Superman #1, 1998
Print on canvas
Collection of the artist
“This image of Superman is a re-creation of the first issue of Superman Comics from 1939. This is when Superman was the first character of his type to get his own self-named book devoted to adventures of himself and led the way for countless superheroes to follow in the 70-some years since. This image is a re-tooling of that composition where you really see the same basic structure of the buildings and the figure placement except in a nighttime setting where the lighting on the figure is an under lighting which is an aesthetic I would use in quite a few pieces of mine where I would play up realism by hopefully bringing a light source to things that wasn’t really common or expected. And that’s what I was trying to do here with Superman is kind of give him the sense that it wasn’t what you were used to or expecting. The sunlight wasn’t overhead it was only lighting from below – hopefully adding to some kind of drama in the figure. And of course, all of the under lighting for the buildings, which is I as I look at it now it seems very bright and intense to my eyes which is somewhat dreamy and evocative. I can tell you from my intent in doing pieces like this is I was always trying to be very realistic but in failure to be absolutely realistic, you arrive at something different altogether."
Making his first appearance in Action Comics #1 (June 1938), Superman was an immediate hit with the American public. Superman was so popular that he became the first superhero to receive his own comic book with the publication of Superman #1 in June 1939.
Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster—two shy, unpopular Jewish teens from Cleveland who shared an affection for science-fiction pulp magazines. Through the mid-1930s, they were unsuccessful in selling their Superman story to publishers. Finally in 1938, after some revisions and a bit of luck, DC Comics agreed to publish the exploits of Superman in their new comic book, Action Comics.
An amalgam of Clark Gable, Flash Gordon, Friedrich Nietzsche’s Ubermensch, and Harold Lloyd, among others, the world’s first superhero was born Kal-El on the planet Krypton. Realizing that Krypton would soon die of "old age," Kal-El's father, Jor-El, sends his only child to Earth in a rocket ship. Kal-El's crashing rocket is spotted by a passing motorist, who turns the baby over to an orphanage. Reaching maturity, Clark Kent, as he was named, could jump over 20-story buildings, run faster than a train, and lift tremendous weights. The source of his power was his highly advanced Kryptonian physiology. Because of this unique gift, he chose to become Superman and "devote his existence to those in need."
Superman's back-story was eventually altered to include Ma and Pa Kent in Kansas finding and adopting the alien baby, and an adjustment of his strengths to include the ability to fly, increased super powers, and near invulnerability. Also, the source of his power was later explained to be a result of Earth's yellow sun on his alien DNA.
Since he burst onto the scene in 1938, Superman has appeared in a daily comic strip, a radio series, theatrical cartoons, film serials, several feature films and live-action television series, and scores of animated television series. In 73 years, he has married, died, returned to life and fought Al Capone, Nazis, and Communists—all while wearing tights.
This painting draws inspiration from the cover of the Superman #1 comic book.