How Superman Used Merchandise to Become a Global Success

Superman is the most famous modern superhero on the planet. He made his first appearance as the goodie we love in Action Comics #1 which was published on the 18th April 1938. That particular comic book is now the most valuable in the world, and Superman has become the embodiment of good versus evil, helped in large part to his significance during World War II. Little know fact: Superman was first envisioned as a villain, and his earliest appearance was in Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization #3, where we was portrayed as a bald, telepathic mad man.

The character was re-envisioned as a square-jawed, near-indestructible force the same year as Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization #3 was released, and after his appearance in Action Comics #1, the Man of Steel franchise was born.

During the WWII, which started in 1939 just one year after the publication of Action Comics #1, the Nazi’s were beginning to invade less powerful countries and set out plans for Europe domination. Adolf Hitler would become possibly the worst real-life villain to ever walk the Earth, and the public needed an escape – Superman was it, and he in fact spawned a host of new superheroes to such as Captain America, The Human Torch plus more. Superman remained the most powerful hero of them all, though, and this is who younger children of the time looked up to.

With growing success in his earliest years, Superman would regularly battle against armies and dictators, although the publishers of the time, National Allied Publications (now DC), were careful not to mention Adolf Hitler, the Nazi’s, or include an emblem that resembled the swastika.

In the 1940’s, Superman merchandise grew. Jigsaw puzzles, paper dolls, bubble gum and trading cards, wooden or metal figures and even stress balls available at Stay Sourced were all available. Merchandise popularity increased when the Superman brand was licensed by toy manufacturers, who were quick to catch on to the popularity of the Man of Steel.

When the war was over in 1945, and Adolf Hitler and the Nazi’s were defeated, Superman came out unscathed. He had won. Now, the franchise began to produce new merchandise. Like all superheroes, Superman has a HUGE fan club, which has spawned literally thousands of different products. Unlike a lot of cartoon characters, Superman appeals to all age groups. Typical merchandise today includes t-shirts, coats, jackets, hats, gloves, hoodies, slippers, socks, backpacks, earrings, buttons, badges, patches, magnets, lunchboxes, nightlights, stationary and of course, Superman branded cat costumes.

Superman has enough strength to hurl mountains, stop bullets with his lungs and hands, withstand nuclear blasts and fly in to the sun. His only weakness is Kryptonite, yet despite this, many villains have attempted to defeat him without this weapon – and failed, of course.