Editorial: Big Dog’s Thoughts on Superman’s Citizenship

I know people that are coming to read this will already note that VaderFan blogged about this last week. Actually, I’m quite glad that he did, because at least he was able to find the words at the time that I couldn’t. Believe me, I tried. Some people have said that the Superman debate is over. The non-fans are saying it’s a stupid comic book or that he was an illegal to begin with. The people in the community are saying that the ones making a fuss don’t read comic books and therefore don’t know how to put this whole mess into context. If you listened to Podcast 19, then you know full well where I stand on this issue. Yet, I feel there are some things that I just didn’t find myself saying. I’m going to attempt it again in written form and hope that it comes across a little better.

First and foremost, let’s talk about the what. Superman said that he couldn’t allow his actions to be taken as US Policy. The way it was intended to come across was that he wouldn’t be responsible for an international incident due to his actions. That, in of itself, is an admirable thing. Except Superman has never been an instrument of US policy. He’s not a government agent, nor has he ever claimed to have been. He’s been an official Justice League member time and again. If anything, I would’ve figured they would point that out first. Of course this part you heard about on the podcast. Here, let me just say that Superman would’ve been the first to point this out. Any official of a government knows that any superheroes are generally under the sanctions on their own moral code. If Wonder Woman had of been hovering there and he made such a statement, without getting overly technical, the claim of an act of war from Themyscira (Paradise Island for those not in the know) I couldn’t understood. She’d have put that down before it got that bad, but at least she’s a know foreign dignitary. Stupidity of writing or villain still apply afterwards. No government official has any right to yell at him for following his conscience. There are civilians all over the world that do it. Yes, he’s more than just a civilian. However, it’s well within his rights to stand there in moral support of a peaceful cause and always good to be on hand should things get rowdy. If anything, it should be look at as a positive.

Citizen of the world: Superman has always been a citizen of the world. If people needed help, he’s never turned a blind eye to them, no matter where they were. However, there are certain places he doesn’t go, and certain things he won’t do. The above situation fits into this in respect that he knew that there could, and likely would, be consequences. He wants to make sure that innocents aren’t harmed as a result. That’s a distinct possibility in which is run. Peaceful demonstration, he’s taking his shot that no one’s going to come out of their skins to kill the group. As mentioned before; he’s there just in case that changes. Regardless, no country or person has ever been turned down by him if he could help it. That’s what Superman does. Having said this, it’s also noteworthy to mention that he’s always known that once the mission is over he knows he has a place to come home. He’s got a life as Clark Kent in Metropolis and in Smallville. A nice step away from the superhero world that takes it’s cues from his actions. Renouncing his citizenship in one aspect of his life makes the other more difficult to deal with.

Citizen of the U.S.: Superman’s the ultimate in immigrants. In his superhero identity, he’s the man from Krypton that has fought for Truth, Justice, and the American way. The lie he tells is that those closest to him won’t get hurt by those that would seek to strike at his heart. So in those moments when he needs to step into the normal life, he becomes Clark Kent. Clark is your average joe that enjoys a little music, a good book, a movie or just spending time with friends and family. He was raised in Kansas by two loving adopted parents who accepted that he wasn’t from anywhere near their farm. Clark Kent has always been accepted as a U.S. citizen. Superman, well that’s the in-joke people love to tell me. With Obama having to prove his birth was in Hawaii, they want to see the same done for Superman. I’m not laughing at this. It’s not at all funny to me. He defends the rights and freedoms of all citizens as Jonathan and Martha Kent taught him to. He does things in that Big Blue Boy Scout way because that’s how he was raised to be. Superman was accepted into the U.S. openly because he defended these ideals freely and asked for nothing in return. He didn’t come to live off of the tax dollars of the people. He didn’t sit around and steal cash from the government as so many other have. He’s done what every hard working immigrant that has ever come to American has done. He’s shown why this country accepts the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses yearning to be free; it’s to become a productive citizen that gives them and others opportunities to make this nation great. That’s something that most of us Americans have forgotten.

Unaccepted: To bring these types of politics into comics demands that they play this out further. Someone made a statement to me that if I didn’t like politics in my comics, then I shouldn’t ask for them. True statement, but I’m not the one that brought this issue into play. No one has seemed to consider that while Superman may go the U.N. and tell them he’s a citizen of the world, the world may not want him poking around in their business. If you play in the political arena like this, unfortunately it will bite you. Take for instance that Clark Kent may still be a citizen and enjoy the freedoms given to him, but as Superman there’s a more than fair chance that no law agency on any level will accept his help. He’s a loose cannon now. He’s saying that where the fights going to take him, he’s going to go. That’s all fine and well, but the very same repercussions he’s looking to avoid are going to blitzkrieg toward him at his own speed. You cannot force people to accept what they don’t want. Not everyone wants a Superman. Sad to say, but it’s true. In order that he might help the world out, he will have to rid the world of the problems it currently faces. Why will he have to go that far? Well, as I said, the country that’s allow him to stay so long as a symbol of hope and America has now been told that’s he’s out. Sure, he meant only that he wasn’t going to further blister their rep, but any given politician hears what they want to hear. Ideally, they nod and agree to it with a full understanding. Welcome to today. A celebrity takes their dog into a liquor store and it creates some sort of scandal.

Symbolism: The above mentioned example of celebrity scandal is exactly the sort of thing that people follow these days. I am reminded of the Green Goblin from the first Spider-Man movie who told the hero that the public just wants to see the hero fall. We follow Lindsay Lohan like she was on tour with the Grateful Dead. Yet when it comes to symbols of patriotism, we hide behind blurbs saying that we haven’t got anything to be proud of. As a comic character, Superman has been one of (if not) the best propaganda machines ever devised. No matter the metamorphosis he’s been through, he’s managed to remain this icon of what everyone hopes to aspire to. We reach for the stars, not grab the grass! That’s ludicrous! He’s a symbol of the American Dream. He comes here as an orphan from another place, grows up and lives the clean life. He gives all he can and enjoys the life as a private citizen as well. This is what it means to be a hero. George Reeves understood that when he played Superman in the ’50s ’Adventures of Superman’ series. He didn’t smoke or drink in public because of what it might do the loyal children viewers.

That’s something that should be addressed as far as symbolism in concerned. As an adult, I can appreciate nuances of what is going on in a story. There are things I tear apart for being out of touch with what the character means and give credit when it did find those moments. Most children don’t have that sort of understanding. Their minds don’t grasp that a character’s doing something because it might do harm to something else. Children I’ve met take a literal translation to things. Superman is saying that America isn’t for him anymore, so we don’t have to like it either. That’s the sort of thing that can damage a kid. The parents bought their kid a ’funny book.’ They weren’t paying attention to the real meaning of the story behind it. If the parent were a fanboy, maybe they did. However, I’ve met enough parents who buy books like that because they don’t think it’ll have anything outside of some goofy guy in blue and red tights fighting Lex Luthor. Real world issues never come into play. Yeah, right…

I can’t imagine what it was like back in the ’50s when headlines read that George Reeves shot himself. Whether or not you believe that he did, that’s what the official word was at the time as I’ve understood it. How many kids were demoralized during that? Superman killed himself? That’s unheard of! This sort of thing is beyond reproach, but the character himself seemingly bounced back. I’m glad he did, because I got to enjoy his many stories. Christopher Reeve was MY Superman. The one that made me believe that a man could fly. An inheritor of the legacy.

Legacy: This is my last topic point on this. A character like this has a long standing legacy. Actors, writers, and artists all inherit as they come to a project. Their face or name may be was is recognized as being a part of the franchise for years to come. DC Comics and Warner Brothers have proven in more than one way that they no longer care for this legacy as they once did. It’s been replaced with a sentiment of do what we can to shake up controversy to sell books. That’s always been a standing policy, but that has got to be tempered with purpose. What people will remember always begins right now. People don’t see Superman as the relevant character he once was. Renouncing his citizenship doesn’t help that matter. It means that now he’s got an international audience who wants to see how DC will screw this one up and worse yet; they’re waiting to see how this translates to the new film. However, to most of the world, he’s just another stupid comic book character. It doesn’t matter to them why he did it. Some people it’s all about turning his back on America. To others, it’s listening to whiny fanboys rant about another matter loudly. To me, it’s about allowing a character to grow in a way that’s not detrimental to the 73 year legacy that’s been established. He’s been through World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Kennedy’s Assassination, Nixon, the Iron Curtain, the Gulf War, countless injustices, 9/11, and the start of our War on Terror and then Iraq. Now he’s decided all of a sudden that he can’t be effective if people thinks he’s part of our nation. The writer never thought about the full ramifications of that., but that’s David Goyer for you.

To end this, I just want to say that I’m not surprised that people don’t care nearly as much as I do about this. Parents don’t like fictitious people being role-models for their kids, because they feel it won’t allow a child to live in reality. To me, it gives a child the chance to dream big. If we don’t have dreams, we aspire to nothing. We live in a world where we hope someone else will bring change. What we get are heroes that people find out aren’t really heroes to begin with. Take some, AND NOT ALL (just to keep sports fans off my back), sports athletes. Kids looks up to them all the time. Then we find out that these guys have been pounding steroids like Red Bulls. They chew which kids emulate. They get into all sorts of trouble off the field and show their darker sides. You don’t get to hear too much about the ones that actually try. There are some notable exceptions to that rule, but these days it’s more the bad boys of sports. If my choice is Michael Vick or Superman. Gimme Superman. Emmett Smith, from what I’ve read seems to be a good sports role-model. Still, Vick’s name usually sticks all over the news in one form or another.

Regardless, these are just thoughts from this fanboy. I believe in the power of Superman in and outside of comics. It’s up to you to decide how you feel.