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9 weird things about Superman

Last updated 11:01 11/06/2013
Superman
DC Comics

Superman has done a lot of weird stuff since his creation 75 years ago.

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With the upcoming release of Man of Steel, stuff.co.nz brings you 9 weird superman facts that will give you strength to take on the nerdiest comic book fan.

1. Now that's a secret identity

Superman co-creator Joe Shuster had a secret identity as a fetish artist. Shuster and his Superman partner Jerry Seigel saw none of the riches Superman was making for DC Comics, or National as it was known during the 30s and 40s. In fact both were sacked after they tried to get a share of the money. To pay the bills, Shuster took a job illustrating a pulp magazine called Night of Horrors, which featured sado-masochistic scenes of women whipping men and men liking it. What's surprising is the fact that most of the men and women look like Shuster's Superman and Lois Lane.

MORE: Man of Steel: First reviews are in

CONTEST: Quiz and win with Man of Steel

2. Nuclear meltdown

Superman was once criticised by the War Department for not showing nuclear weapons the proper respect. During the Second World War American authorities became alarmed by a 1940s Superman story in which the Man of Steel battled an evil professor who possessed an early particle accelerator. They fired off a letter the District Engineer at the United States Engineer Office in Tennessee complaining that having such a device in a comic book would lessen the public's fear of nuclear weapons.

3. Nazi piece of work

The Nazi High Command hated Superman, so much so it took the trouble to write an almost ludicrous rebuttal of one of the hero's adventures. In February 1940, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster wrote a patriotic Superman story for Look magazine titled How Would Superman End the War? In it Superman disables the Nazi war machine, arrests a gobsmacked Hitler and Stalin and hands them over to the League of Nations for some good old-fashioned Western justice. According to historian Randall Bytwerk, the Nazis took issue with the story two months later in the official newspaper of the SS, Das Schwarze Korps. Here a few highlights of the article, as translated by Bytwerk:

"Jerry Siegel, an intellectually and physically circumcised chap who has his headquarters in New York, is the inventor of a colourful figure with an impressive appearance, a powerful body, and a red swim suit who enjoys the ability to fly through the ether.

"The inventive Israelite named this pleasant guy with an overdeveloped body and underdeveloped mind Superman. He advertised widely Superman's sense of justice, well-suited for imitation by the American youth. As you can see, there is nothing the Sadducees won't do for money!

"... A triumphant final frame [of the story] shows Superman dropping in at the headquarters of the chatterboxes at the League of Nations in Geneva. Although the rules of the establishment probably prohibit people in bathing suits from participating in their deliberations, Superman ignores them as well as the other laws of physics, logic, and life in general.

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"Jerry Siegellack stinks. Woe to the American youth, who must live in such a poisoned atmosphere and don't even notice the poison they swallow daily."

4. Holocaust fears

DC deliberately deleted the words "Jews" and "Jewish" from a Superman comic set during the Holocaust. In 1998 DC decided to have Superman travel back in time to confront the horrors of the Holocaust, but despite the fact the character was created by two Jewish Americans, writers had to refer to Jews as the "target population of the Nazis' hate" or "murdered residents". After a flood of complaints DC apologised, saying they had banned the words because they didn't want kids using them as terms of abuse. Joey Cavalieri, the book's editor, said at the time: "Since this could be the first time (a reader) encounters the Jews in print, I would be heartbroken if this (story) went badly."

5 Kicking the Ku Klux Klan

After the Second World War, Superman set his sights on ridding America of the Ku Klux Klan. In the radio play Clan of the Fiery Cross, Superman triumphed over the KKK villain the Grand Scorpion, and spread the message of racial equality. Almost 25 years later, Superman publisher shamefully turned back the clock on race relations when it asked its readers how interested they were in black people. A customer survey printed at the back of Justice League of America No. 83 (September 1970) asked readers all sorts of bland marketing questions, but tucked away rather innocently in a section titled How Interested Are You In . . . between space flights and pollution is a box for black people. It is not known how many Batman and Superman fans ticked yes.

6. Super godfather

Mario Puzo, the author of The Godfather, found writing comics too difficult. Before he found fame as a novelist, Puzo eked a living writing for men's adventure magazines. Short of cash one month, he asked Stan Lee if he could try his hand writing a comic script. Lee readily agreed but Puzo couldn't deliver the goods. "He said it was too difficult," Lee recounts in his autobiography. Puzo told him: "I could write a novel in the time it would take me to figure this damn thing out." Puzo did eventually crack the superhero nut, writing the screenplays for the first two Superman movies.

7. Double dating

Superman once went on a double date with Spider-man. Marvel and DC decided to put their flagship characters together for the first time in the 1976 special Superman v Amazing Spider-man. Although the two heroes joined forces to battle the combined villainy of their nemeses, they spent a fair amount of the comic knocking each other about. Both won a round each but this being comics, friendship was declared the eventual winner. The two defeated their foes and celebrated by going on a double date with Lois Lane and Mary-Jane. Superman and Spider-man crossed paths again in 1981, when Superman was clobbered by the Hulk, but the ultimate cross-universe slug-fest was the 1996 series DC v Marvel Comics, in which reader votes determined the outcome of the fights.

8. Super signing

Making the "S" symbol on your chest means Superman in American Sign Language.

9. Deader than Krypton

Batman and Robin is widely considered the worst superhero adventure to ever reach the big screen but that film would have been Shakespeare compared to the Superman reboot the film's producer, Jon Peters, had been cooking up. Listen to Clerks director Kevin Smith reminisce about his hellish days working on the shelved Superman Lives. Warning: Some graphic language.

- Stuff

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