Monday, October 24, 2011
Superman Ends World War II...No, Really!
The problem of having a character such as Superman is that the concept is far too it’s too unrealistic to function in the world as we know it. That issue has been prevalent since Superman’s debut in 1938, and it won’t just vanish with yet another reboot. The problem is that Superman is just too powerful; war would not exist in a world where one man could end it within a few hours by sheer force of will. But then that’s why such stories and concepts are called fiction and escapism. It’s also one of the many reasons why people turned away from Superman in the 1970 and early 1980ss, the character was a God on Earth. He could hear a pin drop a galaxy away, he could move entire planets out of orbit, he could time travel and move faster than light. In short there was nothing that he could not do. Nothing could injure him; by the mid 1970s he was even immune from Kryptonite, supposedly his only weakness, other than magic, which was dubious at best. At the same time Marvel was producing the likes of Spider-Man, a character with real world issues, who could be injured, could have his heart broken and could be beaten to a pulp. You’d not expect Spider-Man to end a war on his own, but Superman?
Even Curt Swan, God love him, appeared to get bored with Superman. Swan, at his best, was as good a draftsman as anyone, at his worst; well he was fairly dry, static but serviceable and still better than most people out there, both then and now. It would take John Byrne, with some help from Marv Wolfman, to take the sow’s ear that Superman had become in the 1980s and turn it into a silk purse, but that’s another story.
In the 1940s children and adults alike wondered why Superman never went to war. No excuse was good enough, so Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster decided to show them why. In the 27th of February, 1940 issue of Look magazine, Jerry and Joe showed just how easy it’d be for Superman to end World War II and, in doing so, also showed how unrealistic their character was. If they ever wrote Superman into WWII then there’d be no way to resolve the issue, so they avoided it, other than some brilliant patriotic covers. Look Magazine was so happy to have this exclusive strip that they sprung for an extra colour, red, and in doing so totally miscoloured Superman’s costume, giving him the appearance of a flying man wearing tight shorts and no leggings. Superman in Daisy Dukes! Still, as an artefact it remains an interesting glimpse into a world that never was, Superman in World War II.