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The much-anticipated “Superman Returns” won’t be released for several months, but the trailer is out and contains this shocker: He’s become a Christ figure. We’re used to thinking of Superman as something of a Jewish tale, but it seems like he may have switched teams for this latest movie.

Like so many of the people behind the classic American comic-book heroes, Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were Jewish, and more to the point, their creation had a distinctly Jewish feel. Superman was the Golem, the supernatural figure who wreaks havoc on evildoers, fighting for good and expecting no reward. It should come as no surprise that he first emerged in the late ’30s, as Hitler’s campaign to eradicate European Jewry (which included, no doubt, close relatives of Siegel and Shuster) was underway. As Michael Chabon so poignantly dramatizes in his 2001 novel “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” the fantasy of a Golem denying victory to Hitler was just about all that most Jews could cling to as the horrors unfolded.

The premise of the new film is that Superman has been away from Earth for some time and, as the title implies, returns, presumably to halt some imminent cataclysm. But in the trailer for “Superman Returns” we hear a deep, authoritative voice addressing Superman (using his given name, Kal-El), telling the superhero that, though he has been raised as a human being, he is not one of them–and yet he still has a mission to accomplish among the humans. The voice continues:

They can be a great people, Kal-El. They wish to be. They only lack the light to show them the way. For this reason above all–their capacity for good–I’ve sent them you, my only son.

And there you have it. The second coming of Christ… I mean Superman… hits theaters June 30.

(Special thanks to my old friend Jeremy for alerting me to this.)

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