Allow me to share with you what I have learned from the documentary known as Superheroes Decoded. This show detailed how the superhero genre evolved and how it tied in to the past century of American history. When Superman and Batman were created, they served as symbols of hope in the wake of the Great Depression and the aftermath of World War I. During World War II, Captain America and Wonder Woman served as propaganda pieces and Wonder Woman later became a symbol of the Women’s Rights Movement. To answer the conformity and resulting discontent of the 1950s and 1960s, characters such as Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and the Hulk were created to serve as role models for the youth of that era. When the Civil Rights Movement took place, Black Panther, Falcon, and the X-Men were created to symbolize and empower the persecuted outcasts of that time. During the Vietnam War, Iron Man was created to represent the war profiteers who were enriching themselves during the war while Wolverine was created to symbolize the veterans of the Vietnam War. As crime rates rose in the 1970s, characters such as Luke Cage and the Punisher were created to symbolize the public’s desire for justice against the growing crime wave. In the 1980s and 1990s, a group called Generation X emerged and they were given Deadpool as a role model. The Kamala Khan version of Ms. Marvel was created to battle the Islamophobia that spread through America in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. With each significant event that occurred over the years, the superhero genre continued to evolve to create increasingly more complex superheroes. For the past century, the concept of the superhero became an integral part of modern American mythology like the Olympians were to Ancient Greece. I am thinking of keeping with this tradition and create my own superheroes who best symbolize the times that America is in here and now.
While watching the documentary, Superheroes Decoded, I became aware of the origin of Superman as a comic book character. Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were two teenagers who lived in an impoverished neighborhood in Cleveland. Some may speculate that Cleveland served as a model for Superman’s city, Metropolis. It has been claimed that the idea for Superman came to Jerry and Joe in a dream. For Superman’s appearance, they drew inspiration from the strongmen (who were popular in the 1930s), Jesse Owens the fastest man alive (who was the pride of Cleveland, Jerry and Joe’s hometown), Tarzan, and Roman gladiators. Initially, Jerry and Joe were rejected by publisher after publisher before they were accepted by Action Comics, which would eventually become DC Comics. Thus, the modern myth of the superhero was born!
When developing Superman’s origin story, Jerry and Joe drew inspiration from the Book of Exodus, which depicted an infant Moses being sent down the Nile River to be raised by another family and eventually change the world. As more immigrants came to America, Superman became a symbol for them because he himself is an immigrant and a literal illegal alien. He symbolized immigrants coming to a new homeland and giving something back to their new community.
During his early days, Superman was made to give people hope in the wake of the Great Depression. Instead of supervillains, he fought crooked rich people and corrupt government officials. He was a champion for the common man. Overall, Superman was created to represent the best of humanity in a world of growing darkness.
I have been watching a superhero documentary on the History Channel called Superheroes Decoded. It talked about the origins of the superhero genre and how it has evolved over the past century of American history. It talked about how every superhero served as a representation of the times America was in. This was an enjoyable show to watch and I would recommend it to anyone who is curious about the origins of the superhero genre and how it ties in to American history. I am thinking of following this show’s lead and basing my new superhumans on the times America is currently in. There is definitely more than enough inspiration to go around.