Is superman a hero for all seasons?


‘When Superman first appeared in the magazine ‘Action Comics’, back in 1938, surely nobody (not even his creators, two boys called Jerry Sigel and Joe Shuster), was expecting that, half a century later, the man of steel would be the protagonist of the most read and known cartoon of the world. It is worth then to understand the reasons for such a vast success and, above all, to ask ourselves if this success is universal. We feel that, outside America, the consensus for Superman is “horizontal, that is incredibly vast among the young generation, but rapidly decreasing (down to total abandon), the more the readers mature intellectually. This can find an explanation in the nature of the character itself, in its lack of depth and in its being created from rather unpromising material. Between the superhuman myths of the frontier on one hand (from Paul Bunyan to Pecos Bill) and early science fiction on the other hand, Superman only represents a typical nursery fantasy”. In the America between the two wars – already going towards a suffocating and conformist matriarchy – this man who can fly and realise all his wishes, dressing up in Busby Berkley style, is just the caricature of the Mythical Hero – a champion of all the oppressed -, in a way that his exceptional qualities do not cause envy among his fellow citizens and, above all, his readers. As an authentic Enlightenment super- man, Superman finds stimulus and consolation in a blind faith in the future and in an absolute censorship of his past and his original culture: in a distorted nostalgia which makes him the ideal archetype of the anti-historical attitude which has always characterised the American mentality. Although this makes him a typical consolatory hero for the American public, to the eyes of the European reader he is more like a rare concentration of banality, and his proper place is in the toy-room. Unfortunately this is only valid for a superficial reading of the character. His substrate, the temptation that he represents through his superhuman archetype – this heroism made of superpowers and not of virtues, moralistic but not ethical, in a word this kind of lay missionarism at the service of pre-packed good for humanity, like a tinned or frozen food – is far from being exorcised; instead it constitutes the real obscure disease of this 20th century.’


24 Agosto 1985 - 31 Agosto 1985


Exhibitions Meeting Exhibitions