Jerome Siegel Slater Brown - Essay

Slater Brown

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

It was only two years ago that Superman was first revealed to the youth of this country…. But the response which greeted his appearance was so enthusiastic and so immediate that already Superman has surpassed such long established classics as Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy and Popeye….

[It is not], to those versed in primitive myth or to students of the blacker arts of modern demagogy, difficult to understand why this new comic should have become so generally and so fantastically popular. For Superman, handsome as Apollo, strong as Hercules, chivalrous as Launcelot, swift as Hermes, embodies all the traditional attributes of a Hero God. He is, moreover, a protective deity whose role, according to the authors, is the "savior of the helpless and oppressed." In other words, the comic strip, besides affording entertainment for the romantic young, seems also to fill some symptomatic desire for a primitive religion. And though one cannot help wondering if [philosopher Friedrich] Nietzsche, sourly contemplating Time's Ruins, would consider this popular vulgarization of his romantic concept with equanimity, even as [Jonathan] Swift may shudder over the final and ironic destiny of his Gulliver, I, at least, cannot share whatever disapprobation he may feel. For in Nietzsche's own native land and in the neighboring country where he lived, it is not the children who have embraced a vulgarized myth of Superman so enthusiastically; it has been their elders.

Slater Brown, "The Coming of Superman," in The New Republic, Vol. 103, No. 10, September 2, 1940, p. 301.