Somebody once suggested to me that the majority of successful entrepreneurs usually have two things from their past in common: The loss of a parent at a young age—and a paper route.
I was reminded of that while reading the Wall Street Journal recently. Douglas Belkin’s piece this past Saturday titled, “Superman Birthplace is Restored,” offers some interesting background information on the creation of the famous comic strip-turned television-turned movie character. And it actually has a lot to do with what we’re trying to do here at Focus on the Family.
Belkin’s article takes us to a modest refurbished home in a crumbling neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. Devoted fans have spent $70,000 to turn the aging house on Central Avenue into a museum of sorts. A steel fence with the Superman insignia wraps the property.
As the story goes, it was in a second-story bedroom of that Cleveland home on a hot night in 1933 that a seventeen-year-old aspiring artist named Jerry Siegal purportedly came up with the idea of the famed super hero character. He later collaborated with a friend, Joe Shuster, and the legend really took shape.
And here I thought Superman was born on the planet of Krypton and rocketed to earth as an infant. [Spoiler Warning: Stop reading here if you’re not interested in the truth.]
Siegal’s inspiration was borne out of tragedy and sadness. A year earlier, Jerry’s father, Michael, had dropped dead of a heart attack after the family haberdashery [a men’s furnishings store] was robbed by a bunch of gun-toting bandits. At the time, the sixteen year old wasn’t quite sure how to process the loss. He admired his father, of course, thought of him as a hero. But why hadn’t he fought back? Why hadn’t he confronted the villains? How could his dad on one hand be so strong—and on the other be so weak?
Some have suggested the creation of the dual-identity Superman, at once weak (Clark Kent) and yet still strong [the man of steel] was Siegal’s way of processing the dichotomy of character. He longed for a father to admire—and fantasized how great it would be if he could create a figure that might help prevent others from the pain he was forced to endure.
Brad Ricca, a lecturer at Case Western University in Cleveland who actually teaches a class on Superman (why weren’t these classes available when I was in school?) summed it up nicely. “Jerry doesn’t know how to feel about his father. He’s his father, so he’s this strong guy who he loves and misses, but he also fainted and died during a robbery and didn’t fight back.”
As someone who lost his father at a young age, a father whom I so badly wanted to admire—but knew was living contrary to God’s plan—I can so strongly relate to this intrinsic need inside every boy and girl.
I suspect the love children and many adults have for all the fictional “super heroes” of the culture—whether it’s Batman, Spiderman or Iron Man—is firmly rooted in this undeniable “father need” of our kids. We’re naturally drawn to heroes.
Fortunately, the Lord doesn’t expect us to possess super human qualities as dads, but it sure doesn’t take too much to be a hero in the eyes of our children. Just spending time with them is a start—no cape, no mask, no super human heroics required.
But even more importantly, we need to introduce them to the one true Super Hero of this world and beyond. Are you spending time with your kids talking as much—or hopefully more—about Jesus as you are about their favorite fictional characters?