The Bigger Picture of Superman, Politics and DC Comics

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Action Comics #900While many commented that Superman’s decision to give up his United States citizenship was anti-American and that he should be proud for where he’s from, a greater picture and a few questions were missed.  I’m sure many of those commenters didn’t read the issue, so I don’t expect them to understand the nuance of what was actually laid out.  As Andrew Belonsky points out over at Death & Taxes, by giving up his citizenship, Superman has become something better.

As I said in an earlier post, the story has Superman talking to the President’s National Security Adviser about his flying to Tehran to protest with the Iranian people.  The story is impressive in that it throws out the usual fake countries and leaders DC comics sticks to, but instead names the country and leader.  It also reflects the very real unrest occurring throughout the Middle East.  This action causes an international incident as Iran sees Superman’s stance as an action by the United States.  This causes Superman to think globally and decide to renounce his US citizenship.  He’s decided there’s an entire world for him to protect.  And only DC knows how far they’ll take this pretty comic universe shaking event.

As Belonsky points out:

Superman understands that his actual and symbolic power belongs to the world, to whom he must deliver a democratic life free from tyranny. It’s the same crusade the U.S. claims to fight, only on a larger, more powerful scale.

And that’s my thought too.  Superman still fights for “Truth, Justice and the American Way,” he just now does it free from the implications and restraints of the United States.  He can bring freedom quicker, easier and to a greater number without impacting American foreign policy.  Isn’t that what we want?  I think the average comic book reader understand the nuances of foreign policy.  Cal Thomas of Fox might not think so, he feels comic book fans don’t understand the word “construed” and we’re only familiar with the onomatopoeia of “biff,” “pow,” “bam” and “zap.”  I think it’s possible to fight for American principles without American citizenship, a concept Thomas thinks is too difficult for comic fans to comprehend.  Mr. Thomas, Superman hasn’t “abandoned” anything, unlike what you think.  In fact, he’s still very much an American and still very much fighting for American ideals.

There’s a deeper statement here.  While Superman has given up his citizenship, Clark Kent, his alter ego, has not.  Isn’t that an even more powerful statement.  Superman must make such a powerful statement and act, but in reality he’s still grounded and very much American.  His heart and life is still as an American citizen.  He is in essence grounded to America, not just due to his alter-ego, but through that alter-ego’s connections.  While he might be flying around the world spreading Democracy, his soul, his essence (Kent) is very much American.

There are bigger questions this creates and has major implications for other DC comic book characters.

  1. Wonder Woman is a foreign national.  Much like Superman, her actions in the United States or in any other country could be construed as an act by the country she is originally from.  Should she renounce her citizenship as well?
  2. Batman is currently traveling the world and setting up franchises.  Can we look at this as corporate colonialism.  Batman, even more so than Superman, is grounded as an American super hero, is this American colonialism?  How is this different the military bases being peppered throughout the world?  Batman has a world view, will he use these platforms to enforce it?
  3. On a galactic scale, the Green Lantern Corps. is literally made up of hundreds if not thousands of aliens.  How does the United States, or Earth for that matter, view these aliens enforcing galactic law and a universe view we might not subscribe to?  And when they visit the United States, aren’t they illegal aliens here?

You can see where I’m going with this.  This simple story in an anniversary issue presents bigger questions and problems.  Who knows if DC will ever address them, but it definitely has me thinking.