Understanding Superman’s Appeal

One of the things that has longed fascinated me about Superman is his enormous popularity outside of America. Just recently I learned that the 1951 film Superman and the Mole Men had a cinematic release in Thailand.  The images reproduced here are from a Bangkok cinema.



I tried to grapple with Superman’s international appeal in a recent piece for the Smithsonian Institution’s What It Means to Be American website. I am still thinking about this issue. But meantime the piece is here (not my choice of heading):

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Positive Symbol of American Power!




It is not uncommon as an academic to work on a project that ends up going nowhere; at least that is in terms of a publication. Sometimes this can simply be a project that never gets off the ground, a great idea that can not be realized because of time, money, or bad luck. And then there are the times when you complete a piece of work but the project you were contributing to is cancelled. It happens and whether you are the editor of a volume that has the plug pulled, or a contributor to that volume, it is an unpleasant business. I have a general overview piece on Superheroes from 1938-1986 that was contracted for a volume and no longer has a home. So after some deliberation I decided to put it on my academia.edu page. Previously I have posted two conference papers on that site because while they were fine as conference papers I did not have the time, or they did not lend themselves to the process, to shape them into journal articles.  Nonetheless one of them received a flurry of views and downloads and may well have been read more than some published articles.

Since Superman: The Persistence of an American Icon will be published in just over two weeks this piece might provide some general context for understanding the longevity of Superman.