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Superman Didn’t Originally Fight for “Truth, Justice and the American Way”

SPOILERS FOR ACTION COMICS #900 AHEAD!

Besides the fact that some of the critics of Action Comics #900 (where Superman announces that he is going to renounce his U.S. citizenship so that he could be a “citizen of the world” and not have his actions construed as being part of U.S. policy) did not seem to exactly read the book (my uncle forwarded me an e-mail he had received about the topic, asking me if it were true, and man, the article forwarded to my uncle did not even remotely match what actually happened inside the comic book!), an issue that I have is the consistent refrain of “oh, so now it is no longer ‘truth, justice and the American way,’” to which I just think back to the specific Comic Book Legends Revealed I did on the subject where I established that the phrase did not start that way in the first place!

88 Comments

Most of the takes on the news are taking it as an extreme capital-L Liberal propganda bashing of Amurrica. I haven’t read the issue (though I want to), but the excerpts I’ve seen clearly show it’s a matter of Superman needing to do what he has to do in the world without being either restricted by nationalism or having his actions be perceived as politically motivated (and thus damaging US relations).

Sounds like a more interesting storyline than Staczynsky’s hoofin’-it series.

Clark Kent is still an American citizen though, right?

Yes. I’ll even add that part in.

Stupid marketing move on DC’s part, whatever your take on the character. In his entire history Superman has probably never been less popular than he is now. This has no potential to gain fans and a definite possibility of losing some fans. There’s potential down side with no up side at all.

It’s still a stupid story, with little upside as scotty points out.

Sure the phrase didn’t start out that way, but Superman also didn’t start off being able to fly, having the S-shield and boots he has now, having Jimmy Olsen and Perry White in his supporting cast or having a fully formed origin. Yet if anyone took away any of these things people would get pissed, because they’ve become a major part of the public face of the character. Same goes for the phrase Truth, Justice and the American Way.

I’ll get the issue in the mail next week; as it stands now, I actually think it’s a solid idea that will either be ignored or mishandled in execution, if they decide to follow up on it thanks to all this fervor.

Of course, it doesn’t actually make any sense (does Kal-El really have citizenship? Separate from Clark Kent?), but so it goes.

Yet if anyone took away any of these things people would get pissed, because they’ve become a major part of the public face of the character. Same goes for the phrase Truth, Justice and the American Way.

It’s a debate on par with arguing about “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

I mean, DC is really just running the Superman franchise into the ground. Superman takes a touchy feely walk across America. Then he gets reinvented as a scowly, emo 20something with a hoodie, looking like a refugee from a CW young drama like Vampire Diaries. Now he’s renouncing his American citizenship before the UN. Why not send him on a yoga retreat in the next storyline? Geez…

I don’t even mind them dropping the “American Way” part. I’d rather they just drop it by not saying it anymore, like they did when they first dropped it in the 40s. Don’t make an explicit point of thumbing your nose at that part of the phrase, or make it a part of some political or social commentary, just stop saying it with no fanfare.

Most of the takes on the news are taking it as an extreme capital-L Liberal propganda bashing of Amurrica. I haven’t read the issue (though I want to), but the excerpts I’ve seen clearly show it’s a matter of Superman needing to do what he has to do in the world without being either restricted by nationalism or having his actions be perceived as politically motivated (and thus damaging US relations).

Exactly, Keith. That’s the reaction the story has received, and that wasn’t the story at all!

What’s worse and less true to the original model is a Superman who’s unwilling to go beyond passive resistance in the face of murderous tyrants…

(And, seriously, keeping the Clark Kent passport makes the entire thing an exercise in hypocracy.)

(And finally, is anyone in the DCU US really going to believe that it’s about that rather than being about not wanting to be part of a nation that, in large majorities, approves of what Sam Lane did?)

What’s worse and less true to the original model is a Superman who’s unwilling to go beyond passive resistance in the face of murderous tyrants…

EXACTLY! If the argument is about taking Superman back to his roots, inaction and diplomacy would be the LAST of his concerns. The original Superman was a total bully that imposed his will without negotiation whenever he deemed it necessary. A bully on the side of justice, but still a bully.

[...] Comic Should Be Good’s Brian Cronin points to a post he wrote a couple of years ago where he delved into the history of “Truth, Justice [...]

Any citizen can act independently on his own without someone else thinking it’s U.S. policy. I went to Mexico no one accused me of acting for my government. Its a ridiculous notion. But say we take politics out. I lay out several reasons why it is fundamentally against the characters core, and a staining of the characters legacy as well.
http://www.worldofsuperheroes.com/comics/et7e7r7nal-dammnation-issue-1/
Comments welcomed.

DAMM, I’m with you. My problems with it aren’t really political, it’s just dumb.

First Superman thinks he needs to think on a smaller scale and get in touch with the little guy and walks across the heartland of America to get in touch with his country of citizenship. Now a few months later he says he’s “thinking too small” and needs to GIVE UP that same citizenship he spent all that time rebuilding his ties to?

Douglas Wolk discusses it pretty well too:

Now, this is a poorly thought-out little story for a number of reasons. Since when, for instance, has anybody thought Superman was an agent of U.S. policy, rather than a private citizen, especially since he just spent a year living off-planet and commanding a New Kryptonian army? How is an entirely nonviolent demonstration of solidarity an “act of war”? Why was this story staged as a conversation with flashbacks, rather than showing us the more dramatic thing Superman tells us he’s going to do tomorrow? Is this supposed to be the endgame of the still-ongoing “Grounded” arc that J. Michael Straczynski started writing and then largely abandoned–in which Superman decides to walk across America to get back in touch with his roots–or is it unrelated? Is this even a story that’s going to get followed up on, given that Goyer doesn’t seem to be writing any other comics any time soon? And, if it is, what kind of decent story can possibly come of Superman deciding he’s “thinking too small”?

In current continuity, Superman has not been seen acting as the governments stooge on anything approaching a regular basis. I think it’s pretty clear he’s a private citizen.

This happens while the Superman movie franchise is trying to shake off bad press and public confusion? When Smallville is staggering towards its finale? When superheroes are hitting the mainstream like never before? At a time when being anything but a corn-fed Kansan makes you somehow suspect? DC chooses now to pick a fight with Fox News? Who’s running this joint?

BTW – I would love to see a mini-series starring the actual, original versions of the DC Big Three: Populist Bully Superman, Cold-Blooded Killer Batman and Femdom Circus Parade Wonder Woman. Somebody please write this now! Cooke? Van Lente? Giffen?

Actually, I wish they went all the way (as I did more than once with Captain America and Wonder Woman). The patriotic theme is detrimental to all three characters.

I agree however that it is puzzling (and at least potentially hypocritical) to keep Clark Kent as an US citizen.

I wasn’t aware Superman even was a U.S. citizen. Clark, sure. But Superman?

I am just confused by this. Why is this a big deal? Superman despite the tacked on “American Way” bit has never really been defined by his American roots. While he does embody several of the American ideals and beliefs that we feel form the crux of our nation, we honestly can’t claim that they are exclusively American. In fact if we did we would just end up betraying a good deal of them. Heck it is because this Superman has been able to reach so many people regardless of their nationality.

Plus if you look at the historical perspective this move isn’t surprising. From my understanding Superman become more aligned (at least in the public eye) due to the political realities of the times, be it either WWII or the “Red Scare”. So in that light can anyone honestly raise a fuss over this.

In a time when things are really, really bad. 300 people died in storms in the United States and the economy isn’t get much better, this is just stupid. Superman could be this guy you look up too. But now he’s going to be the guy who tries to be equal about who he saves? I would assume he saves who he can anywhere, but now you would have to second guess him in stories. Would he go help Libyan rebels? He wouldn’t before because he would be seen as a guy who tries to solve problems people should solve themselves. This will a bit like America going to free Kuwait during Desert Storm. Now, again, we’re in Iraq and that didn’t turn out so well. If Superman does stuff like that, he’s expected to solve the world’s problems. Just like the United States. It wouldn’t really matter those countries are terrible places anyway. That’s not going to change. Maybe he should just give up his secret identity and sulk alone in the Fortress of Solitude. Where ever that is now.

But more to the point. Things are bad and we don’t need Mr. United Nations. Speaking of Smallville. People are going to see Superman in that last episode, but what does it matter now. I think they took away the joy of what the episode could of been.

Wow, I just read the story in context. It’s actually worse in context, laughably bad and ham-fisted. The flower and the gun was so incredibly awful, how did that get approved? That is what passes for mature adult commentary? I know Goyer probably thought he was showing superhero comics aren’t just for kids, but poorly thought out, ham-fisted political and social commentary being passed off as nuanced, intelligent thought is often more childish than science fiction fantasy.

And I just realized….Goyer is penning the new Superman movie isn’t he? UGH.

The only thing as idiotic as the PR nightmare DC has created for itself is Cronin’s attempt to dismiss the fact that “…the American Way” is integral to Superman’s legend.

It’s been part of the legend for more decades than it wasn’t.

DC has completely lost it’s connection to it’s heroes and Cronin has let legends revealed go to his head.

What about “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape”–can we get rid of that too?
Wow what a milestone in artistic significance that would be.

Is Superman so stupid as to think that some statement would convince Iran that he’s
not a U.S. agent?

It’s still a stupid story, with little upside as scotty points out.

I could not agree more.

From my perspective, Superman has worked maybe 7 times. By worked, I mean drawn a large audience by the standards of the medium that he was in. They are:
1. The Siegel-Shuster originals
2. The Fleisher cartoons
3. The George Reeves TV series (and the radio show that spawned it).
4. The Weisinger Silver Age stuff
5. The Donner-Mankiewicz-Reeve films
6. Smallville
7. All-Star Superman

Neither the Byrne re-boot, nor Lois & Clark, were failures. However, neither really retained its audience after its initial success. The Animated Series was a success, but it clearly ranks behind Batman TAS and Justice League Unlimited in the memory of the fans. Superman Returns is under-rated, but was not strong enough to re-launch the films series. The Death of Superman didn’t improve sales over the long-term.

In short, this is a franchise that lost its way a long, long time ago.

No one at DC seems to have the vaguest idea what made the character tick when things were going well. Moreover, no one seems to be looking the problem in any kind of systematic way. They flail around and make decisions that are strange (at best) and desperate (at worst).

To be clear: I haven’t read the comic in question. I haven’t read a Superman comic in about three years. I’m just talking about the theme as I’ve seen it presented here.

I read Superman comics all through the 60s, 70, and 80s. Superman was American with a capital A. He shook hands with Presidents. He got medals. The people built giant statues of him. He stood in the Oval Office and took orders. Many times. This is what Frank Miller was reacting to in TDKR.

When you say Superman, the first thing that pops into my head is Lois hatching a scheme to find out his secret identity. For the first three decades I read his comics, Superman really didn’t have a character. He wasn’t a character. He was a costume and some schtick.

I have no problem with trying to make Kal a real non-human being, but is this the right time?

I read Superman comics all through the 60s, 70, and 80s. Superman was American with a capital A. He shook hands with Presidents. He got medals. The people built giant statues of him. He stood in the Oval Office and took orders. Many times. This is what Frank Miller was reacting to in TDKR.

I beg to differ. Superman as written by Martin Pasko, Elliot S. Maggin and others was _very much_ a citizen of the world… if he could even be contained to a single planet :)

He did not _ever_ think of himself as an American, or even an Earthling. Of course, he wasn’t. He did not even take the time to state that he wasn’t, and that is how it should be.

And he was all the more interesting for that, make no mistake. I was sorely disappointed by Frank Miller and John Byrne retconning that nice aspect of him away.

Havent read the issue yet but it smacks of PC preaching and gimmickry.

The fact that anybody is even offended by this story is so STUPID. All the language that right-wingers are using is so melodramatic. You guys are taking a fictional character’s opinion way too seriously.

Nationalism sure brings out the ugliness in people.

The other thing I want to say is that it actually makes total sense for Clark Kent to keep the citizenship, because it is explicitly NOT an anti-American action. He’s absolving the country of any responsibility for Superman’s actions. It has no bearing on his choice of where to live.

And since I haven’t read the issue, I can’t comment. If it’s done well I’m for it. If it’s done poorly I’m against it.

Hopefully we’ll get another letter from the idiot Vampirella fan who was all mad about a protest in a Captain America comic. That was hilarious!

If it was a one-off story, it was kind of pointless, but I understand the sentiment.

If it is the new status-quo going further then fine, but that just means more “real world” type stories in Superman.

It’s a mistake to consider that comics have changed, that they have become more “liberal” or more political recently. I have seen Captain America renounce his role as America’s champion three times already. This Superman news is no big news.

It’s not comics that have become more liberal or anti-American, it’s Conservatives that have become more outspoken and indignant that comics don’t reflect their values. Actually, comics haven’t reflected their values in 40 years or more.

In the context of the story, giving up his American citizenship is a sacrifice that Superman is making largely to protect the United States (although Superman having American citizenship doesn’t really make sense in the first place). If the political climate of the DCU is anything like the current state of our world, I don’t see how people can argue he is wrong.

The American Way doesn’t mean anything that can’t be said in a much more inclusive way. Superman is about always trying to do what is right and standing up for the little guy. Values like those transcend nations. Superman should not belong to any one country.

The thing is I think this COULD have been a good story, but as it was pointed out there was a jump straight from “I need to reconnect with the American people” to “I’m a citizen of the WORLD!”
There was no build up, no nothing. Just two writers that had different ideas and an editor that couldn’t reconcile the two to make it work.

Power-2 most-the-Peoples

April 29, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Regardless of the hype, I read the friggin story and it’s just handled in a dumb way.
And at the end of the issue there’s this wonderful Brian Stelfreeze illustration, that shows Supes evolution over the years.
And the last image is him holding the American flag.
D.C. doesn’t deserve Superman.

Nobody here has hit on the real reason that people reacting to this are being stupid, which is that everybody is reacting as if this is some permanent thing. Let me just remind you that we’re talking about comic books. He’ll be waving a flag in under a year, for sure. And, in the meantime, he’s still a member of the Justice League of All That Stuff.

Serious question for the people who have said it — how is Clark retaining his citizenship hypocritical?

Don’t you see???? Lex Luthor finally wins!

Shouldn’t it be Clark Kent renounces his US citizenship and not Superman? There are only two instances that really sticks out in my mind when Superman acted for or professed US policy: Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and his famous line in Donner’s first Superman movie. Beyond that I never thought of Superman as an agent for US domestic or foreign policy.

The comments directed towards Brian were out of line, completely off-base and rude.

Sean: because if Clark is indeed still an American citizen, then Superman isn’t really renouncing anything, yet he is going out of his way to announce that non-extant sacrifice.

I hope the story addresses the matter of Superman having an American citizenship to get rid of in the first place, in fact. Logically he can’t have more than some sort of honorary or cerimonial citizenship – and really, he shouldn’t have even that.

This could be a very promising plot point. But DC lacked the courage to get rid of Kyle Rayner, so I don’t expect it to get rid of this phantom citizenship for real either.

From an in story perspective, the reaction to his announcement should be “What American citizenship? He’s a freakin’ alien!” That said, it seems likely that at some point in his history he would have been offered some kind of honorary citizenship by the president after the millionth time he averted some natural disaster or alien invasion or whatnot. But, at the same time, it also seems likely that he would have been offered the same thing by heads of state from other countries. Is he going to renounce those as well?

As for Clark, his American citizenship is no more valid or official than Superman’s, as any documentation attesting to his birth on American soil to George and Martha Kent would have to have been illegally forged.

The thing is they are just blatently saying ‘I’m not American’. Well, go away then! We’re that bad? You don’t like us?

O.K. Buy.

I don’t really care about this, other than thinking that the idea that Superman is here for everyone is better than insisting that he be here for Americans first and foremost.

But really. DC gets a few national headlines over something that can and very likely will be ignored after one arc. Post WWII, how many times has Superman’s citizenship been integral to a story? Fox News gets a manufactured controversy that doesn’t involve all that pesky research or the facts that plague it so, and the internet gets to throw those hissy fits that it loves. Everbody wins!

I have read somewhere in the newspapers that, in some story appeared in 1974, Superman was offered citizenship of all the United Nations’ member states. Is that true?

First off, I love outside America so I am speaking as a foreigner here.

Maybe this is not about how America sees Superman, but how other countries see him. To people outside America, Superman is an American hero, albeit one who works around the world. If other countries see Superman as being of no nationality, they be more willing to work with him

As for Clark Kent, why is it hypocritical that he keeps his American identity. As established in one the Armageddon 2001 annuals (AoS, IIRC) it is established during Superman’s run for the presidency that he was “born” on American soil and is therefor an American citizen. The rest of the world (and most of America, for that matter) has no idea who Clark Kent is so his nationality has a negligible impact on anything.

This is all about how the world perceives one of the most powerful heroes in the world, and in that context him having no nationality makes perfect sense.

@Erosion:

Precisely. I live outside of America too, and I can totally see how this move could be beneficial to Superman’s status outside of the USA. =)

This could definitely be a good thing, if the character was properly promoted everywhere else but the US, when the new movie comes out.

And I definitely think it’s something that Superman would do, because let’s face it… “the American Way” isn’t the same now as it was in the early 40′s.

As a life-long Irish fan of Superman, I never liked the “American Way” thing anyway. Having said that, how can a false identity like Superman have a citizenship to renounce? Unless Kal-El has American citizenship and is renouncing it, leaving the false (legally speaking) identity of Clark Kent with his American citizenship. Does being a member of the Justice League give you an extra citizenship like being in the European Union does?

http://images.wikia.com/marvel_dc/images/0/07/Action_Comics_Annual_3.jpg Action Commics Annual #3 is where he got it. Logically if he wanted to be independent he would abdicate the League and other teams too. He would make Superboy, Krypto and Supergirl change costume so as not to appear to speak for them either. Kal- El and Clark both held citizenship.

Anansi wondered:
Does being a member of the Justice League give you an
extra citizenship like being in the European Union does?

I believe back around the time of Justice League International this was true. And there was debate around that time over the JL being “of America” both in the comics and among fans, similar to the current controversy.

But that has had repercussions in the DCU even recently. What was it, the World War III crossover where China wasn’t a signatory to this and wouldn’t allow the JLA/JSA over their border?

According to Elliott Maggin in 1979, Superman has honorary citizenship in most– maybe all– member nations of the U.N. Elliott Maggin knows his super-trivia so I would defer to his expertise.

Of course it’s a non-story. A slow news day so lazy news outlets ginned up some outrage. They could have done the same thing back in the 1980s over Christopher Reeve talking Russian and kidding with the cosmonauts in SUPERMAN IV, a similarly silly attempt to integrate Superman’s milieu with ‘real-world’ concerns. (In fact, I’d almost say Christopher Reeve did it a little LESS ham-handedly than Action #900.) Why didn’t it happen then? I dunno. Maybe it did, but back then we weren’t plagued with a dozen cable news outlets frantically trying to fill airtime. Chances are it was relegated to a few angry fringe ‘zine editorials where it belongs.

Trying to put superheroes into the real world NEVER works very well. I did a whole column about this a few weeks back. (Not to get all, “As I discuss in my new book, Jay…” about it, but I feel absurdly vindicated.)

@ L

“O.K. Buy” is a hilarious slogan from a love it or leave it American patriot like yourself.

And a Superman who truly represented the American Way would look much more like Ennis’s take from The Boys or Miller’s much more nuanced take from TDKR.

@ sgt pepper

I just clued in now that “O.K. Buy” was supposed to be “O.K. Bye”.
I was puzzled and I thought it was some weird satirical take on American nationalism.

All these objectionss are ridiculous.
1. “This will piss people off.” Boo hoo. His citizenship status is going to piss off so few people that it won’t matter with regards to sales. So what if a few rednecks get pissed about it? They probably weren’t reading Superman anyway. Also, as one of the many non-Americans who frequent this blog I’d like to point out how nearsighted that is. Comics are way bigger per capita in Canada than in the states, and there are other countries, too.
2. “This isn’t really a change back to his origin.” No one actually said it was. Brian Cronin was just pointing out that Superman changes.
3. “This isn’t realistic. Who cares if he is American, he isn’t an American agent.” From an IR standpoint it makes perfect sense. He’s an incredibly powerful symbol of America, and powerful I mean in every sense of the word. Mexico might not see you as anything other than someone to sell cheap tequila and souvenirs to, but you aren’t invulnerable and able to leap tall buildings with a single bound. That kind of symbolism is important. Compare it to the British royals. They have no involvement in the government, but they also don’t speak out on political matters because they are seen as such a part of society that it would be inappropriate.
Further, in parts of the Middle East, American culture and politics aren’t separated. It’s all part of “Western decadence and crusaderism”. Same in North Korea and, to a certain extent, in China. These kinds of cultural icons was a huge part of the Cold War. Hell, even in our world it was the case. If fake heroes were used for propaganda purposes here, what makes you think that real heroes wouldn’t be there? Actually, it has. Remember the Rocket Reds? They were created to have a Soviet equivalent to the PR power of the West’s Justice League. Or that Green Lantern story where he crossed into Russian territory and caused an international incident with the Global Guardians. Hell, the establishment of the Global Guardians and the JLI was explicitly about losing the assumption of Americanism that hounded the Justice League.
And remember how repression works. If someone that powerful was in Iran or China or wherever then they would be pushed into service to the state. These nations will never believe that the Americans wouldn’t do the same thing. Hell, even if they don’t believe it it’s still something they can do to stir shit up at the UN. A formal renunciation gives the American ambassador something to fight those allegations with. IR is about appearances, not truth.
4. “It’s hypocritical. Clark Kent is still a citizen.” Huh? First of all, his identity is secret. Second, he isn’t doing this because he hates America. He’s doing this so he can act without being seen as tied to American interests.
5. “But he has citizenship in all nations.” Dual citizens are rarely thought of by others as being evenly both, and the more citizenships he has the more diluted it is. His country of presumed residence and country where he acts the most is the united States.

[...] Superman Didn’t Originally Fight for “Truth, Justice and the American Way” (goodcomics.comicbookresources.com) [...]

@ Dalarsco:

1. “This will piss people off.” Boo hoo. His citizenship status is going to piss off so few people that it won’t matter with regards to sales. So what if a few rednecks get pissed about it? They probably weren’t reading Superman anyway. Also, as one of the many non-Americans who frequent this blog I’d like to point out how nearsighted that is. Comics are way bigger per capita in Canada than in the states, and there are other countries, too.

Well, you are wrong there.

First, I am anything but a redneck. I am educated, moderately liberal and have lived most of my life in a major city. I have travelled pretty extensively and have several long-standing friends from other countries.

Also, looking at my bookshelf, I am guessing that I am somewhere near the top of dollar sales customers for DC and/or Marvel Comics over the last few years. I’ve bought tons of Superman products and several multiple times in differing formats.

It annoys me. Maybe I am an outlier, but I doubt it.

2. “This isn’t really a change back to his origin.” No one actually said it was. Brian Cronin was just pointing out that Superman changes.

Look, it doesn’t really change the characters brand. For better or worse, Superman is strongly associated with America. It is probably beyond the abilities of DC Comics to break that connection, but it certainly won’t happen from a back-up story. The folks that are not buying because Superman is “too American” are not going to suddenly become customers.

This move has pretty close to zero upside beyond moving a few extra copies of Action #900 in the direct market.

3. “This isn’t realistic. Who cares if he is American, he isn’t an American agent.” From an IR standpoint it makes perfect sense. He’s an incredibly powerful symbol of America, and powerful I mean in every sense of the word. Mexico might not see you as anything other than someone to sell cheap tequila and souvenirs to, but you aren’t invulnerable and able to leap tall buildings with a single bound. That kind of symbolism is important. Compare it to the British royals. They have no involvement in the government, but they also don’t speak out on political matters because they are seen as such a part of society that it would be inappropriate.

Further, in parts of the Middle East, American culture and politics aren’t separated. It’s all part of “Western decadence and crusaderism”. Same in North Korea and, to a certain extent, in China. These kinds of cultural icons was a huge part of the Cold War. Hell, even in our world it was the case. If fake heroes were used for propaganda purposes here, what makes you think that real heroes wouldn’t be there? Actually, it has. Remember the Rocket Reds? They were created to have a Soviet equivalent to the PR power of the West’s Justice League. Or that Green Lantern story where he crossed into Russian territory and caused an international incident with the Global Guardians. Hell, the establishment of the Global Guardians and the JLI was explicitly about losing the assumption of Americanism that hounded the Justice League.

And remember how repression works. If someone that powerful was in Iran or China or wherever then they would be pushed into service to the state. These nations will never believe that the Americans wouldn’t do the same thing. Hell, even if they don’t believe it it’s still something they can do to stir shit up at the UN. A formal renunciation gives the American ambassador something to fight those allegations with. IR is about appearances, not truth.

I am not sure what you are arguing here. It seems like you are saying that Superman would be more effective in the DCU without his association to the U.S. I’ll grant that there might be a story idea in there, but it is not likely to actually get told. David Goyer was doing a drive-by back-up story. Worse, it is a lazy, poorly written back-up. There was no build-up showing Superman being ineffective because of his connection to U.S. policy.

All it really accomplished was take the likelihood of seeing the new, Goyer-written Superman movie in the theater from 100% to maybe 50%.

4. “It’s hypocritical. Clark Kent is still a citizen.” Huh? First of all, his identity is secret. Second, he isn’t doing this because he hates America. He’s doing this so he can act without being seen as tied to American interests.

Ummm … he might have a double-identity, but legally he is the same person.

5. “But he has citizenship in all nations.” Dual citizens are rarely thought of by others as being evenly both, and the more citizenships he has the more diluted it is. His country of presumed residence and country where he acts the most is the united States.

So, Superman is now a citizen of every nation, except the United States? Somehow that makes you feel better?

So the Birther movement got to Supes too?

It’s stuff like this that makes me realize that, despite 70+ years of practice, “modern” sensibilities, corporate backing, and “professionalism,” Marvel and DC still allow their properties to be caretaken by a bunch of clueless, self-destructive man-children. If it isn’t BLATANTLY OBVIOUS to every single person who gets a paycheck from DC Comics that Superman is an American icon–selected not by DC but by Americans themselves–then there is something seriously wrong with the place. There are some things you just have to accept, whether you intended it or not, and howevermuch DC might LIKE Superman to be a world icon, the only reason he’s an icon AT ALL is his implied connection to big-sky American optimism. “The American way” isn’t about our government, it’s about AMERICANS, our well-meaning aspirations, our theoretical fairness, our sense of community, our fill-in-the-blank. How many Strong Men are there in the DCU, Marvel, comics, pop-culture, the totality of fiction from the beginning of time? Yet Superman is in himself bigger than all of them (Herakles/Hercules might be bigger as an archetype, but not as character in his own right)–because Superman represents an ideal as well as an idea, and that ideal is inextricably tied to Americanism.

And now, because DC alone of everyone in the entire world cannot quite grasp the concept that Superman only works if he doesn’t have to keep apologizing for BEING Superman, they decide to have him reject the very core of his idealism. Now Superman is just another Strong Man, doing “good” for “people.” He’ll live in Metropolis, spend holidays in Smallville, show up 90% of the time in places like Gotham, Coast City, Keystone, New York–and apparently the whole time will be rejecting the philosophical principles of everyone he encounters there, not to mention of a large majority of his readership. How does DC think THAT’S going to go over? For Superman to basically be going around with a big “You Suck!” sign on his chest?

There’s such a thing as rejection by inclusion–I love you JUST AS MUCH AS I LOVE EVERYONE ELSE is not something you want to hear from your lover, and it’s not like “everyone else” is going to take that as a signal of great romance. “Truth, justice, and the HUMAN way” might be more egalitarian, but it doesn’t really mean anything–what IS the human way, or the global way, or the international way, at least in a manner that is so wholly distinct from the American way that it cannot be compatible? Is there some sort of ideal that every other nation on earth EXCEPT American has that is somehow not being embraced by Superman?

One of these days, DC is going to find itself in a “Hawkman” situation with one of its major characters–a character so screwed up in the eyes of a generation that it simply cannot be used anymore. It’s already happened with Wonder Woman, and Superman is heading in that direction. There is such a thing as breaking a character, even a character as culturally impervious as Superman (it happened with Star Wars and the Matrix, too). For whatever reason, in-continuity or elsewhere, everyone who reads a Superman comic sees SOMETHING American in who Superman is, and taking that away is like changing the “S” to a “?”

I do not read Superman but it seems that if Superman renounces his citizenship and suddenly Clark Kent is also no longer a US citizen, that kind of blows the secret identity thing.

“whole time will be rejecting the philosophical principles of everyone he encounters there”

Well, except he is not doing that. Superman is not in any way attacking America or rejecting American principles, he’s just making a pragmatic move so that his most controversial actions in the world stage won’t be seen as as US government policy.

I’m loving all these batshit responses for a one-off story that will probably never be referenced again.

Hopefully DC gets a sales uptick out of this.

First, I have to worry that a change even has to be made to allow Superman to make “controversial actions in the world stage”–he shouldn’t be making them! Saving lives is saving lives, and if any nation has a problem with SUPERMAN saving lives in their country, I do have to wonder what sort of hateful view of humanity is going on in DC’s Earth. What possible action could Superman make that is both in his traditional ouvre of stopping man’s inhumanity to man and yet is somehow abhorrent to a particular cultural sensibility? Is he going to be ripping birqas off of Muslim women now? Or forcing Hindus to eat hamburgers? Or is he going to be taking sides in a war and trying to pass it off as UN-sanctioned so he can dictate his own moral code on them like Sinestro? If Superman is doing something “controversial,” then the problem is with the story that makes him do it.

Second, as I said, he’s rejecting America by inclusion. If a Catholic stands up in church and says “I don’t believe in God but ALL gods,” that doesn’t mean he’s given up Catholicism, but don’t expect the congregation to be happy about it. For one thing, it’s insulting; if he doesn’t want to be exclusively Catholic, then he can go off and do it and not have rub his spiritual superiority in everyone’s face. For another, it’s impossible: not even Superman can please all the people all the time, and so he has chosen to displease America in order to please some purely-theoretical confederation of “the world” (again, what action could he take that pleases North Korea, Zimbabawe, and Brazil that would be impossible if they thought he was American?), in the same way that one can’t be both Catholic and Presbyterian. Honestly, it seems like DC cannot comprehend a world in which a guy can be the most beloved superhero on the planet and also live in America, which is insulting as both an American and a citizen of the world.

“he shouldn’t be making them! Saving lives is saving lives, and if any nation has a problem with SUPERMAN saving lives in their country, I do have to wonder what sort of hateful view of humanity is going on in DC’s Earth.”

Did you read the story in question? Superman is seen joining peaceful protesters against the Iranian government. That IS a controversial action, even though it’s an action I personally would wholeheartedly support.

Now, there is something to the argument that such political actions shouldn’t be in a Superman comic. Possibly. But in the context of actions like those, renouncing his American citizenship so that he is not seen as supporting the protesters as part of some government-backed agenda of destabilizing a foreign country, it’s not a “rejection” of American principles.

I have problems with the story, myself. Of course, not being even an American, or an American conservative, I don’t feel personally insulted or threatened by the story, but I question Superman’s rationale, yes. People who would be suspicious of Superman’s motives on account of his association with America would think this just a trick of his, so that he can continue to covertly work for the government without retaliation.

funkygreenjerusalem

April 30, 2011 at 11:26 pm

The funny part is, people seem to think DC had any idea this would happen at all – it’s an eight page story completely unrelated to the lead story, or the current continuity, and as next issue is written by the writer of the lead, I doubt it was going to be mentioned there.

It’s also worth pointing out that two of the shorter stories – the Dini story and the Donner story – end on almost the exact same line.
I don’t think there was too much editorial input on the stories – this is just Goyer’s own personal take on the character.

Other than that, it’s just basically Superman saying we have to worry about people as a whole, not people from certain countries – he can’t be tied down to a government’s diplomatic position when it comes to standing up for what he feels is right.
Nice little moral.

@Dean:
1. No one is not reading Superman because he’s too American, but are you actually reading Superman because of some jingoistic sentiment of “Americanness”. I don’t think that making him no longer an American citizen is going to lead to a huge drop in readers. Judging by the rest of your responses, it sounds like you’re more annoyed because it wasn’t a very good story, and I agree. It wasn’t a good story. But the concept is perfectly sound, it was just not particularly good writing.
2. You’re thinking economics and PR stunts. My entire first point is that the sales effect will be negligible. It wasn’t even like this was promoted by DC. It was a back-up story that happened on a slow news day and got made a big deal. It doesn’t seem like a stunt.
3. And I never said it would have great ramifications. And again, never said it was a good story. You again seem to really be agreeing with the core of my point. You said it could have interesting story potential. The people I’m arguing against are the ones who think the concept is stupid.
4. Yes. But explain how that is hypocrisy. The principle isn’t some objection to the United States, it’s a need to act with minimal IR complications. Clark Kent can do whatever he wants and it won’t reflect on the United States any more than the actions of any other journalist.
5. Again, the fault of the story, not the concept. If this was to become a real storyline then obviously it should be him renouncing all citizenships. My argument was against people who were treating that as some kind of mitigating factor with regards to the optics of his actions internationally.

That’s sort of my point, funky: it’s a travesty that DC is still run like a romper-room where writers can make boners like this in the monumental 900th issue of their flagship title. Even if Goyer didn’t really mean EXACTLY what he wrote (I get what he’s trying to do and, like you, I think its a nice moral for Superman to have), someone at DC should have seen this coming. It’s not AMBUSH BUG #17 here, it’s Superman, it’s a landmark event, maybe they should take it a little more seriously than “eh, we get some people to write our little shiny-tights funnybook, have some monkeys staple it together, we get our paycheck.” I mean, if TMZ can see that this story is funky (ahem) then the people who get PAID to take care of the Superman property should have seen it, too. Either DC is too disorganized to handle the most recognizable icons in the world or it actually intended the message that everyone is freaking out about. I mean, can someone just slip ANY kind of personal take in a Superman comic now?

Or they decided they’d get a lot of sales from the wingnut 20%ers whining about even more inconsequential things.

Erasion:

As for Clark Kent, why is it hypocritical that he keeps his American identity. As established in one the Armageddon 2001 annuals (AoS, IIRC) it is established during Superman’s run for the presidency that he was “born” on American soil and is therefor an American citizen. The rest of the world (and most of America, for that matter) has no idea who Clark Kent is so his nationality has a negligible impact on anything.

I don’t think “Jus Solis” (the idea that being born in a country makes one a citizen) applies to the USA. Maybe I am wrong about that.

I agree that the secret identity makes the consequences negligible. In fact, it is the statement itself that I take issue with. Superman should never have allowed himself to be seem as “American” in the first place. It runs entirely against the concept of the character as he was established after the end of WW 2. And quite frankly, it is corny too. I have long wished he changed his costume to something less red-white-and-blue (and capeless, too). The Krypton Man (later diluted and adopted by the Eradicator) costume was great, I wish they went back to it.

To those who want an All-American Superman, either implicitly or explicitly, are IMO missing the point of having Superman be an alien in the first place, and a globally and even cosmically significant one at that (which, I hear, is an idea that has been rescued in recent years after being disposed away by the Byrne reboot). He is beyond, way beyond such petty concerns.

How much does Action Comics sell? About 50 000 copies/month?

It drives me crazy how the media reacts to a story in a magazine which, relative to the world at large, nobody has read or has any intention of reading.

Superman is an icon, but his biggest impact today is in media like film and TV, with comic books, sadly, making a very little dent. Otherwise, one would have expected a bit more reaction to Superman starring in a porn with Big Barda back in the Byrne days (in the same year as the wide media exposure of Superman’s 50th birthday, no less) but nope, that one slipped by. (it’d be fun to see the media’s collective head explode over that story today).

I think writers and artists should be free to experiment and explore whatever ideas they want (even if that includes starring in a porn with Big Barda) and as far as people’s reaction, I adopt the popular thinking about voting: if you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the government. Similarly, if you’re not buying and reading the comic, you can stick your righteous outrage where Rao don’t shine.

funkygreenjerusalem

May 1, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Either DC is too disorganized to handle the most recognizable icons in the world or it actually intended the message that everyone is freaking out about. I mean, can someone just slip ANY kind of personal take in a Superman comic now?

Is DC too disorganized?
I dunno – Superman is awesome right now, with Paul Cornell and Chris Roberson on the books, so they got something right.

Until you remember, they got those two by getting it wrong!

Cornell was a replacement for Marc Guggenheim to do a Luthor arc, and Roberson was brought in to replace, and apparently fix the damage done by, JMS.

The same editors fired Nick Spencer off Supergirl before a single issue was out, and then when reviews came in, tried to get him back, only to find he’d signed exclusive with their larger competitor.

So id DC disorganized?
Who knows.
But the Superman editorial offices?
Let’s just say they’re probably really happy that until now all eyes have been on the Bat-offices due to their scheduling screw ups.

Zor-El of Argo

May 1, 2011 at 8:02 pm

I am pretty sure being adopted by the Kent’s makes Clark’s citizenship valid, the same as those Russian and Chinese babies adopted by American’s. If Superman or Kal-El have actual citizenship or a Social Security number, that would be fraudulent, because Clark’s is “real.”

Amazing how JMS was involved in ruining DC’s biggest character, just like he was with Marvel’s. But in this case, the bulk of the damage happened over about a week. It took Marvel about two years. A new world Record.

Sad.

But atleast Osama is dead!

Carlos Futino

May 2, 2011 at 5:25 am

@Luis Dantas,

beeing neither american nor a lawyer I can’t say it for sure, but it’s my understanding that jus solis still applies to the USA and that there have been attempts to abolish it.

I love how in the same week that Bin Ladin was killed by real human beings without special powers, one of America’s greatest recent victories, the most powerful fictional American hero ever was portrayed doing peaceful hippie sit-ins in the Middle East, getting all touched by some hippie dude giving a soldier a flower and renouncing his American citizenship. Good job DC. Incompetent as ever.

Al Gough, co-creator of Smallville, had an interesting take:

“This sounds like a callous marketing ploy by a large entertainment conglomerate to make a classic American character more appealing to a worldwide audience,” he opines. “The international box office on most superhero films is equal to, or below the domestic gross (see Spidey, Iron Man, even Dark Knight). Compare that to the grosses of other blockbusters (Harry Potter, Transformers) where the international BO is twice as big as domestic grosses. Btw, the international gross on the last Superman film was $50 million below the domestic. There is nothing ‘creative’ about this big announcement or additive to the cannon, it’s all about business.”

@Luis Dantas:

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants birthright citizenship. It was adopted after our Civil War and formed the legal basis for the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Zor-El of Argo

May 2, 2011 at 6:02 pm

@T.

I agree. This is the same kind of crap reasoning behind turning GI Joe(A Real American Hero) into a NATO outfit. Every other country in the world waves thier own banners patriotically, but when an American does it somehow people become offended.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

May 2, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Every other country in the world waves thier own banners patriotically, but when an American does it somehow people become offended.

Ha!
The difference is immense between how the US does it, and how other countries do it.

The times are a changin’ – US media companies make a lot of money exporting their content around the world, whereas a decade or two ago, it was an afterthought.
Most people outside of the US, have little interest in paying money to see clearly labeled US propaganda – so if you want to sell to them, you’ve got to make it something they want to see.
If you want to return to more US focused media – start paying more for it, or go see it a hundred times on your own.
The free market doesn’t recognize borders, and people in Europe aren’t going to pay money to see a film about America being number one, now that there’s so many other viewing options out there.

And again, the level of patriotism/flag waving/’we are number one’ hoo-hah in US culture, heavily outweighs that in other cultures*.

Amazing how JMS was involved in ruining DC’s biggest character, just like he was with Marvel’s.

In what possible way do you believe JMS was involved with this story?

the most powerful fictional American hero ever was portrayed doing peaceful hippie sit-ins in the Middle East, getting all touched by some hippie dude giving a soldier a flower and renouncing his American citizenship.

Sorry, where is the connection between the two?
Goyer writes a story about moving beyond national levels, diplomatic ties, and anything else that stops people doing the right thing – and somehow that doesn’t count because of a single military mission going to plan?
That doesn’t make any sense at all.

Good job DC. Incompetent as ever.

They got a second printing of a giant sized issue (thus higher price) due to an eight page back up story.

The only incompetence I’m seeing is from people buying/talking about this issue, and not the eleven that preceded it!
Poor Paul Cornell – he writes an excellent epic story, and people are only buying the conclusion because of Goyer’s moralistic tale!

Sorry, where is the connection between the two?
Goyer writes a story about moving beyond national levels, diplomatic ties, and anything else that stops people doing the right thing – and somehow that doesn’t count because of a single military mission going to plan?
That doesn’t make any sense at all.

Why does he feel he specifically have to renounce his American citizenship in order to do the right thing? What does that say about the American government? Answer that question, and the answers rest of your questions fall into place and you see why it makes sense.

I mean obviously the reasoning can’t be that far out of left field if there is an article on Newsarama about how bad the timing of this story is and it’s full of similar reactions, and not just from right-wing pundits. And when you click the article, look at all the face-saving public statements DC editorial staff put out in order to damage control, so even DC staff must feel they did a faux pas on some level. It’s like people in this comments section said before the Bin Laden news broke: for whatever little potential upside there is to this self-indulgent and simplistic heavy handed story, but so much more potential downside, and right on cue we were proven right.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

May 2, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Why does he feel he specifically have to renounce his American citizenship in order to do the right thing?

Because people/Governments in other countries were assuming he’s only there for America, when Superman is there for the whole world.

What does that say about the American government?

Nothing at all – Superman wants the people of the world to know he is, and acts for everyone, not one specific country.

Answer that question, and the answers rest of your questions fall into place and you see why it makes sense.

Well as you can see, answering those questions, as answered in the story, shows that none of the complaints make any sense.

I mean obviously the reasoning can’t be that far out of left field if there is an article on Newsarama about how bad the timing of this story is and it’s full of similar reactions, and not just from right-wing pundits

The proof is in Newsarama?

Come on, that’s ludicrously weak!
Much like every other hit-based website, they are maximizing the story as much as they can.

And when you click the article, look at all the face-saving public statements DC editorial staff put out in order to damage control, so even DC staff must feel they did a faux pas on some level.

They ‘faux pas’ed in the sense that they didn’t think this would be such an issue, and are trying to stop it overshadowing not only the story and it’s message, but the issue, and a character as a whole.

They had no plans to follow up on this story, so of course they are down playing the whole thing.

It’s like people in this comments section said before the Bin Laden news broke: for whatever little potential upside there is to this self-indulgent and simplistic heavy handed story, but so much more potential downside, and right on cue we were proven right.

The people in the comments saying that are mostly you.

Even if it was everyone saying that, and it’s not, I would have no problem pointing out how incorrect they are.
Superman wants to do right for EVERYONE in the world, hell, the universe.

In the story, his choice to protect protesters was taken as a sign of American aggression.
As such, he officially renounced any binding ties between himself and the American government – firstly, so people in other countries know he’s for them as well, and secondly, to distance America from any repercussions of his actions.

You have to totally change the plot of the story, as well as it’s moral, to get to this being Superman saying anything bad about America.

Any and all outrage pointed at the story, other than it was a bit or a bore, is absolute hooey.
Throw in that there’s more stories with Superman espousing a global agenda, rather than a nationalistic one, and you have to totally misunderstand the character as well, to get there.

Greg Hatcher already pointed to Superman IV, and on Savage Critics, so did Brian Hibbs, who quoted the film:

Superman: Madam Chairman, I don’t represent any one particular country, but I’d like to address the delegates.
U.N. Chairwoman: Well, in that case, you will need a sponsor.

[ALL delegates raise their hands]

U.N. Chairwoman: I believe that will do. Please.

If Regan had no problem with him saying that during the Cold WAR, I don’t see any issue with Superman re-iterating the point twenty four years later.
(And AS IF that’s the first time he ever espoused that view).

FunkyGreenJerusalem

May 2, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Geez, T – that newsarama article is gathering quotes from people saying things like:

“I guess Superman won’t be celebrating with the American people and military today,”.

“When did our flag- waving, crime-fighting superheroes become a bunch of Muslim-friendly, politically correct, US-bashing weasels?”

Would Superman have ever celebrated when someone was killed?

Beyond a few covers in WW2, when wasn’t Superman Muslim friendly or politically correct?

If you’re defense for your line of thinking not being too wrong is that newsarama ran a story on it, then you should probably saved it until than ran a story quoting people who have read the character before.
Mark Waid refers to it as bad timing – I think he’s talking more based upon the reaction that has happened – as he sees nothing wrong with the moral of the story.

@ Dalarsco:

1. No one is not reading Superman because he’s too American, but are you actually reading Superman because of some jingoistic sentiment of “Americanness”. I don’t think that making him no longer an American citizen is going to lead to a huge drop in readers. Judging by the rest of your responses, it sounds like you’re more annoyed because it wasn’t a very good story, and I agree. It wasn’t a good story. But the concept is perfectly sound, it was just not particularly good writing.

Let me clarify, I have been reading Superman for three decades. It has not been every month, but off-and on depending upon whether the story sounds interesting. The stuff that I find interesting are the elements that are unique (or nearly so) to Superman.

Removing Superman’s identity as an American removes one of those elements. A central part of the American identity is the myth of the immigrant. Simply put, it is the idea that a person can come to the United States and leave their previous cultural identity behind. Can you name another superhero that really speaks to that? The only one that is close is Wonder Woman.

You do not have to be an American (or really feel any particular fondness for America) to find our national identity an interesting subject.

2. You’re thinking economics and PR stunts. My entire first point is that the sales effect will be negligible. It wasn’t even like this was promoted by DC. It was a back-up story that happened on a slow news day and got made a big deal. It doesn’t seem like a stunt.

Ok. Let’s leave the business terms aside.

Have you ever gotten the “let’s just be friends” speech? Have you ever tried to show the person delivering the speech that they are just missing what an awesome boyfriend you would make? If so, has there ever been a bigger waste of time and/or energy in your life? Hollywood movies aside, chasing people that are not into you rarely works out well for anyone.

That is exactly what DC is doing here and they have been doing it for years with minimal results. Meanwhile, there are a lot of people who liked their properties just fine before anyone started “fixing” them.

3. And I never said it would have great ramifications. And again, never said it was a good story. You again seem to really be agreeing with the core of my point. You said it could have interesting story potential. The people I’m arguing against are the ones who think the concept is stupid.

Ok. I think that we agree that the basic idea might have yielded a decent story, but this isn’t it? Correct?

4. Yes. But explain how that is hypocrisy. The principle isn’t some objection to the United States, it’s a need to act with minimal IR complications. Clark Kent can do whatever he wants and it won’t reflect on the United States any more than the actions of any other journalist.

Hypocrisy is not my word.

To me, it is more a question of laziness. Writing good political stories requires a pretty deeply thought out set of political beliefs. Those require work.

I have been reading Superman for four decades and I will not be reading it for a fifth decade because DC was too chickenshit to have Superman kill Osama Bin Laden and his human shield.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

May 3, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Removing Superman’s identity as an American removes one of those elements. A central part of the American identity is the myth of the immigrant. Simply put, it is the idea that a person can come to the United States and leave their previous cultural identity behind. Can you name another superhero that really speaks to that? The only one that is close is Wonder Woman.

You do not have to be an American (or really feel any particular fondness for America) to find our national identity an interesting subject.

Ummm… that’s not as unique of an American experience as you may like to believe.
Americans have mythologized it the most, certainly, but it’s a big part of most other countries recent histories as well.
(Heck, America seems to be doing it’s best to halt immigrants coming to the country these days).

I don’t see Superman not considering himself American somehow diminishing the immigrant side to him.

And heck, if you’re looking for a superhero who has that element to them – and actually has it more so than a guy who never knew his home world – then look no further than the Martian Manhunter.
He had a life, before being forced to adopt a new home world.
(Depending on their particular origins at any given time, Hawkman and Aquaman also fit the bill).

To me, it is more a question of laziness. Writing good political stories requires a pretty deeply thought out set of political beliefs. Those require work.

This wasn’t a political story, it was a moral one.

I have been reading Superman for four decades and I will not be reading it for a fifth decade because DC was too chickenshit to have Superman kill Osama Bin Laden and his human shield.

Maybe DC just understand the character of Superman better than you?

I was being extremely facetious.

I was being extremely facetious.

Ha!
You got me!
What can I say – you go reading on other message boards about it, and genuine posts like that aren’t too hard to find!

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