Despite the fact that many if not most super-hero comics are greatly influenced by the Jewish immigrant experience, there is always a looming sense that there’s something kind of fascist about them. Don’t believe me? Art Spiegelman once criticized Jack Kirby of all people for appropriating pagan images and overly glorifying the physical over the intellectual in his work, techniques that, according to Spiegelman, smack of fascism.
Superman is the most obvious example and the most vulnerable to accusations of fascism. The mere appropriation of Neitzche’s term ‘Superman’, even if coincidental is enough to raise an eyebrow or two. In addition, the hallmark of Superman’s greatest adversaries is high intellect. They use reason and science to manipulate and destroy, whereas Superman, whose primary attributes are physical in nature always manages to stomp their nerdy asses.
‘Truth, Justice, and the
And yet, despite all this, I’ve come to the conclusion that Superman and other heroes are not in the slightest bit fascist. There’s no smoking gun for totalitarian nationalism in these comics. What Spiegelman forgets, and what I sometimes forget, is that the fascists weren’t the first people to use classical images of physical greatness for their own means and they won’t be the last. The old pagan mythologies give us beautiful legends and images, and just because they were used by a bunch of racist, nationalist bastards in the 30’s doesn’t make them off limits for all time. If anything, super-hero comics reclaimed these images for the good guys.