Batman V Superman comes out this week so to celebrate two-and-half-hours of the world’s most iconic superheros beating each other up among explosions we thought we’d go waaaay back to the beginning to look at these heroes’ origins.
Even if you’re just a casual fan, or not a fan at all, of Superman and Batman—pop culture has already informed you of their origin stories. Superman is the last son of the dying planet Krypton, rocketed here by his parents. Batman is a millionaire who puts on a Dracula suit to beat up mentally ill clowns because he saw his parents shot by a mugger when he was a kid. Nothing more to it…right? Well, we mean their true secret origins, as in what’s behind the creation of the characters.
Back in the 1930’s before there was comic books there was the pulp magazines. Thrilling and spicy adventure mags sold cheaply and containing thrilling short stories about tough characters ranging from cowboys to detectives to space heroes. Though mostly meant for adults (naturally plenty of kids and teens ate them up) the pulps were an inspiration for when comic books came along. Especially when the first superhero ever, Superman, premiered in Action Comics #1.
Lets see if this sounds familiar:
A crusading hero for justice.
Who’s real name is Clark.
Who has a Fortress of Solitude.
His blond female cousin is also a powerful hero.
He doesn’t wear a mask.
Who’s known as The Man of Tomorrow and The Man of Bronze.
These are all descriptors of Doc Savage, a preexisting pulp hero from the 1930s who influenced the creation of Superman.
There’s as many differences as similarities though: Doc Savage isn’t from another planet and can’t fly. But when all is said-and-done he’s obviously a major influence on the creation of Superman. Though mostly forgotten today, there was a live action movie in the 1970s and (ironically?) he’s been adapted into comic books.
But Batman, he’s truly original….right?
Does a vigilante who dresses up all in black with a dramatic cloak,
Who trained in martial arts and mystic fighting techniques in the East,
To brutally battle crime…
While having a secret identity as a millionaire playboy,
Ring any bells?
Because we’re describing pulp hero The Shadow, and if Batman premiered now there would be a serious lawsuit.
The Shadow’s a little bit better remembered (though he’ll never be Batman-level famous) thanks to Orson Well’s 1930’s radio show adaptation, and movie versions—first in the ’40s and then again in the ….1990s? With Alec Baldwin??
The first ever Batman comic not only “borrows” a few details from The Shadow for its main character, but the whole plot is a beat-by-beat rip off of one of The Shadow’s print adventures.
But that’s not all they borrowed from: Zorro, who is still popular today in a variety of media (but who was at first a pulp character) also contributed a fair amount to Batman’s DNA.
But, even though these two beloved characters began as carbon copies of the preexisting characters, they very quickly became something new and unique.
Both Superman and Batman had genius writers who added in elements from Robin to the Joker to Lois Lane with stunning plots and remarkable art. So two heroes that started as bootlegs fast became some of the most original figures in pop culture!
Now head to the movie theaters and watch them punch each other while stuff blows up!
Share this post now with some friends who’d be interested in knowing the REAL origins of the world’s two most popular superheros!