Here's a passage we read in class today, from Gerard Jones's excellent Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book, Chapter 7:
It was a good time for Superman to arrive. The kids born in the late Twenties and early Thirties had never known the thrill of taking a new medium or genre for their own: The kids a decade older had been pioneer audiences for radio, talkies, adventure comic strips, hard-boiled pulps, and science fiction, but a depressed economy had supported little that was new. Now something had come along that adults and older siblings didn't know about, something cheap and colorful and exotic. This was a skeptical generation, too, raised on lower expectations and hard realities. The comics, cartoons, and radio shows had increased the American appetite for fantastic heroes, but at the same time, plenty of adolescents and precocious kids found Flash Gordon and his ilk fairly ludicrous. The humor and excess of Superman made it possible to laugh along with the creators while still thrilling to the fantasy of power. That had always been Jerry and Joe's special insight: You could want the invulnerability and the power, but you had to laugh to keep people from knowing how badly you wanted it.