Can you finish the phrase?
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … Superman!
One of the oldest comic book heroes has an introduction we all recognize.
But did you know, Superman didn’t always fly?
Upon his creation, Superman was only super-strong and his super-strength made him able to run fast (faster than a speeding bullet) and jump high (leap tall building with a single bound) because he came from a planet with heavier gravity than earth’s gravity. (And, actually the first time he was inked, he wasn’t a hero at all, but a villain instead … but then, the comic creators changed their minds.)
Every superhero has an origin story, not just the origin story of his or her powers and weaknesses, but also his or her origins in written history. Superman’s story has been with us since the late 1930s and it has been told and retold like Cinderella’s story has been told and retold. We like to retell stories that resonate with us and by retelling them, we make them our own.
Superman’s powers have shifted and morphed, his character has developed differently in certain settings, and even his backstory has evolved over time. Personally, I like one of the newer renditions of his parents in which his mom has become a self-made expert on astronomy and life in the universe as she has spent years researching the origins of her adopted son. It makes sense to me as a mom and as a mom of today.
We retell our favorite stories not to ruin them, but to expand on them and share our love of them with others. Those favorite stories often inform our shiny new stories which have been built on the foundations of our favorites.
Superman fascinated me as a kid, but he wasn’t my favorite superhero. I’ll get to my favorite later in one of these new “Super” posts that will be breaking through on this blog at least once a month as I continue to work on my own coming-of-age superhero novel, currently titled Eclipse: Book 1 of The Greenling (or Green Man) Chronicles.
For more information about Superman and other superheroes, I recommend taking the free online Edx course: The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture. I don’t get any kickback from this. It’s a course that I’m currently taking and one that was recommended to me by another author. The course is through the Smithsonian and features guests like Stan Lee. If you want, you can pay money to get a certificate that proves you took the course, but you can also sign up for free and take it for free.
Do you like superheroes? If you do, do you know their origin story of how they came to the page?