“Since You Went Away” (1944) - covered in this previous post, and we might answer rhetorically that in the 1940s, Superman was everywhere.
Above see the always-alluring Olive Oyl from “She-Sick Sailors” (1944), reading, and fantasizing, over a Superman comic book. We see her boyfriend Popeye, below, taking a break from swabbing the deck in “Fleets of Stren’th” (1942) to catch up on the latest adventures of the Man of Steel. And Popeye himself had been featured in newspaper comic strips since 1929. There’s nothing like the admiration of your peers.
Over the past several decades, Superman has firmly established himself as an American cultural icon. We’ve seen him in enough films, TV, toys, etc., to make him as common as the American flag.
What’s amazing is that it didn’t take long for Superman to achieve this exalted status. Created during the Depression by Joe Schuster and Jerry Siegel, Superman first reached large distribution when he debuted in Action Comics in June 1938. A year and a half later, he was a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon. That’s a mighty leap.
By World War II, when we were looking for all the help against the Axis we could get, Superman was everywhere, and when he couldn’t be there, he was parodied by Bugs Bunny, Private Snafu, and anyone with a dishtowel cape. We mentioned in this previous post on “super” markets how Mighty Mouse began as a parody and developed his own following.
Below we have Charles Coburn and Joel McCrea reading the funnies out loud together from “The More the Merrier” (1943). We’re going to be discussing this movie in a few weeks, by the way. Bring a friend.
Mr. Coburn remarks in all seriousness, “I missed ‘Superman’ two Sundays in a row once, and I’ve never felt right since.”
It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 1934)
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