I rather imagine there is a close relationship between Superman and his survival and the survival of all the maniac kids of the thirties who believed in comics and comic strips at a time when no one else did. In other words, Clark Kent had to put up with people who said he couldn’t do it, whatever it was, so he jumped in a phone booth to re-outfit himself with a new ego, and leaped out to punch a locomotive or deflate a hostile dirigible, whichever came first. Our sympathy and need for him was rooted in the fact that any and all of us felt we could never run across a football field without tripping over a peanut, never dive in a pool without sinking out of sight forever, and never touch a girl’s hand without having a heart attack. It was nice to know that the young reporter who turned into Superman at peculiar hours, harbored the same doubts and tripped over similar shoelaces. No one in our various homes, strewn across country in the thirties and forties, realized that at three o’clock in the morning, when Mom and Dad slept, Junior was making like King Kong around the kitchen, emulating John Carter atop the roof on his way to Mars, or masquerading as Superman fighting the Bullies across town. We always got back before dawn, so our folks never knew, and we sat at breakfast with small dinosaur smiles, hiding our tyrannosaurus dentures behind the cornflakes, sitting on our copies of Superman and reading it through the seats of our pants.
Anyway, that was yesterday, and comic strips and books have long since come into their own. The people who once made fun of me for collecting Tarzan and Buck Rogers comics have since grown up and now read the French intellectual gazettes that tell us that our stupid passions for this minor art form in 1932 or ‘39 have now been accepted as the stuff of myths and legends and we are now part of an important period of social history.
The answer to which, of course, then and now, is “Malarky!” We always knew what we needed, what we loved, what we thrived on. We always knew we were right while everyone else was wrong. If you don’t know what you love, in this world, you don’t know anything.
As for me, I once loved and still love Kong, John Carter, Flash Gordon, and all the rest. Superman came a trifle late in my teens. He was never a passion, as were the others. But I recognized myself when I saw him in his reporter’s outfit, bloodying his nose as he blundered into that phone booth.
Why, that’s me! I thought. Except when I come out of phone booths I don’t come out as Superman. Leaping forth, I slip on the nearest banana peel.
No wonder I need, you needed, we all needed Clark Kent a lifetime ago. And as we slip, slide, and catapult ourselves, yelling, into the Future, Clark Kent will go with us to make sure that Superman will catch us.
Beauty and terror.
Just keep going,
No feeling is final.