It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a book about Superman’s complete Jewish history!



This story originally appeared on The Foward

A lot of people know that Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were Jewish. But according to Roy Schwartz – author of “Is Superman Circumcised?: The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero” – the question of Superman’s Jewishness hasn’t been discussed deeply enough.

“Many things that are relevant and interesting have been overlooked,” Schwartz told the Forward. “Most of the attention has been given to his formative years, and there is a lot to discover, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, years rife with Jewish themes and symbolism and signifiers and even stories lifted wholesale from the Bible. People should not assume that they have heard everything there is to hear about it.”

For example, “The Death of Superman” comic book (Superman #149, November 1961) is a noncanonical story in which Lex Luthor finally managed to kill the Man of Steel. Luthor is captured, put on trial in a glass booth, and sentenced to death. Schwartz says this is “one-to-one modeled after the Eichmann Trial,” which was underway when the book story was published.

Schwartz also compared the Superman story to the film “The Jazz Singer” – about the son of a cantor who hides his Judaism to find success, and eventually feels torn between his two worlds. And in the 17-page Superman #247 (January 1972), Schwartz points out, readers are reminded that Superman is an immigrant, “paralleling his origin with that of an undocumented boy from Mexico sent by his dying father in hopes of a better life.”

“He is Clark Kent and Superman; he is the ethnic guy with the Hebraic name Kal-El who came to America, changed his mannerisms and appearance. He tucks his tallit down into his suit, and he goes around the world like a gentile. So it’s sort of like the ultimate assimilation/assertion fantasy, the ability to decide which part of you should interact with society at any given moment. What is more American than being an ethnic immigrant, and bringing the gifts and uniqueness of your cultural heritage to the greater benefit of the American society?”