspired by Jesus, I believe him to be a more palatable version of the Christ metaphor for those who prefer to read comic books over The Bible.
I disclose my leanings with respect. Read “The Failure of Religion” piece for more; you’ll see. It is not at all disrespectful.
As to the key comparisons:
- If Jor-El is looked upon as a heavenly father, then the Moses allusion becomes more complex and somehow not enough … especially when one considers the young Clark Kent’s adoptive mother was originally named Mary, and Jonathan Joseph Kent was his adoptive father’s name.
- Superman embarks upon his public ventures at approximately the age of 30, estimated to be the same age as Jesus when he did the same.
- Superman fights for truth and justice, two accentuated biblical principles.
- Superman’s travels to the arctic to speak with his deceased father mirrors Jesus’ desert journey.
- They are both saviors of the oppressed.
Within the plethora of Superman media over the years, though there were certainly visual Christ cues in the first two Christopher Reeve Superman films, the filmmakers and studio (Warner Brothers) hammered the analogy home in publicity shots for the next films, 2006’s “Superman Returns” (Brandon Routh, left) and 2013’s “Man of Steel” (Henry Cavill, right).
The earlier two theatrical serials and television’s 1952–1958 “The Adventures of Superman” with George Reeves focused more on the crime fighting aspects of the character.
Which brings us back to the Christ. Arguing whether Jesus is a science fiction character is meaningless. If one follows The Bible he is nothing less than the son of God.
Which is perhaps how it should be.
Those who do not believe are unaware of the author(s) of the greatest tome ever written, and for all they know they could have been distant relatives of Simon and Shuster.
Is Superman science fiction?
Does it matter?
Both characters offer hope in an oft-considered hopeless world. That’s what matters.
Today, such realities, or metaphors, are more important than ever. Why not grasp and hold tight our most cherished images while we can?
Religion is not anathema to hope.
Sources: CBN.com, The Jerusalem Post, Wikipedia, Entertainment WeeklyThank you for reading.