Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Author Says Superman Is Jewish; BOOKS

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Author Says Superman Is Jewish; BOOKS

Article excerpt

If Superman's biographer says the Man of Steel is Jewish, who are we to argue?

Larry Tye's emailed assertion grabs one's attention, of course. So follow-up requests for clarification seemed in line. After all, few Jewish men, or men of any religious affiliation, have ever worn blue tights to such acclaim.

Tye is the author of "Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero," which was published in 2012, in time for the comic book character's 75th birthday. The book is now available in paperback. Tye will be in town this week at the Jewish Community Center.

How do you know Superman was Jewish? * The Kryptonian name that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster gave their hero is Kal-El, which is Hebrew for voice or vessel of God.

His origins are straight out of Exodus worried parents tucking their superbaby into a spaceship that floated to Earth, where he was rescued by non-Jews, raised in a foreign culture and proved to be exceptional.

Jerry also told us, in his unpublished memoir that I unveiled, that he wrote about what he knew and growing up in a section of Cleveland that was 80 percent Jewish, that's what he knew.

Lastly, there's a rule of thumb: when a name ends in "man," the bearer is Jewish, a superhero, or both.

What about him is particularly Midwestern? * Superman's values were rock-solid Midwest: stalwart, stoic and having no difficulty seeing right from wrong (and always doing right).

The Daily Planet was a take-off on the Plain Dealer (a Cleveland newspaper) that Jerry and Joe grew up with, and Jerry always dreamed of being a reporter like Clark Kent.

Even Smallville, the hometown his handlers dreamed up later for Clark, was a takeoff on every small town in Kansas and maybe Missouri.

What do you think of the latest incarnation, the movie last year?* It wasn't what I or most Superman fans hoped for, which was that Warner Bros. would give us a new Superman who could last as long as Christopher Reeve did in the 1970s-'80s. The story had too much fighting and too little suspense or romance. …

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