On Batman

Introduction: Batman Unauthorized

By Dennis O'Neil

In the beginning was the meme, and the meme belonged to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. But not for long.

I’ll be happy to elucidate.

I’ll begin with a bit of history that may already be familiar to you. It
concerns a young man who was living in Cleveland in 1934 and loved
science fiction. One sleepless night, he had an idea. As he later described
it, “All of a sudden it hits me. I conceive of a character like Samson,
Hercules, and all the strong men I ever heard of rolled into one–only
more so
.” The next day, he described his brainstorm to an artist friend
and together they created a fictional character who became an international
icon and, among other accomplishments, created an industry that
spawned hundreds–thousands?–of imitations. The youthful brainstormer
was writer Jerry Siegel, his artist friend was Joe Shuster, and
their creation was Superman, a meme–call it the costumed superhero
meme
.

Meme?

Allow me to offer a definition from no less an authority than the
Oxford English Dictionary: “An element of a culture that may be considered
to be passed on by non-genetic means, especially imitation.” So
architecture is a meme. Fashion’s a meme. The birthday song is a meme.
Anything you pass on by imitation is a meme.

A moment’s thought will convince you that costumed superheroes are
memes and Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created one when they created
Superman. Of course, they had no way of knowing that’s what they did
because  …

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