Superman year 0, part 1 – From History, Heartache, and Hope

Explore the genesis of Superman, a beacon of hope born from the struggles of Jewish immigrants. Discover the inspiring stories behind iconic superheroes and the birth of their secret identities.


“I’m here to fight for truth and justice.” — Superman


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Content in a flash:


0. Year 0: Superman’s extraordinary myth has its foundation in elements drawn from Jewish heritage; – Serie – Heroes: Superman Story

1. Superman Story: A Hero Born from History, Heartache, and Hope;

2. The Story of Superman – Immigrant Struggles, Secret Identities: The Birth of Superheroes;


0. Year 0

It’s actually quite hard to identify the total number of super heroes ever created and this is a clear sign of our inherent need to daydream, inspiration and protection, among many other reasons.


Serie – Heroes: Superman Story

superman story

Image Credits: Marvel vs DC


We are rather confident in stating that out of all of them, the most popular and universally recognized as the super hero is Superman. Most of us are not aware of the conditions and influences that led to the creation of this legendary character, although much can be found on Google.

Our purpose with this article is to modify your awareness, exactly as ours was changed doing a somewhat extensive research. Below, you will delve into the true story of Superman, which conveys a narrative intricately woven with the Jewish cultural heritage of its two creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

This heritage stands as the foundation of Superman’s extraordinary myth.


1. Superman Story: A Hero Born from History, Heartache, and Hope.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were two Jewish immigrant children who had never truly integrated in the American society and their family had immigrated from Eastern Europe not long before.
Siegel had a father of Dutch origin, originally from Rotterdam, and a mother from Kiev, Ukraine. Shuster, on the other hand, came from a Lithuanian family.

However, it wasn’t until 1934 that their fate intertwined with that of humanity when they conceived a timeless icon. In 1938, Superman, made his debut to illuminate the world.

The idea behind the creation of Superman came partially from a feeling of frustration, anger, powerlessness. In fact, that’s how they felt when witnessing the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism in 1933 on the other side of the Atlantic. They had family there, where millions of innocents lived; it was a place where they themselves could have been and suffered, or worse, had their parents not made that life-changing decision.


Serie – Heroes: Superman Story

Superman Story

International Holocaust Remembrance Day was established in 2005 by the United Nations General Assembly. – Image credits




Jerry Siegel said: “What led me into creating Superman in the early thirties? … Hearing and reading of the oppression and slaughter of helpless, oppressed Jews in Nazi Germany … seeing movies depicting the horrors of privation suffered by the downtrodden … I had the great urge to help… help the downtrodden masses, somehow. How could I help them when I could barely help myself? Superman was the answer.”


Story of Superman

Superman with Hitler and Tojo. Hopefully he’s about to clunk their heads together like Moe.


Superman emerged then as a powerful response to their shared sense of powerlessness and frustration.

He embodied their yearning for a better world in the face of global turmoil. At the same time, their personal desires and dreams found an outlet in the creation of Superman, a character who possessed extraordinary abilities that could make them stand out in a world where they often felt overlooked.

In this way, the iconic figure of Superman bridged the gap between their collective concerns about the world’s tragedies and their individual aspirations for recognition and significance.

In an interview from 1983, Jerry Siegel explained how “as a high school student, I thought that some day I might become a reporter, and I had crushes on several attractive girls who either didn’t know I existed or didn’t care I existed. […] It occurred to me: What if I was real terrific? What if I had something special going for me, like jumping over buildings or throwing cars around or something like that? Then maybe they would notice me.”



Superman was therefore the solution to both collective, noble tragedy as well as individualistic, selfish concerns.

But an even deeper and more significant dimension emerges; The work of Siegel and Shuster, Superman, is not just an extraordinary adventure among the skyscrapers of Metropolis, but perhaps, above all, a powerful reflection of their Jewish heritage. As we will explore in the upcoming articles, the story of Superman and the archetypes it embodies can be seen as a manifestation of the Jewish legacy that runs through the veins and past of its creators.


2. The Story of Superman – Immigrant Struggles, Secret Identities: The Birth of Superheroes.

Between the 1880s and 1920s, over 2 million Eastern European Jewish immigrants settled in the USA and typically picked up low level jobs. The conditions they faced were daunting.

Unsatisfactory salaries, dangerous and dirty working conditions, and long working hours were the standard at the time. Faced with these sweatshop conditions and bringing with them a strong sense of determination intrinsically tied to their Jewish identities, they ended up playing an important role in the early 20th-century labor movement. Also, for this reason, they faced discrimination.

The 1930s were, possibly, the toughest moment for a Jew to be in the United States. This was true for many professions, and writers and illustrators were no exception. If you were a Jew it was hard to secure a job.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Some ingenious Jews opted for assuming alternative identities in order to secure a living. One such creative (and hungry) artist is Stan Lee. Stan Lee by day and Stanley Lieber by night.

This theme of dual identities, adopted by necessity, became a common thread in their experiences and ultimately emerged as a fundamental element in the creation of superheroes, often manifesting in the complex dual lives of characters like Clark Kent and Superman, Bruce Wayne and Batman, and so on.

In the upcoming article, we’ll delve into Superman’s extraterrestrial origins and explore the profound influence that the Jewish heritage of the two authors, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, had on shaping one of the most iconic comics of all time.


“Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul, I swear, until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice becomes the reality we all share, I’ll never stop fighting. Ever.” — Superman



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