Jerome Siegel John Kobler - Essay

John Kobler

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The] Man of Steel, with his super-hearing, super-sight and super-vitality, has become all things to all boys. He has shaken the pedestal of many a classic boyhood idol: Tarzan, whom he can outleap and outfight; Nick Carter, whom he can out-sleuth; Galahad, whose purity is as tarnished brass compared to his. More than this Superman accomplishes with casual ease feats that are common to every boy's daydreams…. And to top it all, his motivating traits are "super-courage, super-goodness and super-justice"; his mission in life "to go to the rescue of persecuted people and deserving persons."

Perhaps the greatest of all Superman's achievements is that he is a miracle man in fact as well as in fancy. No other cartoon character ever has been such an all-around success at the age of three. No other cartoon character ever has carried his creators to such an accomplishment as Siegel and Shuster enjoy at the age of twenty-six. (p. 14)

The young creators of the Man of Steel would have been hailed by [Sigmund] Freud as perfect clinical illustrations of psychological compensation. For here are two small, shy, nervous, myopic lads, who can barely cope with ordinary body-building contraptions, let alone tear the wings off a stratoliner in midair. As the puniest kids in school, picked on and bullied by their huskier classmates, they continually moped off into what Doctor Freud termed "infantile phantasies," wherein they became colossi of brute strength, capable of flattening whole regiments of class bullies by a flick of their pinkies….

[There] were years of struggle and discouragement. The partners brewed many a strong potion—Doctor Occult, a sort of astral Nick Carter who kept tangling with zombis, werewolves and such; Henri Duval, a doughty musketeer in the image of D'Artagnan—but no editor hastened to press riches on them. What few continuities they did place were bought by Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, a grand-mannered, bespatted ex-Army officer, who in February of 1935 had published New Fun Comics, [the] first original comic magazine…. But the major couldn't see Superman for two pins….

[As Siegel related,] "I am...

(The entire section is 900 words.)