My fascination with those superheroes grew when I learned that two young Jewish men, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, created Superman in 1938 and gave him the Hebrew-sounding birth name “Kal-El.” A year later, another Jewish duo, Bob Kane and Bill Finger, became the literary and artistic creators of Batman.
After the war, my comic book heroes pivoted toward combatting criminals and other villains menacing Superman’s “Metropolis” and Batman’s “Gotham City.” The motives of these two fearless fighters were pure, their morality unquestioned, their emotional lives unexamined. Consequently, their stories became all too predictable.
That squeaky-clean image of the superhero changed in the 1960s, when New Yorker Stanley Lieber (a.k.a. Stan Lee) transformed the comic book genre by co-creating edgy, sensitive, morose, emotionally challenged characters such as Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-Men, and Fantastic Four for Marvel Comics. As their chief writer, editor, director, and producer for decades, he helped to turn Marvel into an economic and cultural powerhouse.