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Superman: Truth, justice and…something else?


The man of steel disenchanted with Uncle Sam...?


Action Comics 900As Action Comics reaches its monumental 900th issue, DC Comics gives us a treat with a 96-page issue crammed with stories from guest writers from all walks, including writers from the comic genre, as well as film and television. Superman, who was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938, has always been recognized as a devoted American warrior who constantly fought evil, but now, he is no longer the country's own to claim.

But in all of the fanfare, one story in particular seems to have ruffled a few feathers. “The Incident”, a story written by Batman Begins scribe David S. Goyer, involves Superman traveling to Tehran to non-violently support protesters demonstrating against the Iranian regime, giving us one of those “art imitating real-life” moments that attempts to ground the stories in reality. Unfortunately, the President’s national security advisor is furious, because as an American icon, this action – no matter how innocent and well-meaning – could be construed as an act of war by the American government. Superman then goes before the United Nations to renounce his American citizenship, becoming a “global icon”, rather than having his actions speak for America. “I'm tired of having my actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy," says Superman. "Truth, justice, and the American way -- it's not enough anymore." A bold move, and as far as I’m concerned, an interesting event in the ongoing saga of our native Kryptonian. However, don’t think for one moment that this isn’t without controversy. According to Hollywood publicist and GOP activist Angie Meyer:

"Besides being riddled with a blatant lack of patriotism, and respect for our country, Superman's current creators are belittling the United States as a whole. By denouncing his citizenship, Superman becomes an eerie metaphor for the current economic and power status the country holds worldwide."

Superman and the American flagA rather harsh statement in my opinion, and somewhat presumptuous. Immediately, she attacks the writers and questions their patriotism, without actually knowing anything about them. While it’s true, the image of Superman has always been associated with America – especially since World War II, where many of DC’s heroes were used in propaganda stories to increase public support for the war efforts – to ignore the fact that in today’s current political climate, it would be dangerous for a hero like Superman to have his actions construed as those of the United States government. Blogger Scott Thill allowed for clearer heads to prevail when he recently wrote:

"Superman has always been bigger than the United States. In an age rife with immigration paranoia, it’s refreshing to see an alien refugee tell the United States that it’s as important to him as any other country on Earth - which, in turn, is as important to Superman as any other planet in the multiverse."

And what do the good folks at DC Comics have to say about this groundbreaking story? DC's co-publishers, Jim Lee and Dan DiDio said in a statement to

"Superman is a visitor from a distant planet who has long embraced American values. As a character and an icon, he embodies the best of the American Way. In a short story in Action Comics 900, Superman announces his intention to put a global focus on his never ending battle, but he remains, as always, committed to his adopted home and his roots as a Kansas farm boy from Smallville."

'Truth. Justice and the American way'I’m an American, born and raised, and there are many things about my country I love and hold dear. But I am far from being a patriot. The truth is, there are many things about my country I dislike, and even downright loathe. And yet, these are not the things that Superman is standing against in this story. He is merely standing against other nations looking at his actions as being the actions of his homeland’s government. That, I would think, is a commendable stroke, and brilliant writing on Goyer’s part.

However, to many readers, Superman is more than just an alien refugee in our country, saving the world and being a beacon of hope. He is America, a representative of our country and what it stands for. Scanning through some web boards has found more than one person who seems to be enraged at this turn of events, even though many of them probably haven’t picked up a comic book in years, if ever. And yet, that is what Superman has come to be for so many people. I just wonder, though, if that means that for so many years, children in other nations felt alienated by this hero, who wasn’t necessarily born in America, but has become an easily recognized symbol for us. While people are arguing online about how this is just another attempt by un-American writers to pander to “our enemies” (not my words, someone actually wrote this), I look at it as a brave new step forward in Superman’s tale. And I applaud DC Comics for being brave enough to publish such a story. Superman belongs to the people, all people, and should be an icon for everyone, regardless of race, creed, color, or nationality.

So what do you think? Should Superman simply continue the status quo, and remain America’s ambassador around the world? Or does he represent more than just one government, one nation, one people? In a time when Superman himself would be deported for being an illegal alien, why should he represent just one small section of the world? As far as I’m concerned, Superman should be for everyone.

See also:

Is Superman dead?

Fanboy war prompts closing of DC Comics' blog comments

Does Canon Even Matter?

Are fanboys fascist?

Is Justice League headed for theatres?

Actor chosen for Snyder's Zod


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#1 Are you kifdding me? Steven Prange 2011-05-02 21:24
What idiot at DC decided to go down this road. I can't imagine ANY scenario now where I would give DC Comics another cent of my money. Since when did comic books....excuse me Graphic Novels become instruments of political commentary. A VERY stupid undertaking.
#2 Superman & the American Way Ralph Vaughan 2011-05-02 21:34
All I know is that you don't tug on Superman's cape...
#3 Food for thought..... Richard Cosgrove 2011-05-03 16:10
Quoting Steven Prange:
What idiot at DC decided to go down this road. I can't imagine ANY scenario now where I would give DC Comics another cent of my money. Since when did comic books....excuse me Graphic Novels become instruments of political commentary. A VERY stupid undertaking.

Did you never read V For Vendetta? Or any of Alan Moore's works for that matter. Doesn't get much more politically astute or challenging then that.

In any case, the fact that a story like this can appear, and will challenge certain perceptions, is a good thing. There should always be a place for conflicting points of view, otherwise we might as well go back to the Beano for fear of being challenged for an opinion or perspective that might not be to our liking. As geeks (and proud to be so) we should rejoice in the fact that a story such as this is able to be published! :-)

If the idea of a Superman story that dares to be different really does stick in your throat, then perhaps you're right, it's time for you to step away.....

Richard Cosgrove

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