Nerd Alert!: The Origin of Superheroes
Think of your favorite superhero. It could be Spiderman, the young teen who fights crime while struggling with his day to day affairs. It could be Batman, the vigilante billionaire who desperately wants the best for Gotham City. It could even be Superman, the strange alien with the greatest example of bravery, duty and respect for all life. Have you ever wondered where these guys even came from? What inspired these heroes to be created in the first place? And when did it all begin?
Believe it or not, the first appearance of heroes came from the Greeks and Romans, with their depictions of Gods, Demi-Gods, and Champions. Hercules, Odysseus, Perseus. The Greeks were committed to the idea that these great men and gods existed. Their stories were told to their children, their children’s children, and so on. They worshiped the mighty Zeus, feared the horrific Hades, and depended on the sun giver, Apollo.
Drawn by the inspiration of these Gods and Champions, writers of the late 19th and early 20th century began creating heroes of their own, one of the more famous ones being Robin Hood. Zorro, Flash Gordon, the Green Hornet, and many more followed, these heroes with unusual abilities. Although they were not exactly “Super” in the sense, they did set the grounds for some of the more modern heroes. Robin Hood, with his own sense of justice. Flash Gordon, with his bravery combating futuristic aliens. Even Popeye and his super strength overcoming all odds, even if it is by eating some spinach!
But if none of these people were “superheroes”, then who was the first one? Most of you may immediately jump the gun and shout out “Superman!” Well it is true, Superman is the first American superhero, but not quite the first one to emerge in the world. Jean de la Hire, a French author, was responsible for the creation of the very first superhero, The Nyctalope. The superhero was featured in a series of novels, first started in 1911.
So Superman would be next, right?
Wrong. Another superhero had its debut once more before Superman’s time. Known as the Ogon Bat, he was created in 1930 by Japanese writer Ichiro Suzuki and illustrator Takeo Nagamatsu. Although they are lesser known, they deserve the credit of being called the very first “Superheroes”.
However, Superman had managed to greatly exceed popularity of his predecessors. Known widely as the “Man of Steel”, he was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1932. Possessing superhuman strength, the power of flight, and an overwhelming sense of justice, he defined the term “superhero”, laying the foundation for hundreds of others to follow. I mean, who hasn’t run around with a cape or towel wrapped around their neck when they were a kid, pretending to be Earth’s greatest protector?
And soon after, in the Golden Age of comics, more heroes emerged, such as Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman. And all the events that transpired in those original comic books created some of the greatest (and of course the worst) superheroes and supervillains that we are all familiar with to this day.
We often look up to superheroes and sometimes even imagine ourselves as them when we face most hardships in life. They show us that things can be okay, regardless of how difficult this world may seem, especially to a young generation growing up. But who could possibly be the greatest superhero ever created? This answer may sound cliché, but in this writer’s opinion…
I mean, come on! He’s the original Superhero! I know that most in my social circle talk about Superman as a “boring super guy who can’t be killed.” Like every hero, though, the man has weaknesses, and he was even killed at one point in the comics. As mentioned above, he laid the foundation for all other comic book superheroes to follow. He believes in life over death and has an overwhelming sense of justice. But what most overlook is the simple fact that during the time he was created, right around The Great Depression and World War II, he was seen as a symbol of hope that things would get better. When times got tough, people looked to that historic S symbol, which anyone across the globe today could recognize. And in every era of society, he took on every threat. Robberies. Wars. Nuclear disasters. He’s there to take on our ultimate evil of our time, and to let us know that everything will be okay.
Superheroes aren’t just fictional comic book characters; they are symbols of hope in the hardest of times.
Well that’s all for today! Drop in next week for some more nerd culture. And who knows, you might just learn something else you didn’t know about before.
Oh, and be sure to check out the upcoming movie, “Man of Steel”, premiering June 14th, 2013!
Until next time, fellow nerds!