Superman is more than a fictional superhero, i.e., he’s a brand, a name that transcends through multiple generations. You know Superman, your parents know him, and we’re sure that your grandparents also must be aware of the ever-green superhero. His stories were originally published in comics and slowly started getting featured in other media including, radio, TV shows, novels, and theatre.
The Impact of Superman on Pop Culture
Since its first appearance in DC Comics in 1983, Superman has permanently changed the dynamics of pop culture. From the legendary Superman comic, Superman: Red Son, to the modern era Hollywood film, Man of Steel, people loved this sky-high superhero in every form. Let’s learn more about the impact of Superman on Pop Culture.
1. The Superhero Archetype of Superman in Comic Books and TV
Superman popularized the archetype and was known for a few things, i.e., a costume, a codename, remarkable abilities, and an altruistic mission. Since 1938, Superman influenced multiple creators across different forms of media that started a wave of imitations, which include Wonder Woman, Batman, Captain America, Green Lantern, and Captain Marvel. That era is recalled as America’s Golden Age of Comic Books, which lasted from 1938 to about 1950.
Although these superhero books witnessed a decline in sales leading to the cancellation of many characters, Man of Steel stood firm, and the Superman franchise survived this decline. These crises were over in the 1950s, and the Silver Age of Comic Books began, marking the creation of other superheroes, such as Iron Man, Spider-man, and X-Men.
All these heroes are featured in multiple Hollywood movies and TV shows from different countries. Because of the superhero archetype of Superman, directors and producers became more inclined toward superhero shows and movies.
- American Superheroes Diving into the Japanese Culture
After World War II, American superhero fiction entered Japanese culture. In 1952, Dark Horse Comics published a comic called Astro Boy, inspired by Mighty Mouse (a superhero mouse character), which was itself a parody of Superman. Japanese television broadcasted the Superman animated shorts from the 1940s. In 1956, the first TV show to feature Superman, Adventures of Superman, was aired on Japanese TV.
These shows inspired Japanese pop culture and the country’s prolific genre of superheroes. Japan released its first-ever superhero movie, Super Giant, in 1957. In 1958, the first Japanese superhero TV show hit the screens called Moonlight Mask. The notable characters include Kamen Rider, Ultraman, and Sailor Moon.
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2. Superman’s Death Made Hollywood Look at Comic Books More Seriously
In 1992, when Superman’s character died in comics, the news spread like wildfire in all public places. Journalists started covering his demise. A crossover story event featured in DC Comics’ Superman-related publications, The Death of Superman, sold millions of comics and newspapers. Resultantly, the tone of media coverage also changed. Columnists started writing heartfelt pieces for the hero. For the first time, TV reports showed the general public buying comics and talking about their emotional impact.
Hollywood also noticed this wave and started making lots of Superman movies. These films mostly didn’t follow the storyline of comics. However, after noticing the hype of The Death of Superman, Warner Bros. developed a movie based on the comic storyline, Superman Lives, which somehow got canceled in the production stage.
Nonetheless, Superman’s death and return saga have been used directly or indirectly in the following movies.
- Steel (1997)
- Superman: Doomsday (2007)
- Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
- Justice League (2017)
- The Death of Superman (2018)and its sequel Reign of the Supermen (2019)
The above films and many others are a depiction of how Superman of comic books managed to break through the movie/TV screens. Hollywood looked beyond comic book covers and adapted more than mere costumes and logos. Nowadays, superhero movie directors go out of their way to recreate specific moments from the comics.
- The Superhero’s Death also Burst the Speculation Bubble of Comic Books
After the demise of Superman’s character in the 80s, investors realized that older comic books were selling pretty quickly, making sales from a few cents to hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a result, these investors ended up buying tons of comics, deemed potential of making big money. These superheroes somehow became the main source of income for some people.
- The comics industry hopped onto this trend and started catching the public’s attention through holographic covers or putting a hole through the whole comic. In the process, speculators didn’t realize that old comic books were becoming less and more valuable while the new ones were roaming around with thousands of copies.
- Many Industry specialists pinpointed The Death of the Superman as a moment of disillusionment for speculators because most people didn’t buy a costly comic unless it was the first printing edition and signed by the creators. The same happened with Adventures of Superman (where Superman comes back), as only hundreds of its copies were sold and speculators gave up on the cause very soon.
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3. Superman Inspired Multiple Artists
Superman did not stick to the comics and TV but also inspired multiple visual artists, such as Mr. Brainwash and Peter Saul. Many of them incorporated the superhero into contemporary artwork. Some of them are as follows.
- Andy Warhol – When diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at a young age, Andy was bedridden for months and found an escape into the world of comic books and drew Superman.
- Roy Lichtenstein – As a leading figure of the new art movement, Lichtenstein defined the basic premise of pop art better than anyone else and drew Superman using ink and watercolor, which was later sold at an official auction in the USA in 2005.
- Mel Ramos – Ramos developed his pop art imagery from iconic American characters. He used colored pencils to draw Superman in 2018.
4. Superman Shaped the Popular Music Industry
As an important part of pop music, Superman also served as an inspiration for musicians from several generations. Multiple singers celebrated his character. Some of these songs are listed below.
- Sunshine Superman – The famous musician, Donovan, released this song in 1966. He mentioned the character’s name both in the song’s title and in the lyrics. However, the song was about the singer expressing love for her lady, saying, “Superman or Green Lantern ain’t got a-nothin’ on me, I can make like a turtle and dive for your pearls in the sea, yeah”.
- Superman (It’s Not Easy) – Another famous American singer, Five For Fighting, released this song in 2001. It’s about the struggles of Superman as he tries to fit into the normal people and is often misunderstood as a giant unapproachable being.
- Waitin’ for a Superman – An American band, The Flaming Lips, released this song in 1999. The multi-layered song is about the extraordinary powers of Superman while telling people not to worry because their favorite superhero will save them, and he did not forget them.
- (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman – A famous band, The Kinks, released this song in 1979. It’s about a layman who wants to change his circumstances, wishing to fly high like superman.
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Superman – An Ever-Flying Man of Steel!
Superman’s iconic status is ever-green and celebrated by many creative individuals around the globe. Not many fictional characters manage to stand straight, even after decades of their first appearance. Be it famous Superman comics, TV shows featuring Clark Kent, never-ending superhero movies, or songs romanticizing the struggles of Superman, The Man of Steel remains the ultimate superhero of many people. No matter how many superheroes get invented every single day, the truth is that no one will ever be able to replace the boy from Krypton and the influence he had and still has on pop culture.