The first example of “truth, justice and the American way” that I can find comes from episode 331 of The Adventures of Superman, aired in September 1942, long after the United States entered World War II. Fleischer’s and then Famous Studios’ Superman cartoons never embraced “Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” despite releasing new episodes until 1943 (in all honesty, that’s probably more because this allowed them to simply reuse the same intro for each cartoon thus reducing costs, but it’s still important to understand that “The American Way” was far from official doctrine for the character).
After the war was over, “Truth, Justice and the American Way” were removed from the intro of the radio show. In fact, I cannot find any trace of the signature phrase in October 1945, only a few months after the end of the war.
As for the comics themselves, despite the fact that both Action comics and Superman magazines regularly put patriotic, pro-war, and anti-fascist themes on their covers and in their stories throughout WWII, as far as I know, “the truth, justice, and the American way” doesn’t even do their appearance on the page. But DC (then known as National Periodical Publications) clearly intended to ensure that their flagship characters were symbols of tolerance, producing public service posts where the Man of Steel or Batman would talk about l importance of welcoming refugees to your community, and would speak up. against religious and racial intolerance.
DC even partnered with the Institute for American Democracy and the National Social Welfare Assembly to produce posters and paper textbook covers for schools. What about Superman’s idea of what made an All-American school? Well, see for yourself …
Truth, tolerance and justice
The character’s very first appearance in live action, Columbia Pictures’ 1948 Superman series with Kirk Alyn, continued to omit “The American Way” and instead added something else to Superman’s mission. In the opening chapter, Pa Kent tells Clark that he must use his powers to fight for “truth, tolerance and justice.”
While Man of Steel’s conflict with the disappointing villainous Spider Lady in this series was a far cry from politically charged adventures like “The Hate Monger’s Organization” or “Clan of the Fiery Cross”, you can’t help but notice how point “truth, tolerance and justice.