Superman, from Myths
Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board
38 x 38 in.
Edition of 200
Pencil signed and numbered
About the work:
“Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!”
“Look up in the sky!”
“It’s a bird, It’s a plane, It’s. . . Superman!”
“Yes, it’s Superman… he fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way!”
Superman is one of the most recognizable and beloved Super Heroes of all time. Also known as the Man of Steel, he is the ultimate symbol of truth, justice, and hope. Though his powers make him almost god-like compared to regular humans, Superman’s story is not one of greed or conquest. Instead, he represents the goodness of the human spirit.
Batman remarks of Superman: “It is a remarkable dichotomy. In many ways, Clark is the most human of us all. Then…he shoots fire from the skies, and it is difficult not to think of him as a god. And how fortunate we all are that it does not occur to him.” Superman is an extremely moral person. He believes that killing anyone under any circumstance is wrong. It is said that his alter-ego Clark Kent’s upbringing in the Midwest largely contributes to this, as his adoptive parents raised him to always try to do the right thing.
This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Andy Warhol’s Superman, from Myths.
Warhol was an expert at capturing deep American truths and fantasies. “Everybody has their own America, and then they have pieces of a fantasy America that they think is out there but they can’t see,” he once observed. Nowhere is this national fantasy clearer than in Warhol’s Myths Series of 1981.
The term ‘Myth’ often evokes the collected stories of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, however, it is a feature of every culture. The collection of myths, stories, or heros of any society defines its spirit and soul.
In the Myths Series, Warhol selected 10 uniquely American personas, from Santa Claus to Uncle Sam, each artwork revealing facets of America’s personality.
With the Superman portrait, Warhol captured the modern imagination as completely as the gods and goddesses of ancient mythology once did. The moment Superman was introduced to the American culture, he became a star. He was on radio stations, television shows, and cartoon series. Even today he continues to be a star and loved by society.
The emergence of Superheroes like Superman created a fantastical outlet for the American public during arguably the bleakest periods in our country’s history. In the time that superheroes first emerged in America, our country was faced with incredible difficulties including, most notably, the Great Depression. For the first time across the nation people were realizing that they were a part of a whole, suffering together and going through the same kinds of problems. Americans were facing not only economic struggles, but the threat of war in Europe. The fantasy and accessibility of the comic book became especially alluring as an escape from an unforgiving reality. Superman’s incredible strength and perseverance inspired many and gave hope to those who had long-since lost it.
Warhol understood this, and realized the importance Superman in American culture. Superman is truly an American icon, a nostalgic representation of America, theatrically reflecting American fantasies, hopes, fears and dreams. Warhol’s portrait of Superman not only captured his awe inspiring power, but also a feeling of wholesomeness. The exact two personas of Superman.