Images Action-Comics-1Studio 360 is one of those Sunday morning NPR shows that takes in-depth and oh-so-smart looks at various pop culture topics. It’s hosted by novelist and former SPY magazine editor Kurt Anderson. This week’s show, which you can listen to online, looks at American Icons: Superman:

We leap tall buildings in a single bound. Disguised as a mild-mannered reporter, Kurt Andersen explores the history of Superman accompanied by Jules Feiffer, Art Spiegelman, Bryan Singer, Michael Chabon, and Margot Kidder. Is this strange visitor from the planet Krypton derivative of Jewish mythology? Is “The American Way” epitomized by someone who wields ultimate power for a moral good? What’s up with the blue tights? This hour on Superman is part of Studio 360’s series American Icons.


We listened to about half the show before we had to get up and do things, but it’s very informative, with Spiegelman, Feiffer and Gerard Jones, among others, talking about what makes Superman so lasting. In particular, we were struck by Jones mentioning how Jerry Siegel’s father was killed in a robbery, making him the real life Bruce Wayne.

Well worth a listen.

Speaking of Superman, Dr. Fredric Wertham’s characterization of him as inspiring “sadistic joy” is getting a wee trotting out in the form of a wire story showing up in a few papers:

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In it final report, the panel singled out the Superman comic books as being “injurious to the ethical development of children,” citing the research and testimony of a New York psychiatrist, Frederic Wertham. Even though Superman is a crime fighter, “Dr. Wertham believes these books arouse fantasies of sadistic joy in seeing other people repeatedly punished, while the hero remains immune,” the report noted. “He called this the ‘Superman complex.'”

The report also detailed a witness account of institutionalized children injuring themselves by jumping off high places in attempts to fly like superheroes. And the senators contended that Superman and his ilk just gave cops a bad reputation.

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