Superman: America’s Jewish Superhero and an Immigrant Icon


By David Michael Newstead.

The greatest comic book hero of all time was created in the 1930s by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. And a large part of Superman’s mythology actually comes from the creators’ own experience as the children of Jewish immigrants from Europe. On one level, the story of an infant escaping danger, being rescued by adoptive parents, and destined for great things has clear similarities to Moses. Beyond that though, there’s a duality to the Man of Steel that’s reflective of the immigrant experience. He has two names, two homes, and an affinity for his culture of birth (Krypton) as well as his adoptive culture (America).

The massive franchise that followed has endured for decades in the form of books, movies, and merchandise. But at its core, Superman is grounded in the imaginings of two young science fiction fans from Cleveland who grew up during the Great Depression. Truth, justice, and the American way were ideals that made their parents cross an ocean. And no matter how elaborate the storylines became, it is essentially rooted in an immigrant’s dream of someone who will right society’s wrongs and stand up for the oppressed.

Someone who is both distinct from and the very embodiment of their new home.