Superman ReturnsOriginally published in Newsweek, reprinted with permission.

Is the Man of Steel a man of faith?

The upcoming "Superman" movie has sent fans picking over primary sources. Jews have often claimed the archetypal superhero as their own. Superman sprang from the imaginations of two Jewish cartoonists, and scholars have compared him to the golem myth—the supernatural creature who vanquishes the Jews' enemies (early on, Superman battled the Nazis directly).

Most fans believe the man from Krypton is a Methodist, an opinion divined from Clark Kent's Midwestern upbringing. But there's another possibility. In the original 1978 movie and the new one, the superhero's father tells him: "They can be a great people ... They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all—their capacity for good—I've sent them you, my only son." Yes, Superman is a Christ figure.

"A heavenly father sends his only son to save the Earth; in his mission or ministry, he will fight for truth and justice; he will die and be resurrected; he will ascend into heaven, and now is the time of his second coming," says Stephen Skelton, author of a new book "The Gospel According to the World's Greatest Superhero." "This is the story of Superman."

Preston Hunter, founder of Adherents.com, has analyzed dozens of comic-book characters. He says Batman may not be the churchgoing type, but glimpses of the crosses on his parents' gravestones may mean he's a lapsed Roman Catholic or disaffected Episcopalian. The Thing from "The Fantastic Four" is Jewish, a rare instance of a character's faith being discussed openly in the story, but what about the "X-Men" villain Magneto? He spent time in a Nazi concentration camp. Jewish, or maybe Roma (Gypsy).

Hunter's site says "X-Men"'s Rogue is Southern Baptist, Cypher from "New Mutants" is a Mormon and Elektra from "Daredevil" is Greek Orthodox. Captain America is a churchgoer, and Spider-Man sometimes addresses God in spontaneous prayer.

Who's left for atheists? Mr. Terrific of DC Comics' "Justice Society of America."

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