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If you've been in comic circles for some time, chances are pretty good that you're familiar with "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex," the essay Larry Niven wrote in 1969 on the subject of Superman's potentially lethal sex life. If you haven't read it, then you might have gotten the jist of it from that scene in "Mallrats."
It makes sense to me that such an essay, crass and silly though it is, would be written in 1969. That's the tail-end of the Silver Age, where Superman's power-creep had reached such levels that his hair was indestructible, he could break the time barrier under his own power, and he could juggle planets like helium balloons.
So it was a little surprising to learn this week that Vladimir Nabokov wrote a poem with a similar sentiment way back in 1942. Nineteen forty-two! Six years before Kirk Alyn would bring the character to life, submitted in between the release of the seventh and eighth Fleischer cartoons, back when Superman wasn't consistently flying in the comics, the guy who would go on to write Lolita was speculating about the impossibility of relations between humans and Kryptonians.
The letter he wrote when he submitted the poem to The New Yorker has big "uwu pwease pay me if it's not too much twouble" energy.
I am sending you a poem on the troubles of Superman of the Funnies (with, if necessary, apologies to his, or rather its, makers). I should like to repeat that I experience most horrible difficulties and distress in wielding a language new to me – after 25 years of good old Russian. If, however, the poem is acceptable – not too ungrammatical as a whole and not too risqué about the middle of its favours – might I perhaps humble [sic] request a honorarium as adequate as possible to my Russian past and my present agonies?
The story of how Nabokov's poem, "The Man of To-Morrow's Lament," came to be rediscovered after all these years, and how it ties into his son's love of the character at the time, is a pretty interesting one, which you can read about at the link (if you have a subscription). But the poem itself, well...read on.