In recent years, a vintage Superman poster from the late 1940s or early 1950s featuring the Man of Steel preaching the values of tolerance and diversity has made the rounds on the internet. It surfaces whenever we need to be reminded of these values, which is quite often, unfortunately.
The poster itself was dated 1950, but DC Comics has revealed that the art, and its timeless message, date back to 1949, where it appeared on paper textbook covers “distributed to schools by the Institute for American Democracy, an offshoot of the Anti-Defamation League.” This was the same year that pages created “in conjunction with the National Social Welfare Assembly” started appearing in DC Comics featuring Superman and Batman taking on similar issues, including this famous one of Batman encouraging kids to stand up to racist bullies.
But Superman’s fight for equality for everyone was made explicit in plenty of his adventures even before all of this. Superman, an immigrant himself, was was the hopeful embodiment of an America made strong by the influx of immigrants of the early 20th Century, and rose in popularity during the battle against Nazis in World War II. The 1948 Superman movie serial had kindly Pa Kent advise young Clark to fight, not for “truth, justice, and the American Way,” but for “truth, justice, and tolerance.”
Going back to 1946, The Adventures of Superman radio show had the “Champion of the Oppressed” (as Supes was often billed at the time) take on “The Clan of the Fiery Cross” in a story intended to expose and discredit actual Ku Klux Klan operations on the rise in the country. Remember all this the next time someone suggests that superhero stories shouldn’t be political. There are countless other examples from throughout his history, but the key here is that Superman in particular, and superheroes in general, are meant to stand for diversity, inclusivity, and empathy.
DC Comics has digitally restored the Superman poster. Please continue to share it.