Superman 260 is one of ten screenprints from Andy Warhol’s 1981 Myths portfolio. Warhol commonly showcases influential figures in his artwork in accordance with one of his most prominent themes: society’s reverence of celebrities. The Myths series, however, pushes the boundaries of who or what we might regard as “commodified celebrities.” Warhol reminds us through these prints that imaginary cultural icons can be just as influential as real people. Author Greg Metcalf identifies a common thread among the Myths subjects: “Through these portraits, Warhol both documented and encouraged the collapse of separation between individual, logo and myth. The celebrity is no longer an individual, but a brand name, a logo” (from Heroes, Myth, and Cultural Icons).
Superman 260 captures The Man of Steel in all his glory—mid-ascension, with his fist stretched proudly toward the sky and his cape blazing behind him like flames from a rocket. Superman’s vibrant blues and reds jump out against the black background, enhanced by darker tones further emphasizing the hero’s muscular physique. Warhol amplifies the traditional image by duplicating the figure and superimposing a second version using lighter gestural lines, which he often adds as a means of accentuating the subjects of his original photographs, as can be seen in both his Love and Ladies and Gentlemen series. The print is signed by Warhol in pencil in the lower margin.
Prints from the Myths collection re-situate our perception of 20th century cultural trends, while also placing the enigmatic artist in a more vulnerable light. Each print is said to reveal distinct facets of Warhol’s personality. As for Superman 260, Warhol suffered from an immobilizing illness as a child. His debilitating ailments, anxieties, and insecurities rendered him weak and frail and confined in his home for months. Reading comic books to pass the time, he found comfort in Clark Kent, a mega-powerful supernatural being moonlighting as a mild mannered news reporter.
Superman has since become a universal symbol for goodness, truth, justice, and hope. He is the embodiment of the perfect flawless male, from his chiseled physique to his meticulously gelled forehead curl. Like many children, Warhol imagined himself in the shoes of his favorite comic book heroes, scaling buildings, shooting webs, and defending mankind against all manner of threats. While Superman 260 depicts a larger-than-life hero, it also humanizes the artist, reminding us of the difficulties he faced throughout his life.