When I was in high school, I had a teacher who left quite an impression on me. He was younger than the other teachers, dressed differently than the other teachers (he wore a Mao suit to class once...at an all boys Catholic school in the USA)...but most importantly, he thought differently. For a paper on great Americans I approached him asking if I could write mine on Superman. Sure he was a fictional character, but my argument was that fictional or not he embodied the American dream. I didn't have to argue too hard either, in fact my teacher encouraged me!
My paper spoke to the idea that Superman, or Kal-El, was an immigrant who came to America in search of a new life and new opportunities. He grew up in a small Midwestern town, learning the benefits of hard work from a farming family, and how to temper his strength with humility and compassion. He grew into a man and got a job (well, two if you think about it) working among and befriending a diverse group of people both as the hero, Superman, with the JLA and the Legion, and and as the reporter, Clark Kent, and his coworkers at the Daily Planet and WGBS. In short, Superman represented the immigrant success story in the "Great American Melting Pot".
As a comic fan I've always seen my interests come and go in waves. Batman may take center stage for a few years, but I always come back to Superman. Recently, even before I was asked to write something in honor of the Man of Steel's birthday, I'd begun getting back into Superman. I've been re-reading "DC Comics Presents", watching the George Reeves TV show and the Filmation animated series...even picked up some Superman action figures while surfing my wave of nostalgia. My stepdaughter got in on the act too! She's particularly fond of one of the toys, which she likes to call "Vampire Superman"...of course we know him as Bizarro. I guess what always brings me back to the Man of Steel, what has always stood out to me, is the hope and optimism he represents, the values and qualities I can aspire to.
So again I say, Happy Birthday Superman! Thank you (and your numerous creative teams over the decades) for inspiring me to be a better me...to be a super man!