This summer Superman returns to the big screen in Man of Steel, the new movie produced by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises) and directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen). The cape once worn by Christopher Reeve has been taken up by the British actor Henry Cavill, and Marlon Brando’s role has been picked up by Russell Crowe.
According to the character’s latest biographer, Superman was Jewish, like his creators. “Superman is popular enough that every religion on the face of the planet has embraced him. If you were a Christian you would see the Superman birth story as a God-like figure sending his first son to earth to show mankind that it can be better that it can be. For Christians he is the Christ story, for Buddhists he is the perfect zen-like character. For agnostics, he is the secular messiah – who needs God and a religion? Superman tells us the difference between right and wrong.
“But I think the two Jewish kids who gave us Superman had something very different in mind. They threw in endless hints. Those hints range from a name on planet Krypton – Kal-El – that translates into ‘vessel of God’ in Hebrew. The holiest Jewish book is the Mishnah, the three principles of the Mishnah, the three pillars of Judaism is true, justice and peace, well I don’t think it is accidental that Superman stands for truth, justice and, hopefully, what is the American way, which is peace. If you don’t buy any of that other stuff, for me, the most convincing piece of evidence is that any name that ends in ‘man’ is one of two things: it is either a superhero or a Jew.”
He may be streaking over the skies of North America, but Superman has fans in Scotland. In Glasgow’s Buchanan Street Peter Watson, 40, doesn’t mind stopping for a minute to wish the Man of Steel a happy birthday. “He’s the prototype hero, the first major superhero,” explains the customer service advisor. “When he was first created, he wasn’t as powerful as he is now; he fought social injustice, corrupt politicians and wife-beaters: they’ve updated him to make him socially relevant.”