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  • Superman versus Hitler May 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

    Oh those happy, innocent afternoons a few decades ago! Home from school /college Beachcombing would sit through the junk that British children’s television had to offer. He would quickly take in the news headlines on BBC 1 at 6.00 pm (cruise missiles, inflation, cricket defeats…) and then turn over at 6.02 pm to BBC 2 where a whole series of B films from the 1930s and 1940s were spewed out, day after day, month after happy month. Tarzan, Will Hay, Miss Marple, a Chinese detective whose name Beachcombing forgets, the various Mrs Minervas, that idiot with the ukulele…

    But what about Superman? Well, one of Beachcombing’s favourite cinematic tricks was the way in which some of these movie heroes from the ‘Golden Age’ had unlikely and often very anachronistic walk on roles in the Second World War.

    There were, for example, some fabulous Basil Rathbone/Sherlock Holmes outings (2?) where Watson and Holmes fight the Reich – including an iconic shot of 22b Baker Street with sandbags piled around it.

    Tarzan and Jane also ‘did their bit’ when a couple of Teutonic s.o.b.s turn up in the jungle. If Beachcombing remembers correctly Johnny Weissmuller – Hollywood’s noble savage – pretended not to be able to pronounce the word ‘Nazi’ which, of course, must have had the WW2 cinema-audience rolling in the aisles and which, if truth be known, amused the young Beachcombing too.

    In any case, since that time Beachcombing has always had a bit of a thing for the way that movie figures were drafted for the fight against the Axis forces. And just recently he came across this lovely example of a parallel phenomenon, a comic book figure, Superman putting the world to rights – memories of Donald Duck’s Nazism.

    The strip in question is from an American magazine from February 1940 just before the balloon went up on the western front. America is still obviously neutral at this date. And it is interesting how Hitler and Stalin are not shown as enemies – they had after all just divided Poland up between them. While Mussolini and the Japanese – Pearl Harbor is almost two years away – are nowhere to be seen despite aggression in the Pacific and Benito’s frequent invasions.

    There is also a moving and entirely misplaced faith in the League of Nations which had, after all, fluffed its last ten international assignments and which the United States had, perhaps sensibly, avoided joining.

    This begs the question: what would have happened if Superman had brought Hitler and Stalin to Geneva in 1940. And the answer is, of course, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

    In any case, even the simplest dolt knows that Messerschmitt propellers were made of kryptonite.

    Any other unlikely war efforts from popular culture? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    26 Oct 2014: ANL writes in ‘I was very much amused by Superman’s comment that “I’d like to land a strictly non-Aryan sock on your jaw”. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the inventors of Superman, were both Jewish, and this comment seems to make Superman Jewish as well. Try Googling “Jewish superheroes”; the results are quite interesting and sometimes very funny indeed!’ thanks ANL!