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The Jewish muscleman who likely inspired the creators of Superman

14 1 5
03.03.2021

JTA — With “Superman and Lois,” the newest TV series involving the character, premiering last week on the CW network, it’s a good time to recall that Superman was the 1938 brainchild of Jewish creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Many have suggested that the pair were inspired by their own Jewish backgrounds to create Superman as the paradigm of a hero who defended vulnerable populations from their enemies.

But there is reason to suspect that a more specific encounter may have inspired them to craft the Superman persona.

The years 1923 and 1924 saw a phenomenon in the United States: tours by Siegmund Breitbart, known as “The Jewish Superman,” across North America. Breitbart performed in Cleveland and Toronto, Siegel and Schuster’s respective hometowns.

While it is nearly impossible to prove — there are no records of Siegel or Shuster mentioning Breitbart — there is reason to surmise that the strongman may have served as something of an inspiration. He wore a cape and was advertised as capable of stopping speeding locomotives.

Who was this man Breitbart, lauded during his lifetime as the strongest man in the world, The Iron King, Jewish Hercules and a modern-day Samson?

Siegmund “Zishe” Breitbart was born to a family of locksmiths in Lodz (now Poland, then Russia) in 1893. In his autobiography, he reports that his family discovered his unusual strength when, at age 3, he extricated himself from beneath an iron bar that had fallen on him in his father’s store. By 4 he was casting iron in his family shop.

His early years were difficult. Expelled from a number of religious schools for using force against fellow students, Breitbart was captured by the Germans while serving in the Russian army during World War I. After the........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)


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