Superman’s Creation Myth

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Superman was born from the creative minds of two Jewish teens whose boyhoods were steeped in comic books and science fiction. At age 18, co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster first drew the caped superhero that would capture the imagination of future generations. Academics have attributed the boys’ inspiration for Superman to the lofty pages of literature (Shaw), philosophy (Nietzsche), and religion (the Golem). But a far more likely muse, according to Reform Judaism magazine, was something much more accessible to a couple of sci-fi geeks:

[O]f all the speculative theories surrounding the creation of Superman, one exceedingly likely influence has been virtually ignored–a real-life Jewish strongman from Poland who 1. was billed as the “Superman of the Ages”; 2. advertised, on circus posters, as a man able to stop speeding locomotives; 3. wore a cape; 4. looked–with his chiseled movie-star face, wavy hair, and massive upper torso–like the future comic book idol; and 5. performed his death-defying feats in 1923 and 1924 in Cleveland and Toronto, Siegel and Shuster’s respective hometowns, when they were impressionable nine year olds.

Thus Superman’s creation story expands into the utterly accessible realm of a 1920s-era traveling circus strongman named Zisha Breitbart. If you’ve got a little comic book worship in you, check out Breitbart’s life story and his superman stunts of bending iron, wrestling bears, and withstanding beds of nails. And imagine the seeds of America’s favorite superhero being planted in two young minds.

Source: Reform Judaism

Image by greyloch, licensed under Creative Commons.

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