"Where have all the good men gone and where are all the gods? Where's the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds?"

 

 

 

One drawback to researching the possible influences on the creation of Superman is that interviews with the hero's creators often took place long after the creation process. So, as with Superman's powers and appearance, I researched the era itself. I looked back at the boyhood heroes popular in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

While what constitutes a hero may change superficially over the decades and centuries, the basic tenets of heroism, the self-sacrifice, the need to help, the desire to right wrongs, defend the weak, and vanquish evil, does not change. That was just as true of the heroes of Siegel and Shuster's era.

 

 

Superman's creators grew up in an era where heroes ranged from space men to ape men, and from globe-trotting adventurers to cowboys, and undoubtedly some of them left their mark on the creation of "The Man of Steel".

 

 

  Doc Savage, the "Man of Bronze" would seem the most obvious influence on the creation of Superman. Not only a nod to the "Man of Steel" but his real first name was Clark, and Doc Savage also had a "Fortress of Solitude".

Unlike Superman, however, Savage had no special powers and was wealthy. In fact a surprising number of heroes from this era were wealthy and used their wealth to help the oppressed.

 

Though cowboys have long since ridden off into the sunset of favorite heroes, there was a time when they, as a genre of heroes, far outweighed any other classification.

 

John Reid, Texas Ranger, was the sole survivor of an ambush. Vowing from that day forward to fight the outlaws of the west, he donned a mask and was forever after known as the Lone Ranger.

The Lone Ranger, debuting on radio in 1933, may have had no influence on the creation of Superman, but the theme of a sole survivor of a cataclysmic event is similar, as well as a portion of the Ranger's credo stating that everything changes but the truth "and that truth lives on forever."

 

trivia: the Lone Ranger was the ancestor of Britt Reid, the Green Hornet.

 

  Cisco Kid, the Robin Hood of the Old West, fit the "loveable rogue" category of heroes. This fact alone might eliminate him from any influence over the "big blue boy scout."

However, Westerns were popular with boys and teens of the 1930s, and since Cisco fought for the "little guy" who couldn't fight back, he at least had that in common with Superman.

 

Siegel and Shuster were fans of the science fiction of the day and so the likes of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon were more likely influences on Superman.

 

Buck Rogers belongs to the "Rip Van Winkle" school of storytelling. Take a man from contemporary times and place him in the future.

Buck, a pursuit pilot during World War I, was exploring a cave and fell victim to a mysterious gas that placed him in suspended animation. When he awoke, it was the 25th century. Essentially Buck Rogers was a "strange visitor" on his own planet.

 

 

  Flash Gordon was deliberately created to compete with the popularity of Buck Rogers. Flash's story is almost the reverse of Superman's.

Instead of coming from an alien world to become a hero on Earth, Flash was from Earth, and became a hero on an alien world.

 

While Edgar Rice Burroughs' depiction of the African jungle was every bit as accurate as his depiction of Mars, Tarzan remains one of the few heroes who predates Superman and still has his story retold to this day in almost every popular medium.

 

If there is any parallel between Tarzan and Superman, it may be the pairing with a mate whose name is almost as famous as the hero's. Also, both Tarzan and Superman maintained a certain innocence for most of their existence.

They shared a guileless quality despite numerous run-ins with opportunistic, cruel villains and evil plots designed to destroy their world.

 

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