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He's better known than the president of the United States, more familiar to school children than Abraham Lincoln.  And although only a handful of people ever achieve international acclaim, he not only is hailed the world over but also retains honorary citizenship in every country on our globe.  And yet this hero, this champion of justice whose earnestness and passion for right irradiate his entire being, is not an ordinary human nor even an extraordinary one. Instead he is Superman, a fictional character who lives so vividly in our imaginations that we suspend our incredulity and believe for the reading and rereading of a comic book, while his voice still echoes in our radios, until the credits roll on our television sets or the lights come on again in a movie house, that he is flesh and blood.

Superman was the first of the superheroes - and now they number close to two thousand - ever to see print.  His fabulous success spawned an entire industry, and yet every comic book fan knew and knows that he is not only the first but also the best.  It is a given that without Superman there would be no other costumed superpowered heroes.  Who else has his enthralling range of powers?  And who else so purely embodies male conciousness at its highest, most protective, most intensely spiritual peak?  Superman is the sun-god, flooding us with the warmth of his being, assuring us that he shall extract from a chaotic world fairness, stability, sanity, and the hope of a more just future.

He has been called the Action Ace, the Man of Steel, and also the Man of Tomorrow.  As the decades roll back into history, the last epithet feels more and more appropriate.  Superman is a masterwork of dream fulfillment, the indelible fusion of myth and desire.  Even as an infant he began his perilous solo journey that was followed by years of training and self-mastery that led eventually to his unassailable leadership.  Like Moses, like Odysseus, like every abandoned baby of heroic myth, he was cast afloat by his parents only to survive and become a savior himself.  Yet the intricate beauty of Superman is not simply that he is everything heroic we might desire to be, but also everything we are.  Superman is equal parts Clark Kent: Clark, the bumbling, awkward social failure; and Clark, the sincere, hardworking, most loyal of all friends.  How we wish that someone (Lois?) might see through our imperfect exteriors to the secret, special person below.

That Superman only grows in popularity is no surprise.  He combines our most basic primal dreams, like the power to fly, with our everyday, every-person wishes - to be loved for our true selves. It also is not surprising that two teenagers (in that strangely potent limbo before over-consciousness deprives us of our ability to dream "ridiculous" dreams or wish "immature" wishes) should have created this first god of a new mythology: definitely American, not borrowed, wholly our own.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were two boys in Cleveland who clung to their vision of Superman until finally, when both were young men in their twenties, it became reality.  Jerry and Joe, we thank you not just for your dream but for your fortitude.  You not only gave this country its own mythic heritage but also shared with all of us who have loved Superman the joy and power of imagination.

Jenette Kahn
President and Editor-in-Chief,
DC Comics Inc.

The above article was originally published as the forward to Superman From the Thirties to the Eighties, © 1983 DC Comics Inc.

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