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HAHN: Growing up with Superman

June 29, 2011

Would it surprise you to know that I am a year older than Superman? I am. Superman was created in 1932 and I was born in 1931. In our household back then, there were not many books, but my father read me the daily comics in the newspaper.
I liked the way he read them over the way my mother read them. He always put in the “Bams!” “ Ahas!” and “Pows!” She skipped over all of those, and, I suspected, some of the other stuff too, but I couldn’t prove it because I couldn‘t read yet.
They frequently bought me funny books too. (We didn’t use the term “comic books.”) They were cheap and both my parents encouraged my interest in the printed word. Mother, however, usually bought me the “Little Henry” comics while my father bought me more adventuresome comics like Dick Tracy.
Do you remember Little Henry? He was a bald-headed kid who wore a red shirt and blue pants and couldn’t talk (he didn‘t even have a mouth). I hated him. When Superman came out, I was too young to get in on the early comics, but I did love to hear his adventures.
My uncle sold Chevrolets in downtown Lawton, Okla. then. There was a telephone booth on the corner near his agency. Uncle Charlie told me that Clark Kent often used it to change from his “mild mannered” clothes into his superman costume. I checked every time we went to see Uncle Charlie, but I never saw any clothes that Superman left in there.
(What DID he do with his stuff? He certainly couldn’t carry it around with him while he was fighting crime. And he didn’t have any pockets in his Superman outfit. Where did he keep his billfold and keys?)
One day when I checked out the phone booth, I found a white shirt button. Uncle Charlie said that Superman had been in the phone booth earlier in the day and it must have popped off when he changed. I kept that button in my Shirley Temple jewelry box for years. Boy, grownups sure con little kids!
As I have grown older, I have sort of lost track of what Superman and his friends have been up to all these years. I guess I have always assumed that the superheroes, being so concerned as they are about truth, justice and the American way, didn’t have to be too concerned with their souls and the hereafter.
Not so. As I perused my computer’s Facebook offerings the other day, I noted a discussion among some friends on what church affiliations some of the comic book heroes had.
Intrigued, I went to the Internet and was amazed to find how much research has been done on the subject. Without going into much detail about how the denominations were determined, here are the religious preferences of some of your more famous superheroes:
Baptist: There are quite a few listed, but few of them I have heard of. There is one called Bibleman. And one of the X-Men is a Southern Baptist. Lutheran: Jimmy Olsen and “The Little Mermaid.” (Jimmy is the kid who works for the Daily Planet with Lois Lane and mild-mannered Clark Kent.) Haven’t found out why “The Little Mermaid” is so classified yet.
The Methodists include Superman as well as the other Supers — Superboy and Supergirl. Batman is an Episcopalian while the Hulk is Catholic. One I can’t resist noting — the comic book character Sasquatch is Jewish; go figure.
My grandson’s favorite, Batman, is a lapsed Catholic.
Most of the creators of comic book heroes did not give much attention to providing evidence of the beliefs of their characters, but Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, the creators of Superman did. According to the early story line, Superman came from the planet Krypton, which was about to explode.
Superman’s father was Jor-El. To save his son Kal-El, he arranges for his son to be sent to a Kansas couple who raise him. They name him Clark, which loosely translates in Hebrew as “Cleric Christ.“ The Kents are Methodists, so we assume their son is too.
Hmm-m-m. Come to think of it, I remember that skinny kid who always bent the forks at refreshment time at Bible school. What was his name? Clark something or other.

Alma Joyce Hahn taught in the Benton schools for more than 30 years. Her column appears each Monday.

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