The Success of Superman: It’s Because He’s Jesus

Umpteen million years ago, I was sitting in the movie theater watching Man of Steel (in this case, umpteen is less than 5). Blasphemous as it may be, this original superhero is one of my least favorites (other than his historical influence on the comic industry), so I was being highly critical of the entire production. It was not until our Mr. Kent was chilling out in the frozen wasteland and hanging with his father’s spirit that I realized something: Superman is Jesus.

Suddenly, the evolution of comics began making sense. Why was this OG Superman so successful when other fantasy topics were so readily and openly rebelled against (I’m thinking D&D – you know that stuff will turn you into a Satanist)? In order to discuss that, it is important to weigh in the importance of the Bible and general historic considerations, as they both play into why this superhero was such a success. Without those two factors, he could have easily inspired the ire that Dungeons and Dragons did in the 70s and 80s.

First point: As any literary buff will tell you, the Bible is the Greatest Story Ever Told – and they’ll say so even if they are not Christian. It is not so much because of the content but because of the influence it has had on global society and culture. In fact, it’s been so influential that indirect references to the Bible have coined their own term of “literary allusions.” There’s small stuff out there, like things coming in threes in artistic works (think of the Trinity), to big stuff, like constitutional laws, which draw on the Bible. Even if you do not believe in the content of the Bible, there is still no denying the work itself is very influential regardless of denomination.

The second point is equally important. Superman was first published in the late 1930s, at a time where society was still recovering from the Great Depression and when World War II was just beginning to brew. During the Great Depression, many people turned to the church itself to provide food and shelter to get some relief from daily struggles.  Churches looked for other methods of assisting as well (they too suffered in the Depression), even if it was by training missionaries to go spread the word of God in other areas of the world. In its own way, it sort of reinvigorated religion through trials and hardships (Church stuff). So when the church is the one bringing in the bacon, it of course influences society’s view of the church and of the Bible.

So this was the world Superman was being introduced to – a world filled with poverty, corruptibility, war, uncertainty, and a religious influx. Sounds super happy, right? In actuality, it turned out to be an almost perfect formula for his success, and let me explain why.

Superman is Jesus.

Say whaaaaaaaaaat? That whole “Biblical allusion” thing I just talked about? Yeah. He’s one of them.

Check this: Guy is sent down from that whole Krypton planet by his father (of which he was the only son) to come hang out down here on Earth with us mortal-folk. Groovy right? He then does this whole “let me go romp in the wilderness with an incorporeal form of my dad” thing when he becomes of an age, and he gets all these cool powers to save man kind. Not only was Superman sent on this mission to fight for justice and truth at the age of 30, but he also dies at some point and comes back (though the 1930s fans wouldn’t know that yet).  

Interesting, Clark. Or should I just skip ahead and call you messiah?

So to sum up, in case you somehow weren’t gleaning all those references, like Superman, Jesus was sent down by His Father, you know – God – in order to promote truth and justice as the only Son of God. Also, like Superman, he ventures into the wilderness to hang out with dear ol’ Dad to learn some things about Himself at the ripe age of 30. Replace Superman’s snow with some sand and there’s Jesus’ trip to the desert. After all of that, Jesus dies and is reborn, just as Superman eventually is.

This all adds up to a big ol’ CHA-CHING! 1930s fans were in love. They had a character in a time period of their own that reinforced and reinvigorated some of those Bible stories they were reading in line for the soup kitchen and this guy could also save mankind. And, really, who didn’t want saving in the 30s? The people needed that inspirational character to rescue them from their daily lives and from the fear of the future – they needed the one who could conquer any evil for the good guys, be it a war, hunger, homelessness, or even getting the girl.

For the sake of fun and interaction, let’s not even talk comic books anymore – let’s just talk Man of Steel and all a few of those scenes. Walking on water? Crucifix poses when bursting through ships? Are we even trying to mask that he’s not a Biblical allusion to the mighty Jesus? I challenge you to watch the movie and find a few more references to add to this to share in the comments section.

And the last, and most valid point?

He had a beard. And that’s all the evidence anyone needs.

Sorry, Clark. You’re just one big ol’ Biblical allusion

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