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October 28, 2005


John Ruch asks why Superman did not use his powers to end the Second World War. Good question.

Superman debuted in 1938 and quickly became the most powerful comic-book character, possessing almost infinite strength, speed and invulnerability. But the outbreak of World War II put his writers in a pickle that was widely discussed in the popular press. It was impossible for Superman not to get involved in the war, but it was a war he’d win within minutes—and that would be absurd and insulting compared to reality. Time said of Superman in 1942, "As the mightiest, fightingest American, he ought to join up. But he just can’t."

The Nazis noticed the irony, too. A 1940 SS newspaper mocked Superman: "Once there was a man so strong that he could stop a speeding locomotive with his ring finger, but he didn’t do it."

The ersatz supermen of the SS were irked at a the thought of being smacked down by a chap in red underwear. One cannot help but notice their failure to mention the comic in question featured Superman hauling both Hitler and Stalin off for the judgement of the League of Nations. It is nice to learn the dictator's feelings were considered too touchy to withstand comic book mockery. One can only hope Kim Jong Il feels the same way about Team America: World Police. And whatever the brain trust at today's DC Comics might think, our updated League of Nations has sadly become an object of derision rather than a court of last resort (some nsfw language in that last link). Though I expect the same might be said for the efficacy of the original League of Nations.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at October 28, 2005 09:39 AM

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