An Invincible Dream (Conclusion)

Share

Last week: Joe and Jerry were just two Jewish kids who loved science fiction and adventure pulps. Both boys were sons of immigrants, both had overcome social and economic adversity, both dreamed of better things. After they met in a Cleveland high school, they began to hang out together, dream together, and create together! And together, Joe and Jerry came up with a brilliant idea for a new heroic character. There had never been anything like it. The two young men knew the idea couldn’t miss. Or could it?! Often, timing is everything. Was the world ready for something different? Probably so. Were the publishers ready? Not yet.

Joe and Jerry modeled their new science fiction character after the Old Testament hero Samson, and decided to make him an alien being trying to fit in to life on earth — because that’s what they themselves felt like in America, strangers in a strange land. And, like the story of Moses, their character’s mother would place her baby in a vessel that his father would launch into the river of space. The vessel would find it’s way to earth, where this extremely foreign child would grow up. He would live among us, blessing us with his special talents; but he could never be one of us. Even though he looked identical to humans, he would never actually feel like one. He would never be able to forget he was an alien.

Joe the Artist.

We said America was a land of opportunity, didn’t we? Originally, Joe and Jerry got the idea to market the hero as a comic strip for daily newspapers. They showed their ideas to an editor named Max Gaines. Gaines wasn’t interested. Then the boys approached several newspaper syndicates, none of which were interested in running a strip featuring their hero. So Joe and Jerry finally threw in the towel. They put away their story samples and started working on other things.

During the mid-thirties, something very American and very Jewish was beginning to captivate readers: comic books — which were mostly reprints of the Sunday “Funnies.” By 1938, magazine publishers began to fully realize the profitability of the form. One such publisher decided to start up a comics magazine featuring all new material. Word got around to Gaines, who apparently hadn’t forgot young Joe and Jerry. He contacted all the right people, and Joe and Jerry’s comic strip, reformatted as comic-book pages, was published in July 1938 as the lead story in the first issue of new magazine.

Jerry the Writer.

The hero created by two Jewish boys was an immediate hit. The character literally took off. Other publishers quickly copied him, and a lucrative new entertainment genre was born. A year later Joe and Jerry’s hero got his own comic book, with his name as the title (a first for comics). The next year a popular radio show premiered. It was almost immediately followed, in 1941, by a series of high-quality animated shorts that played before feature films. Eventually, the character got the live-action treatment, in a 1948 movie serial. All these appearances of the character were hugely successful.

In 1952, Joe and Jerry’s creation burst into television! The show was such a hit that people went out and purchased TV sets just so they could see it. There were lunch boxes, toys, games, and costumes. The trend of licensing a character for tie-in merchandise started with this character, and it changed the face of marketing. There were more cartoons and trading cards, and finally, in 1978, the character received the big-budget motion picture treatment. The movie cleaned up at the box office, and was followed by three sequels and another TV series.

Still another weekly series premiered in 2001 and ran for ten years. And in 2013, the most expensive movie version yet, premiered to legions of excited fans. It made $668 million worldwide, and its sequel, arriving in 2016, is one of the most discussed and anticipated movies in years. Have you figured out who we’re talking about yet?

Today, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman is one of the most recognizable characters in the world. He’s credited with jumpstarting an art form that has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry. If not for the success of Superman, there’d be no Batman or Captain America or Spiderman. And the movie industry would have lost the source material for several of its highest grossing films. In fact, movie versions of comic books (we call them graphic novels these days) have helped to invigorate Hollywood — just as Superman invigorated comics. It’s quite possible Superman is the most important fictional character ever created, the match that lit the fuse that ignited an entire industry — several industries, actually. But it almost didn’t happen!!! Superman almost succumbed to the kryptonite of rejection!

“Write the vision; make it plain … For still the vision awaits its appointed time; If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come….” (Habakkuk 2:2-3 ESV)

Here’s 77 Years of An Invincible Dream:

1941 theatrical shorts.
Kirk Alyn, 1948 serial.

 

 

George Reeves, 1952 TV series.
Superman comics were as popular as ever in the sixties!

.

 

Christopher Reeve in the first big movie version, 1978

 

Still stamping out crime in 2008!

 

Henry Cavill in Man of Steel, 2013. (Sequel in 2016)
Share

The Light of a Dream Fulfilled (Diet for Dreamers)

Share

Many of us dream of achieving great things in life, of seeing our fondest hopes and wishes come true, but often, of simply making it through the various storms of adversity that sometimes blow in our direction. And there are still many places in our world where people dream of just being free: to live, unhindered, according to their customs; and to worship, without persecution, in the way they choose.

History is filled with accounts of men and women who longed for civil and religious freedoms. One such piece of history dates back to the second century B.C., and is distinguished by a miraculous event that took place in Ancient Judea. It occurred in 164 B.C., when God fulfilled a long-held dream of the Jewish people: of reclaiming their Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and of once again being able to worship their Lord in peace.

The Jews had lost their religious freedom when Judea came under the control of Antiochus III, the King of Syria, whose Seleucid Empire then encompassed all the Middle Eastern provinces. Antiochus was both vicious and intolerant of anything he felt hindered his own personal agenda, the social “modernization” of the world. Antiochus planned to accomplish his goals by imposing the Greek culture and religion upon all his subjects, and in the process, to systematically destroy Judaism.

Antiochus ordered every known copy of the Torah, the Holy Word of God, to be burned. Anyone found in possession of the Scriptures — or observing the Sabbath, or honoring the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel in any way — was put to death. And as evidence of his thoroughness and the extent of his cruelty, whenever Antiochus learned of a woman who’d had her child circumcised in accordance with her Jewish faith, he’d have the mother and ALL of her children put to death!

But even these atrocities didn’t appease Antiochus. He ordered that the Temple in Jerusalem, the nexus of the Jewish faith, be desecrated. This he accomplished by sending Syrian soldiers into the Temple to sacrifice pigs and other ritualistically-unclean animals upon the alter of God. Afterwards, a statue of the Greek god Jupiter was placed in the “heart” of the Temple, the Holy of Holies.

Despite religious persecution to the point of death, despite the defilement of their most sacred place, the “home” of their God, the Jews kept their faith. But historians believe that, had Antiochus succeeded in his agenda to wipe out Judaism, he would have transformed the face of modern civilization into something totally unrecognizable today; had Judaism been eradicated, Christianity and Islam never would have come into existence.

God’s people, however, had rebelled against the Syrians beginning in 167 B.C. What followed were three desperate years of guerrilla warfare waged by a Jewish resistance group under the leadership of an elderly priest and his sons, the Maccabees. The resistance fighters eventually became such a thorn in the side of the empire that the Syrian government ultimately sued for peace! The Jews regained their religious freedom and the control of their Temple, now defiled and in ruins.

Following several days of mourning, the Jews started the work necessary to repair and restore the Temple. Once the work was completed, the Temple needed to be ceremonially cleansed and rededicated. Crowds of Jewish worshippers flooded into Jerusalem to celebrate the rededication, bringing sacrifices to honor God. There was just one problem: the Temple menorah, a lamp stand with six branches and 7 flames, had to be kept lit, but there was only enough oil to keep the wicks burnings for a single day. The Jews had dreamed of worshipping in the Temple for years, but only a single sealed cruse of consecrated olive oil was available; the seals on the other cruses had been broken by the Syrians and the oiled “contaminated”! So what happened? Nothing short of a miracle: God multiplied the oil in that tiny cruse, which was used to replenished the menorah and kept the flames burning for eight days! Why eight days? Because that was how much time the Jews needed to prepare and purify additional oil.

Each year since, to commemorate God’s fulfillment of their dream to see the Temple restored, as well as His miraculous provision demonstrated by those eight days of illumination, the Jewish people celebrate the holiday known as Chanukah, the Festival of Lights! They light a special menorah with eight branches and nine wicks — the ninth wick (elevated at the center) represents God — and pray and eat delicious oil-based foods. In the U.S. and other countries where Christmas is celebrated, Hanukkah is often an occasion to exchange gifts and play traditional games, too. Hence, Jewish children enjoy Yule-time festivities similar to those experienced by families observing the Christian holiday.

Do you have a special dream? If so, “…The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your Glory.” (Isaiah 60:19 NIV) Do you need a miracle? Remember: “I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27 NLT) The God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel is still in the miracle-making business. For “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Oh! And HAPPY HANUKKAH!!!

Share