Superheroic Leadership Vol. I * No. 17
Superheroic Leadership is a light-hearted examination of what superheroic figures have to teach about leadership and what I have learned from their adventures.
In the last installment of Superheroic Leadership, I wrote about Superman and the classic story “For the Man Who Has Everything.” Perhaps I should have waited to write about the Man of Steel for this week’s Superheroic Leadership.
Seven days from tomorrow, something fairly extraordinary will happen: DC Comics will publish the 1000th issue of Action Comics. Not many comic books (or other periodicals for that matter) reach 1000 issues. Not many superheroes have been featured in 1000 issues of the same comic (though, to be fair, Superman didn’t appear in every issue of Action Comics, but he did in the overwhelming majority of them – like 900 issues or more). Reaching 1000 issues is something of an achievement.
As a self-proclaimed expert in the American artform of comic books, I have much to say about this. I could probably go on for 1000 reasons on Superman, the reason he is the most important character in comic books and, perhaps (don’t get me started!) the most influential character in all of American literature. He must be in the top ten on any serious list.
How many other characters have been in continuous publication for over 80 years?
Think about that. I’ll wait for you.
You got it. The answer is none. A goose egg. Only Superman can claim that mantle and it must mean something, right?
For the purposes of this post, let us start and end with this lesson that Superman teaches time-and-again: one must persevere.
Perhaps Superman’s dedication to the “never ending battle” is best understood as a reflection on the dogged effort of Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, his creators. Siegel and Shuster, the sons of immigrants, worked tirelessly on Superman, hoping to make some money by selling him as a daily newspaper strip. Following mountains of rejections, they, reluctantly, turned their brain-child into a comic book. Once Superman sold (his first appearance was Action Comics #1), they would see some of their dreams come true though they would never realize the riches that were, likely due them.
What their story can tell us, though, and what the overwhelming majority of the subsequent Superman stories tells us is that we should never give up, never give in, never give way when the stakes are high.
It this a simple message?
Is Superman a simple character?
Perhaps the elegant and inspiring simplicity is why he has been around so long.
One could do much worse …