On Two Nerds

The popularity of nerd-chic can be easily seen in the numbers of views drawn to TV’s Big Bang Theory. Nerds are, ironically, now cool. That wasn’t always the case. High school can be incredibly rough, but it can be especially tortuous for those kids that get labeled “un-cool.” Bullies—usually the cool kids—picked on those they saw as weak and nerdy. Still do, sadly, and some kids in that powerless position today, when they find themselves bullied, they strike back in anger and violence.

Take Jerry. Typical high school nerd back in the day. Not athletic. Wore glasses. Bookish. Nebbish. And Jewish. Kept to himself. It’s almost never cool (unless it’s the cause de jour) to be conversant in politics in high school, but Jerry had an understanding of American politics that most adults envied. That made him even more of an odd-ball among his peers. He felt all alone and helpless as he made his way to class through the halls of his high school in Cleveland, Ohio.

Then, one day, Jerry ran into a kid who’d moved to Cleveland from Canada: Joe. Joe was much like Jerry, even down to his Jewish ancestry. But something about these two shy kids coming together and becoming friends made each of them feel empowered. Joe later said it was like the right chemicals coming together to make something new, something better than they were individually. The two chums talked often about the people in their lives who inspired them, the men and women they admired, those people in society they looked up to and wished they could be like. They felt saddened that they lived in a world that seemed to be losing its freedom as men such as Mussolini and Hitler and Stalin bullied smaller, weaker nations much as the bullies in school tortured them.

For Jerry and Joe, they both really admired President Franklin D. Roosevelt. They liked how he managed to deal with his crippling polio and still become successful and powerful. They felt a kinship with FDR’s desire to speak for the underdog, to fight for what was right and good and true. Another hero of theirs was the swashbuckling film star, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. They wanted to be the guy who swooped in and saved the day (and got the girl in the end) as did all the characters Fairbanks played in the films.

Over many days and nights, Jerry and Joe talked about what they could do to answer the bullies. So, the nerdy pair decided to answer their bullies with creativity. You see, Jerry Siegel was the writer of the pair, and Joe Shuster was the artist. They decided to create a hybrid of their two heroes, FDR and Douglas Fairbanks.

The character they created and wrote about really is a combination of those two men, and he is known today around the world as a seeker of truth and justice:

Superman.

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