The Hollywood Reporter article splashed on the Drudge Report right now contains a factual error: It’s not true that “[e]ver since artist Joe Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel created the granddaddy of all comic book icons in 1932, Superman has fought valiantly to preserve ‘truth, justice and the American way.'”
In fact, as Erik Lundegaard explains in a NYT op-ed today, Superman originally stood simply for “truth and justice.” In the radio show that ran from 1940 to 1951, it became “truth, justice, and the American way” in 1942, then went back to simply “truth and justice” by 1944. In a 1948 screen serial, it was “truth, tolerance, and justice.” On the 50s TV show, it was “truth, justice, and the American way” again. On the 1966 Saturday morning cartoon, it was “truth, justice, and freedom.”
After reading Lundegaard’s op-ed, I thought maybe the Superman Returns line– “Does he still stand for truth, justice– all that stuff?” was an in-joke about this history. Nope: The HR report makes clear that all the screenwriters had in mind was the international audience. Just be glad they didn’t take a cue from the comic book writers who’ve infused the Man of Steel with lefty politics in recent years and go with something like “truth, justice, and the United Nations.”
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