© 2016

Re-Constructing the Man of Steel

Superman 1938–1941, Jewish American History, and the Invention of the Jewish–Comics Connection


Part of the Contemporary Religion and Popular Culture book series (CRPC)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Martin Lund
    Pages 1-17
  3. Martin Lund
    Pages 69-82
  4. Martin Lund
    Pages 83-98
  5. Martin Lund
    Pages 99-123
  6. Martin Lund
    Pages 125-139
  7. Martin Lund
    Pages 141-156
  8. Martin Lund
    Pages 157-173
  9. Martin Lund
    Pages 175-188
  10. Back Matter
    Pages 189-215

About this book


In this book, Martin Lund challenges contemporary claims about the original Superman’s supposed Jewishness and offers a critical re-reading of the earliest Superman comics. Engaging in critical dialogue with extant writing on the subject, Lund argues that much of recent popular and scholarly writing on Superman as a Jewish character is a product of the ethnic revival, rather than critical investigations of the past, and as such does not stand up to historical scrutiny. In place of these readings, this book offers a new understanding of the Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in the mid-1930s, presenting him as an authentically Jewish American character in his own time, for good and ill.

On the way to this conclusion, this book questions many popular claims about Superman, including that he is a golem, a Moses-figure, or has a Hebrew name. In place of such notions, Lund offers contextual readings of Superman as he first appeared, touching on, among other ideas, Jewish American affinities with the Roosevelt White House, the whitening effects of popular culture, Jewish gender stereotypes, and the struggles faced by Jewish Americans during the historical peak of American anti-Semitism.

In this book, Lund makes a call to stem the diffusion of myth into accepted truth, stressing the importance of contextualizing the Jewish heritage of the creators of Superman. By critically taking into account historical understandings of Jewishness and the comics’ creative contexts, this book challenges reigning assumptions about Superman and other superheroes’ cultural roles, not only for the benefit of Jewish studies, but for American, Cultural, and Comics studies as a whole.


Superman comics american judaism jewish studies graphic novel

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.CUNY Graduate CenterBrooklynUSA

About the authors

Martin Lund is a Swedish Research Council International Postdoc at Linnaeus University, Sweden. He is also a Visiting Research Scholar at the Gotham Center for New York City History, CUNY Graduate Center, USA. He has a PhD in Jewish Studies from Lund University, as well as a Masters in Theology, History and Anthropology of Religion, also from Lund University, Sweden. His publications include articles and book chapters on subjects such as comics and religion, identity, race, and place.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Re-Constructing the Man of Steel
  • Book Subtitle Superman 1938–1941, Jewish American History, and the Invention of the Jewish–Comics Connection
  • Authors Martin Lund
  • Series Title Contemporary Religion and Popular Culture
  • Series Abbreviated Title Contemporary Religion and Popular Culture
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Religion and Philosophy Philosophy and Religion (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-42959-5
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-319-82705-6
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-42960-1
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages VIII, 215
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Religion and Society
    Jewish Cultural Studies
    Cultural Studies
    American Culture
  • Buy this book on publisher's site