Friday, April 29, 2011

Whatever Happened To The American Of Tomorrow? Superman Defects

Whatever Happened To The American Of Tomorrow? Superman Defects

So in a rather silly short story in the back of a superman issue, the man of steal has renounced his American citizenship and all the news outlets are running with the story
After recently undertaking a journey to walk -- not fly -- across the United States in the "Grounded" storyline and reconnect with the country and everyday Americans, Superman appears to be taking another step that could have major implications for his national identity: in Action Comics #900...

...Superman announces that he is going to give up his U.S. citizenship. Despite very literally being an alien immigrant, Superman has long been seen as a patriotic symbol of "truth, justice, and the American way," from his embrace of traditional American ideals to the iconic red and blue of his costume. What it means to stand for the "American way" is an increasingly complicated thing, however, both in the real world and in superhero comics, whose storylines have increasingly seemed to mirror current events and deal with moral and political complexities rather than simple black and white morality.

The key scene takes place in "The Incident," a short story in Action Comics #900 written by David S. Goyer with art by Miguel Sepulveda. In it, Superman consults with the President's national security advisor, who is incensed that Superman appeared in Tehran to non-violently support the protesters demonstrating against the Iranian regime, no doubt an analogue for the recent real-life protests in the Middle East. However, since Superman is viewed as an American icon in the DC Universe as well as our own, the Iranian government has construed his actions as the will of the American President, and indeed, an act of war.

Superman replies that it was foolish to think that his actions would not reflect politically on the American government, and that he therefore plans to renounce his American citizenship at the United Nations the next day -- and to continue working as a superhero from a more global than national perspective. From a "realistic" standpoint it makes sense; it would indeed be impossible for a nigh-omnipotent being ideologically aligned with America to intercede against injustice beyond American borders without creating enormous political fallout for the U.S. government.

While this wouldn't be this first time a profoundly American comic book icon disassociated himself from his national identity -- remember when Captain America became Nomad? -- this could be a very significant turning point for Superman if its implications carry over into other storylines. Indeed, simply saying that "truth, justice and the American way [is] not enough anymore" is a pretty startling statement from the one man who has always represented those values the most.

It doesn't seem that he's abandoning those values, however, only trying to implement them on a larger scale and divorce himself from the political complexities of nationalism. Superman also says that he believes he has been thinking "too small," that the world is "too connected" for him to limit himself with a purely national identity. As an alien born on another planet, after all, he "can't help but see the bigger picture."

Do you think the shift to a more global role makes sense for Superman? If he really is going to renounce his U.S. citizenship in order to function as a more international figure, how do you think it will affect the character?
Even though I'm a comic reader, I'm self aware in realizing that all superhero comics are basically right-wing wet dreams come true in which they promote the notion that "Crime" can be solved by beating up on poor people and leaving them tied up for the police.

I mean, what sort of jury would convict someone off the word of a vigilante? Talk about getting screwed over by the American penal system. So.. um. yeah. I don't really know where I was going with this rant...

But this has been a long time coming. If we can get on Obama for being president without proof of his citizenship, how has it taken 70 years for us to question Superman and ask him where his birth certificate is. Where's the birth certificate, man of steel? HUH?!

Is superman naturalized? His documents got blown up on Krypton and I don't think that the Kent's ever got him any certs of live birth in Kansas. Have you ever thought about that? It's a bit weird when you consider it. How would he have a social security or anything? Does Superman and Clark Kent have different socials? They couldn't possibly share the same one.

And what's with the sudden crisis of conscience? The dude has been a news reporter his whole adult life and yet he has had no qualms in being the news he's reporting on or being the center of attention when it comes to the pieces he would write about. It's all so confusing.

What's his deal with taking the fight on a more global level? I mean, just look at any monthly comic book he is in and you'll see him fly into space and instead of answering the call to all the screams and cries of the global south, he'll fly back to Metropolis to stop some black purse snatcher before going into a phone book to change for his date with Lois.

Why the fuck is superman meeting the national security adviser in a foggy forest? Shouldn't that be a conversation that should be held in a conference room or at least some place without a creepy vibe to it?

On the flip side, Marvel is doing a suicide prevention book using Captain America.

Just a reminder, Alien humanoids from a different solar system might have such different biology that our sun gives them super powers, but they will still be white and male. If superman had been raised in anywhere but the US, he would have probably annihilated the United States for its dangerous threats to the survival of the species in the name of imperial domination.

And I'm not even going to go into Superman: Red Son. Because while that was a great story, it still has the flaw that socialist utopia is brought down with a simple note with "Why don't you put the whole world in a bottle."

Such a terrible flaw to an otherwise good story. But hey, that's just how I roll. When kids fight about if Superman or Batman could win in a fight, I usually bust out the other, bigger and better debate. That is if Green Arrow's socialism is better than the Question's objectivity. Now that's a real tough one.

I'm happy that I don't have super powers. If I had x-ray vision I'm pretty sure I would just give up on being a good person and just go crazy invading everyone's privacy. Much like Obama.

But the biggest problem with this short story turned into major slow-news-day/alternative to royal wedding news piece is that it's not really sound.

Superman, for all intent and purpose, isn't a U.S. citizen. For all the world knows about the man of steal is that he is always superman and has no secret identity. He doesn't live in the U.S. He calls home his Fortress of Solitude in the frozen north.

He just seems to hang out in Metropolis a lot because he has the hots for Lois Lane. If DC was going to do a full story on this arc, that would be it. It's not like Clark Kent would be renouncing his citizenship.

For the sake of the U.N's concern, Superman would default to the silver age idea that superman is a citizen of ever nation in the U.N. This works because it actually goes along with Superman being a hero to one and all.

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