My dad has been saying it for years:
"Superman is Jewish!"
I was like, "What? Is that why Jerry Seinfeld is a fan of the Man of Steel? (Please say you know Mr. Seinfeld is Jewish and if not just pretend that you knew. It's ok.)
How could that be? How could Superman be Jewish?? So finally, after years of my dad making this statement, I decided to do my own research, starting with the creator of Superman: Jerry Siegel and later illustrator Joe Shuster.
Did you know that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster signed the rights of Superman away to DC Comics and were later fired from their own creation?
Superman: Created from sorrow
Jerry Siegel was the son of Mitchell Siegel, a poor Jewish immigrant who worked/owned a clothing store in Cleveland, Ohio. Unfortunately, for the then teen Jerry, his father was shot and killed during a raid in the clothing store in 1932. No later than a day after his father's death, newspapers brought up the idea of having a vigilante to protect the people during the Depression, but a single letter to the Cleveland Plain Dealer signed "L.Luthor" argued against it. Does the name sound familiar?
The tragic death of his father and the discovery that he could make good money creating comic strips for the newspaper, led Siegel to team up with Joe Shuster in high school and create "The Reign of Super-man", a villain.
To read more about how the death of Siegel's father inspired the existence of Superman, go HERE.
Super-man, the villain to Superman: Quick backstory
Before Superman stood for truth, justice, and the American way, he was a hobo. Yes, a hobo turned villain. Somehow said hobo ingested a serum from a piece of meteorite, thus making him strong, a genius and having the ability to read minds. This character was a thief and a manipulator. So begins "The Reign of Super-man".
However, later in 1933 when Siegel discovered that Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were using his creation in a negative light, he decided to re-create Superman as a force of good. Goodbye, oh villainous ways!
Superman and his Jewish background clues
If you were to ask a random person to say the first thing that came to mind about Superman, "Jewish" would probably not be anywhere close. I, mean, look at the guy. He doesn't exactly scream "Jewish", but could Siegel subtly put in Jewish attributes? Let's take a look.
Siegel used Samson of the Bible as a model. This was revealed in an unpublished memoir of Siegel. So who was Samson? According to the Bible, Samson was an Israelite warrior who had unusual strength given by God to protect his people. Hmm. Superman has unusual power to protect the people of Metropolis and the world. Interesting.
Superman as a baby is similar to the story of baby Moses and being a foreigner in America as were many Jews. Just before Superman's planet Krypton was destroyed, his parents sent him away in a tiny spaceship to escape death. The story of Moses is similar. Moses's mother feared that the Egyptians would kill her son during an annihilation of baby Hebrew boys. She made a basket, put Moses in it, and sent him away drifting in the basket down the Nile River. Second, during Siegel's time, the Jews were forced into what we know as the Holocaust, an annihilation of the Jews. Many chose to flee their homes and make America their home.
Superman, last son of Krypton. Superman is the last of his kind who escaped a terrible fate and sometimes feel guilty about being the only survivor (before Kara). Some Jews who escaped the Holocaust had survivor's guilt as well.
The Nazi's recognized the Jewish undertones of Superman. In 1940, Josef Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda noticed immediately what Siegel had done and declared Superman not to be a Jew. Goebbels penned this statement in the Das Schwarze Korps a weekly newspaper for the Nazi's:
"Jerry Siegel, an intellectually and physically circumcised chap who has his headquarters in New York. . . The inventive Israelite named this pleasant guy with an overdeveloped body and underdeveloped mind "Superman.."
Yet another clue...
The drawing of Superman
Illustrator Joe Shuster had an idea of what he wanted Superman to look like, but couldn't quite get his imagination to paper. One day Mr. Shuster was walking in Green Mansions, New York when he saw his Superman in real life. He saw a young man named Stanley Weiss and he was perfect. Not only did Weiss look like what Shuster had been imagining, but he was also Jewish! Shuster approached him and said:
"I've been drawing Superman from my mind's eye but you look more like him than anyone I've ever seen. Can I draw you?"
David Weiss, Stanley's son was convinced his dad was Superman. He was further convinced when in later years he checked the DC Comic archives and saw some drawings of Superman and then the after drawings with his father's influence and concluded that:
"...that meeting with my father influenced Shuster to draw Superman to look like my father".
David Weiss even met Christopher Reeve who advised him to keep the drawings because they were probably worth a lot. Good tip.
And the rest is history!
Read David Weiss's story HERE.
It's amazing what you discover when you do a bit of research, huh? What other characters would you like to see a little research done on?
P.S. Did you see any Jewish undertones in the Superman of Man of Steel?