When Superman Shunned US citizenship & the Weird “Tradition” of Mocking Him

In this CBR column from last April, they reflect on the time prior to 2011’s “New 52” when DC, under the tragic leadership of Dan DiDio (and Jim Lee) published a story in Action Comics #900 where Superman gave up US citizenship after doing nothing to bring down the Iranian regime, in a scene where he just levitated:

 

In a story titled “The Incident,” with art by Miguel Sepulveda and Paul Mounts, Superman is confronted by the President’s National Security Advisor, who asks why Superman visited Iran during the middle of a protest. Superman explains that he wanted to see what was going on there and so he showed up and just stood there, not interfering, but not moving, for a day and it inspired a great deal more protests.

The NSA Advisor explains that the situation was causing an international incident, as Superman was seen to be there as an American agent. Superman explained that he was planning to resolve it by renouncing his American citizenship to detangle the United States from his actions…

Amusingly, Goyer didn’t expect any problems, since he saw Superman doing it as a FAVOR to the United States. He explained to EW, “It was also interesting to me that people thought it was a slight against America. It wasn’t meant to be that at all. He was actually trying to protect America from what he intended to do.”

However, when Superman continued to talk about having to think in BIGGER terms than a country, people still took it as a shot at the United States….

 

 

Based on how there’s a lot of people with common sense who like to consider/promote the USA as embodying the values Superman upholds, that’s why they saw it as a slight. Of course, with the way things are going now, one can wonder if it’s still possible to say the country does? All that aside, why was it such a big deal to conceive a story like this to start with, that doesn’t solve anything?

 

My uncle, who used to read comic books back in the 1960s, even wrote me about it (but since my uncle is a smart man, he wrote it in terms of, “How is this story being misconstrued?”). Jim Lee and Dan Didio had to do damage control, releasing a statement to the New York Post stating, “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.”

As I wrote about at the time (and reiterated last year), “the American Way” wasn’t even part of the whole “Truth, Justice and the American Way” slogan initially, just the truth and justice parts.

 

If that’s supposed to imply anybody galled at the omissions was overreacting, I’m not impressed. Whenever the American Way got omitted in the past decade, it seemed to be for very forced reasons. Maybe if it were just a handful of writers who’d dropped it, while others were allowed to choose use of it on their own accord, then we could all be more forgiving. But political correctness – which DiDio and Lee were guilty of bringing about forcibly – has become so commonplace it’s hard to ignore.

 

Editor Matt Idelson, though, was perhaps the most apologetic, as he felt that it wasn’t more evident that Goyer’s story was meant to be out of continuity, explaining to The Superman Homepage, “We had no idea the story would create such a firestorm, Kelly, especially since it was one of several short stories celebrating the 900th issue of ACTION, not the main piece of the book. Had I done a better job of making clear to the readers that the stories in the back may or may not fit into continuity, and are simply a celebration of the character from a diverse set of writers and artists, perhaps things wouldn’t have been so loud. I understood why people objected to the story, particularly in this day and age, and my personal preference is to stay away from politics in the books – I think people want to be entertained, not reminded of how unpleasant the world can be or educated on what’s going on. Having said that, I really love David Goyer’s work, and after inviting him to say something about Superman, I thought it would be wrong not to let him say it.”

 

In hindsight, I find Goyer awfully overrated, and he did once make crude comments about She-Hulk, along with Martian Manhunter, putting his supposed fandom under a question mark. That he’d write such a story – using plans to usher in the New52 “reboot”, which lasted only 4-5 years before being mostly switched back – as an excuse was insulting. These PC advocates will use every trick in the book they can to justify their storyline, right down the outside continuity defense. Plus, if Idelson really wanted to entertain, why’d he allow DiDio’s visions to go along at the expense of entertainment value, recalling DiDio once said he didn’t believe superheroes should have happy lives? Why, if that’s how Idelson felt, why’d he even originally support breaking up the Super-marriage, much like Joe Quesada did with the Spider-marriage? The citation of “diverse sets” of writers and artists also echos the politics now dictating much of showbiz, where it’s ultimately more about channeling ultra-leftist values than real escapism. And maybe that’s Idelson’s problem – he didn’t have what it took to resist letting an ideologue exploit Superman and other DC creations for channeling his personal agendas. In that case, has Idelson ever apologized, any more than his other colleagues?

Since we’re on the subject of the Man of Steel, I also found an article at Gizmodo where they say mocking Superman’s become tradition for certain PC lunatics. It also says:

 

In press releases, DC Comics explained that Infinite Frontier’s meant to explore the dynamics of its new multiversal status quo now that essentially all of the publisher’s different realities have been brought back into the canonical fold. Tangled and messy as DC’s various Crises had previously left the multiverse (something that’s always made it difficult to jump into DC’s comics), the promise of Infinite Frontier is a fresh start where the possibilities are seemingly endless. One of those possibilities was Calvin Ellis, DC’s Black Superman from Earth 23, being put front and center in a new story exploring his place in the larger world. Early solicitations for Infinite Frontier #1 made clear that Calvin would factor into the plot significantly, but what really caught a number of peoples’ attention about the character’s big return to DC’s comics was one of the comic’s variant covers from artist Bryan Hitch.

Ahead of Infinite Frontier #1’s upcoming release, an Aquaman fan account on Twitter posted an image of Hitch’s variant. Though some were glad to see Calvin back in action, many were quick to voice their distaste with the odd placement of the character’s hairline. Of course people’s specific jokes about Calvin’s fivehead were all different, but they were all ways of expressing disbelief that a Black man who was also the President of the United States and the most famous superhero on the planet would be caught in public with a haircut that made him look like Sinestro.

 

Well if it does make him look more like the most notable adversary of Hal Jordan, of course I think that’s a shame. But if you think the above is divisive, the following is too:

 

The predominantly white mainstream comics industry is well known for its history of doing a piss-poor job when it comes to illustrating Black characters with respect and beauty. This is also what made it so disappointing, though not exactly surprising, when Hitch himself chimed in with a now-deleted post on one specific thread telling a couple of people to “fuck off” for dragging his illustration. It’s easy to understand why people’s comments might have gotten to Hitch, who is a white British man—but it is also very easy to understand why people made fun of Hitch’s drawing of a fictional Black man with a truly outlandish way of styling his hair.

 

 

This ignores how, by the 60s, they were long moving away from stereotypical drawings, and many Black protagonists by the time the Bronze Age came about were drawn far better. Has the columnist never seen the renditions of Robbie Robertson, Black Panther, Falcon, John Stewart, Mal Duncan, Misty Knight, Storm, Glory Grant and Vixen? They were drawn with far more respect than this piece makes things out to sound like. Not difficult to guess this was the “opinion” of somebody who’ll never be satisfied. He goes on to say:

 

Even if one were to excuse the variant cover’s oddness as more of a perspective issue, what was immediately lost in Hitch’s snap reaction to people’s valid and relatively tame criticisms was the fact that making fun of Superman is a major part of the tradition surrounding the 80+ year old character. DC’s Superman has always been as silly and ridiculous as he is noble and indestructible. That duality is a part of the character’s charm that some have come to appreciate over time as we gain a better understanding of how archetypical characters like Superman can contain multitudes. People who like to pretend that they’ve never cracked a dumb joke about Superman wearing his underwear on the outside, or understand how fans frequently poke fun at the character’s Boy Scout energy are lying to themselves. Beyond the actual text of stories where characters jab at Clark Kent for those sorts of things, Superman occupies such a prominent space in pop culture that it’s very common for people to hold him up as an example of a character worthy of derision for one reason or another.

 

Making fun of Superman is no better than mocking Aquaman, but doubtless it’s there. And maybe the problem has what to do with Supes representing optimism, and Aquaman coming close, but ultimately the excuse boils down to ability to talk with fish, even as Sub-Mariner could do the same. This ignores how, in the past decade or so, the Man of Tomorrow’s been all but marginalized in favor of Batman, who could also be subject to mockery due to how, darker colors notwithstanding, also wears his “underwear” on the outside of his costume in some renditions (black-colored tights as opposed to Superman’s red ones), and is powered by certain determinations not all that different from Superman’s, even if Batman’s motivations stem more from darkness than light. Yet for some reason, Batman seems exempt from the mockery Superman and Aquaman reportedly get, because he represents the PC visions of today’s liberals. But just like I don’t see it helpful as a fan to mock Batman, I don’t mock Superman and Aquaman either, and find it insulting to the intellect that the Gizmodo columnist is insinuating fans do. He’s also oblivious to Superman’s weakness to Kryptonite radiation as much as to how magical energy can hinder him. Of course, this all appears to stem from how, during the Silver Age, there were Superstories relying on slapstick comedy elements and other bizarre fantasy, even if it didn’t all begin that way in the Golden Age, and by the end of the 60s, DC’s writers and editors were trying to add more serious ideas and be less goofy again.

 

In other words, this is a column built on narrow perceptions stemming almost entirely from a precise period in history, disregarding anything successive generations of writers and editors did, and all exaggerated to mammoth proportions by people who surely had no intention of reading Superman in the first place (it’s quite likely they didn’t read Batman either), and the press compounds the damage by emphasizing a flawed perspective, since it’s bound to lead to the kind of modern artistic disasters we see today as PC advocates who see themselves as entitled to the products seek to deconstruct the Man of Steel’s world at the expense of story merit. Which includes all these superfluous explorations of what if Superman and other heroes were Black/Asian/mixed race background (and even LGBT) that’re ultimately superficial and wind up becoming little more than political statements. This is exactly why everything would be so much better if everyone would just stop obsessing over these veteran creations and just build up the sci-fi genre with stories that aren’t related to the superhero genre and themes. Indeed, all this obsession with superheroes is precisely why they’ve become played out, and it’s as insulting to the original creators as it is to the fans. Enough already.

 

 

Originally published here

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

JUST KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON