Superman Cultural Impact
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Superman has come to be seen as both an American cultural icon and the first comic book superhero. His adventures and popularity have established the character as an inspiring force within the public eye, with the character serving as inspiration for musicians, comedians and writers alike.
Inspiring a market
The character's initial success led to similar characters being created. Batman was the first to follow, Bob Kane commenting to Vin Sullivan that given the "kind of money (Siegel and Shuster were earning) you'll have one on Monday". Victor Fox, an accountant for DC, also noticed the revenue such comics generated, and commissioned Will Eisner to create a deliberately similar character to Superman. Wonder Man was published in May 1939, and although DC successfully sued, claiming plagiarism, Fox had decided to cease publishing the character. Fox later had more success with the Blue Beetle. Fawcett Comics' Captain Marvel, launched in 1940, was Superman's main rival for popularity throughout the 1940s, and was again the subject of a lawsuit, which Fawcett eventually settled in 1953, a settlement which involved the cessation of the publication of the character's adventures. Superhero comics are now established as the dominant genre in American comic book publishing, with many thousands of characters in the tradition having been created in the years since Superman's creation.
Superman became popular very quickly, with an additional title, Superman Quarterly quickly added. In 1940 the character was represented in the annual Macy's parade for the first time. In fact Superman had become popular to the extent that in 1942, with sales of the character's three titles standing at a combined total of over 1.5 million, Time was reporting that "the Navy Department (had) ruled that Superman comic books should be included among essential supplies destined for the Marine garrison at Midway Islands." The character was soon licensed by companies keen to cash in on this success through merchandising. The earliest paraphernalia appeared in 1939, a button proclaiming membership in the Supermen of America club. By 1940 the amount of merchandise available increased dramatically, with jigsaw puzzles, paper dolls, bubble gum and trading cards available, as well as wooden or metal figures. The popularity of such merchandise increased when Superman was licensed to appear in other media, and Les Daniels has written that this represents "the start of the process that media moguls of later decades would describe as 'synergy.'" By the release of Superman Returns, Warner Bros. had arranged a cross promotion with Burger King, and licensed many other products for sale. Superman's appeal to licensees rests upon the character's continuing popularity, cross market appeal and the status of the S-Shield, the magenta and gold S emblem Superman wears on his chest, as a fashion symbol.
Superman vs Racism
Superman's character has always been about equality for every man. In the early days those messages didn't always play well with everyone.
Superman vs the KKK
Radio's Adventures of Superman in 1947 was declared by the commentator and reactionary Gerald L.K. Smith as "a disgrace to America." source: http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/07.02.98/comics-9826.html
The radio Adventures of Superman was honored by various groups, including the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the American Newspaper Guild and the Calvin Newspaper Service, a chain of African American newspapers.
One reason Superman achieved this attention was due to Stetson Kennedy, a reporter for a political newspaper, who went undercover into the Klan, learning the secret passwords and countersigns used by the Grand Dragon "Doc" Green's vicious Klavern No. 1 of Atlanta. Kennedy passed on the info to writers of the Superman radio show.
So Superman took on the Klan on his radio show complete with authentic KKK passwords. This of course really didn't set well with the Klan who were being presented as evil villains and having to change their passwords at the same time. The Klan chief tried to retaliate by pressuring Pep Cereal--sponsors of the Adventures of Superman--off of grocery shelves in Atlanta. Despite Green's actions, the sponsors continued to green-light the anti-Klan shows.