Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Superman and "The Incident"

I've been asked to say a few words about "The Incident" in Action #900.

This is a subject that many are speaking on, and I'm not confident I have much unique perspective to bring to bear on it. Nevertheless....

I'm not going to weigh in at all on the legalities of citizenship, the nigh impossibility of "renouncing" it, or international law's distaste for permitting anyone to be "stateless". I could write a book about that and, at one point in my career, actually might have.

I will however make two points. The first is one I have seen elsewhere: it's nice to know that Superman still matters. After 900 issues of Action and 70 years in the media, Superman matters enough that when Superman makes some kind of political statement, the world pays attention.

Many are saying, "This is overdue, a sign of our changing times; it's about time we cast aside the antiquated, jingoistic view of Superman as a champion of 'the American Way', whatever that means!" Many others are saying, "This is inappropriate, a sign of our moral waywardness; if anything, it's time for us to reaffirm the American Way and Superman as its champion."

Which leads me to my second point.

Superman 'renouncing his citizenship' (whatever THAT is supposed to me) so he can oppose a foreign dictator is exactly the kind of kick-ass crazy crap Superman was created to do.

Have you ever actually read a Golden Age Superman story? Like the one where he violently breaks into the Governor's Mansion? Or the one where he drags a party of rich folks down into a coal mine to experience the plight of their workers? Or the one where he tells off the police commissioner for being soft on illegal gambling? Or the one where he hoists the leaders of two warring European nations onto a mountaintop, and tells them to duke it out to settle their differences, while their armies stand down?

Superman was the honey badger of the comic book kingdom. Golden Age Superman was a bad-ass, anti-authoritarian, rabble-rousing, reformist, interventionist, loose cannon. He did whatever the heck he wanted to, just to stand up for the little guy, to oppose tyranny, to right wrongs. He didn't care about violating the rights of others, or moderating his use of power.

He barged right in and made things right where they were wrong, and if you got in his way, you got your toes stepped on. Too bad for you, and your car that he just crashed into a nearby mountain.

Superman, in short, didn't stand for the American Way; he WAS the American Way. And it's nice to see that he still is.

You and I may not like it; you and I may not agree with it. But don't try to tell me it's "not what Superman is about" or that it's "out of character".