The Last Man Jack of Them

By: Joshua Glenn
January 24, 2011

Jack LaLanne, real-life strongman

“No other generation this century has felt (or been) so Promethean, so godlike in its collective, world-bending power”: so wrote pop demographers William Strauss and Neil Howe about the so-called “G.I.” or “Greatest” Generation, born (they claimed) from 1901-24.

In my own generational periodization scheme, I argue that Strauss and Howe really only admire a cohort born from 1914-23. These men and women may have resembled homo sapiens, but they were stronger, faster, and smarter than mere mortals; they possessed superior technology; and some of them may even exist in a dimension outside of normal time and space. That’s why — in a tip of the hat to Jack “King” Kirby (born 1917) I’ve dubbed them the New Gods Generation.

The New Gods panoply boasted many other Jacks whose forms and norms of manliness have since become (for better or worse) iconic: Jack Kerouac, Jack Kennedy, Jack Palance, Jack Lord, Jack Vance, Jack Webb, Jack Paar, Jackie Robinson, Jackie Gleason. The most virile of all these man jacks was Jack LaLanne, who passed away yesterday at 96.

New Gods like Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Julius Schwartz, Will Eisner, Bill Everett, Carl Burgos, Sheldon Mayer, and Joe Simon invented and refined comic-book superheroes as we know them: Superman and Batman, Captain America, The Spirit, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Daredevil, The Human Torch, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, the Justice Society of America. Jack LaLanne was a living superman.


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