.The Reign Of The Superman

Siegel and Shuster's Superman did NOT make his first appearance in Action Comics #1. As Jerry Siegel recalls it, “With Joe Shuster as art editor, and with myself as editor, I published the fanzine ‘Science Fiction’ on the mimeograph machine of Glenville High School. In the January, 1933 issue of ‘Science Fiction’ appeared a story I had written in 1932, entitled ‘The Reign of the Superman.’ "

The front cover of that very issue of Science Fiction is pictured right, and the two-page spread beginning that opens the story, showcasing an illustration drawn by Siegel's partner, Joe Shuster, is shown below. Siegel chose to use a pen name for the story, which is credited to "Herbert S. Fine."
In "The Reign of the Superman," the titular Superman is not our familiar red and blue clad flying superhero, but an evil genius. "The Superman" is a normal human being, until he is given super-powers by a bald mad scientist similar to Lex Luthor (he's the one pictured in the double-page spread above), and he becomes a villain!

.Since nothing in this primitive fanzine was typeset, the text for the story was simply banged out by Siegel on his typewriter, then Shuster's spot illustrations were stuck in place alongside the typewritten text -- as seen in the page from the story pictured right.


Of course, Jerry Siegel was not the first to describe a “Superman.” The concept was invented by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who also famously said, "God is dead.” In saying this, .Nietzsche did not mean that God had actually died (if such a thing is even possible). The complete quote is "God is dead, and we have killed him," meaning the influence of God on Western culture is dead.

For Nietzsche, the absence of God’s influence left a moral vacuum, thus it was necessary to create a new morality, based completely on human will. Everything that is alive strives “to grow, spread, seize, and become predominant. Not from any morality or immorality but because it is living, and because life simply IS will to power,” Nietzsche wrote in "Beyond Good and Evil."
In his most famous work, "Also Sprach Zarathustra" ("Thus Spoke Zarathustra"), Nietzsche proclaims that the ultimate achievement of mankind will be to produce a .being he calls the "Superman” or, in the original German, “Übermensch.” What does this name mean, literally?

Über” is an adverb which means “over,” “superior to,” or “outside of,” as in “Überwindung” (“overcoming”), or “übernatürlich” (“outside nature.”)

Mensch is a noun which actually means "human," not just “man,” because it is usually genderless, as in “übermenschlichen kräften” (“superhuman force”).

Übermensch” means, literally, “Over-human,” and the term describes a being who is over, above, and superior to normal humans -- a SUPERMAN!


Young Jerry Siegel had been inspired by the Nietzschen concept of the Superman -- and, unfortunately for the world, so had a young Austrian who recently become a German citizen. His name was Adolph Hitler. We .know the soon-to-be absolute dictator of Germany was an admirer of Nietzsche because he owned a bust of Nietzsche, and personally participated in a 1935 funeral ceremony for the German writer’s sister. The Nazis later built a monument to Nietzsche.

Hitler believed in Aryan superiority, and envisioned creating of a new race of Aryan Supermen. Under their reign, humanity would be free of "the dirty and degrading chimera called conscience and morality," as well as "the burden of free will" and "personal responsibility" which will be borne by superior beings who rule them -- the “Reign of the Supermen.
(Gee, that sounds like SUCH a great idea, doesn't it? BURDEN of free will? Someone shoot this guy! Unknown Soldier, what are you waiting for?)

Nietzsche explicitly denied that any true "Supermen" had thus far existed. A few outstandingly brilliant individuals had come close, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Goethe, Julius Caesar and .Napoleon, but none fulfilled Nietszche’s vision completely -- certainly not Hitler, the mad egomaniac, who probably envisioned HIMSELF as The Superman.

This would be quite impossible, however, for unlike the racially-obsessed Hitler, Nietzsche did NOT believe superiority and inferiority were determined by race. Nietzsche held that a member of any race could become the Übermensch, by the overcoming of nihilism. It had no relation to race at all. Moreover, Hitler was scarcely "frightful in his goodness," as Nietzsche decreed the Superman would be.


In fact, the Superman created by Siegel and Shuster was far closer to the Nietzsche ideal than the deranged Hitler’s perhaps-purposeful mutilation of Nietzsche’s works. The Nazis were aware of the existence of DC’s Superman, and even went so far as to issue a propaganda bulletin intended to attack and discredit Siegel:

“Jerry Siegel,” the Nazi rebuke began, “an intellectually and physically circumcised chap who has his headquarters in New York, is the inventor of a colorful 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.’ " (Das Schwarze Korps, April 25, 1940.)

What, exactly, was the Nietzschen view of The Superman? Here it is, spelled out in some detail by the German philosopher himself, in his most famous work (HEAVILY edited by me, Robby Reed, author of this article and creator of this blog). I think you'll find it to be an eye-opener in relation to OUR Superman, Kal-El of Krypton -- especially the last line! Here is Nietzsche’s “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” written in 1896.


.“When Zarathustra was thirty years old, he left his home and the lake of his home, and went into the mountains. There he enjoyed his spirit and his solitude, and for ten years did not weary of it. But at last his heart changed.

And, rising one morning with the rosy dawn, he went before the sun, and spake thus unto it: ‘Great star! What would be your happiness if you did not have those for whom you shine! .Zarathustra is again going to be a man.’ Thus began Zarathustra's descent.

An old man said to Zarathustra: "Zarathustra is the awakened one! What will you do in the land of the sleepers?”

Zarathustra answered: "I am bringing gifts unto men."

And Zarathustra spake thus unto the people: Behold, I teach you the Superman! The Superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The Superman shall be the meaning of the earth!

Once, blasphemy against God was the greatest blasphemy; but God died, and therewith also those blasphemers. To blaspheme the earth is now the dreadfulest sin, and to rate the heart of the unknowable higher .than the meaning of the earth!

Verily, a polluted stream is man. One must be a sea to receive a polluted stream without becoming impure. Behold, I teach you the Superman: He is that sea.

Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue? Where is the madness against which you should be inoculated? Behold, I teach you the Superman: He is this lightning, he is this madness!

Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman, a rope over an abyss. A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, .a dangerous trembling and halting.

Disguised, I shall see you, you neighbors and fellow men, well-dressed, vain and estimable, as ‘the good and just.’ And, disguised, I will myself sit amongst you, that I may mistake you and myself.

Behold, I am a herald of the lightning, and a heavy drop out of the cloud: the lightning itself, however, is the Superman. There, where the state ceases -- pray look thither, my brethren! Do ye not see it, the rainbow and the bridges of the Superman?

Never yet has there been a Superman. So alien are you in your souls to what is great that to you, the Superman would be frightful in his goodness! And you, wise and knowing ones, you would flee from the solar-glow of the wisdom in which the Superman joyfully bathes!

You highest men who have come within my understanding! this is my doubt of you, and my secret laughter: I suspect ye would call my Superman a devil! Ah, I became tired of those highest and best ones: from their height did I long to be up, out, and away to the Superman!