Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pop Culture Icon: Superman

This morning I was reading an article on about Pop Culture Moments that are remembered incorrectly. It talked a lot about quotes like "Play it again Sam", "Beam me up Scotty", and "Luke I am your father". All of these lines are frequently miss quoted because none of them are actually said in the source material they are based on. I'm a huge Star Wars fan, but if I'm doing a Vader impression at least half the time I'm going to say the line as people think of it, not how it is said in the movie.

My other favorite things to say in a Darth Vader voice:

You are part of the Rebel Alliance and a traitor.
Impressive, most impressive.
The power of the Dark Side.

The first part of the article talks about the Ewoks never being called Ewoks in the movie by name and the author wondered how he knew they were Ewoks as a kid. (I would assume because of the publicity and merchandising).

It made me think of an article I had previously written in which I tried to think back to the moment in my childhood it which I learned about who Superman was.

One of my earliest memories of Superman is my 80's Superman figure from the Super Powers Line.

Check out A Superman Mystery on Obscene - or it has been posted below.

I think most boys grow up loving Superman. He is a pop culture icon that falls into the hands of most boys in one form or another. Some kids read the comic, others see the movies, and some have action figures. He’s the Universal Hero. How can you not like him? He stands for truth, justice, and the American way.
Since seeing Superman Returns I have been trying to remember how I was introduced to Superman. Do kids just know who he is automatically? I have a really good memory of my childhood, but it’s something I can’t remember. Must have happened early. I remember having a t-shirt, underwear, a suitcase, and an action figure… but which came first? I guess the best way to find out is to search out evidence of Superman in my life. It may be tricky due to the fact that I no longer own some of this stuff. I can’t look for a copyright date on the underpants because I don’t know what happened to them after I outgrew them. It seems the most logical approach is to work backwards from more recent to oldest. I’ll start off with the ticket stub documenting that I saw Superman Returns on 7/2/06.
Check out those pecs!
I recently finished reading Superman/Batman Vol. 1 trade paperback. I love Ed McGuinness’ art. I bought the book after reading the first few pages in a freebie comic on Free Comic Book day. I drew this picture of Superman in May of 2006 based on art work from that comic. Of course, this is all recent evidence. I’m going to have to dig deeper.
The next item I found was this pencil drawing done on Christmas Eve 2001. It’s based on an image of Superman trying to seal up a breaking dam with his heat vision. The original art it was based on is by David Ross, and appears in Doug Moench’s JLA: Act of God. It’s an Elseworlds comic that looks at how heroes would deal with the loss of their god-like superpowers.
Who could be grumpy wearing a Superman shirt?
Sometime during my Senior Year of high school (2000-2001) Derek and I visited Brian at college in New York for the weekend. While we were there, he asked us to appear in photographs for one of his Digital Art courses. He was basically making a short comic book with real photos. He told us the basic story and introduced us to his friend Jesse who would also appear in the comic. So we rode the bus to the mall to scope out a location. While we were riding there Brian said he’d like me to wear a Superman shirt if we could find one. So when we got to the mall we checked out a couple of T-shirt shops and I bought one. I changed into the shirt and we wandered around outside until we found some dumpsters to shoot by. The finished product, Captain Nihilism has been previously featured here. In the end, the shirt turned out to be my favorite shirt. I wear it frequently and often depict myself wearing it in cartoons and doodles. Brian took this photo of me in my basement one time.
Read this. Seriously.
Skipping back a couple of years to January 1995, we find this drawing of Superman with the superhero team Xenobrood. According to the date, I drew this near the end of my years in elementary school. It’s from another comic written by Doug Moench with art by Tomm Coker. Xenobrood was a limited mini-series about a new superhero team, and in the last issues they team up with Superman.
It's a bird? Or is it a plane?

The next artifact I found is not dated. Even without a date I can determine that this was drawn in 3rd grade because of which spiral bound notebook I drew it in. As a kid, I filled a 70 sheet spiral notebook every year with drawings. It’s Superman flying through the air. There’s not a whole lot to say about the drawing, but it serves as good documentation for the middle years of elementary school.

Here’s a picture taken when I was seven, at an auction at my grandparents’ farm. Two of my uncles dissolved their farming partnership. One uncle moved up north and continued farming while the other one went into retail. I’m the one with the Superman shirt on. The photo proves I knew who Superman was when I was seven. It’s kind of odd, but I remember a lot of things from that day, including a conversation with my friend in the dark blue shirt next to me that spawned a childhood catch phrase. I don’t remember wearing that shirt that day. I remember leaving school early to go to the auction. I remember my Dad videotaping the events of the day. I remember eating a hotdog and drinking a soda as bees buzzed around. Seven years old… I had to have known of him earlier than that.
Is it a plane? Or a bird?

This crayon and pencil drawing of Superman, Godzilla, and Spiderman proves I knew of him when I was in first grade. The picture may be the earliest drawn documentation I have of superheroes. Still, I feel that I have to go back earlier.

It's punch-out Superman

I got a birthday card one year that contained punch out pictures of Superman, Batman, and Robin. The copyright information on these punch-outs is no help because Superman is dated 1975, while the Dynamic Duo is dated 1966. Both of these dates are before I was born. I conclude that it must be the copyright date for that specific image, or the character’s likeness. I have a feeling that it may be connected to the Superpowers toy line or Super Friends cartoon show of the early 1980’s.
For Christmas one year I remember opening a Superman action figure from the Super Powers toy line, produced by Kenner. He is figure number one from series one. I was happy to have the first figure. I have to assume that this was Christmas of 1984. The Super Powers Collection came out in 1984, so it’s reasonable to assume that’s when I got the figure. If it had been a year later there would have been a different batch of characters in the stores. I remember watching the Super Friends cartoon show around the same time. Is it possible I was introduced to the character by that cartoon show?
Unfortunately my trail of evidence runs cold in the early 1980’s. I have to assume that I learned about Superman through the media and marketing blitz surrounding the Super Friends cartoon and Super Powers action figures. I can’t specifically pinpoint if I learned of the character by having one of my parents read me the mini-comic packaged with my Superman figure or from watching the cartoon show. Further research into Super Friends and Super Powers shows that the cartoon predates the toys by several years. I feel it is pretty safe to say that my parents knew I’d like a Superman figure for Christmas because I enjoyed the cartoon show.

No comments:

Post a Comment