"TThe world doesn't need a savior. And neither do I."

So states plucky reporter Lois Lane in the long-awaited Superman Returns, opening in theaters this week. Of course, the statement radiates irony the way Kryptonite gives off poison. In the comic book reality Lois inhabits, not only is she in constant need of a rescuer, but her world is as well.

Christians and even the most casual observers of pop culture have long recognized the similarities between this red-and-blue swaddled infant rocketed to earth and another babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. Before we delve more deeply into the Christ-Superman connection, however, let's review the history of an American icon.

Born in … Cleveland?

In 1933, the mad clown Hitler begins to enthrall the German masses with Nietzsche's doctrine of the superman (ubermensch). Meanwhile, half a world away in Cleveland, two Jewish high school students, Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster, have just created a superman of their own. 

While no Nazi ubermensch, Superman's ruthless pursuit of justice was terrifying. In the first comic to bear his name, Superman hurls a wife beater against the wall ("You're not fighting a woman now!") and pitches a wailing warmonger over a stand of trees. Mild-mannered this Superman was not!   

Superman was the product of the Great Depression, an era draped with the shadow of war and acrid with the smell of the gangster's Tommy gun. It was a day of strongmen with strong ideas about government—FDR, Franco, Mussolini. Desperate times called for desperate measures. Superman was the little guy backed into a corner, the stoop-shouldered victim who suddenly whipped off his round-rimmed glasses, ripped open his shirt, straightened up and took charge. ...

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