Life has been rather crazy around here the last several weeks, hence the lack of posts. I hadn’t been planning to post today, but something interesting popped up in my Twitter feed this morning. It seems that Superman has, at least for the moment, decided to renounce his United States citizenship. This has apparently come about because the Big Blue Boyscout showed up in the Middle East to support protesters in Tehran, and the Iranian government decides that the presence of Supes, being the running dog of America that he is, decides that this is an act of war. The US government gets grumpy with Supes as a result, and he tells them to fuck right off. Okay, he doesn’t tell them to fuck right off, he’s not Batman after all. But he does announce his intention to publicly renounce his American citizenship because “‘Truth, Justice, and the American Way’ — it’s not enough anymore.”
My first question is why he didn’t do this when his archenemy was elected president? I mean if there’s a time for you to divorce yourself from being seen as an instrument of US policy, Supes, it’s when Lex Luthor is the guy running the country.
I should also admit that other than that first question my initial response was to shrug and say, “meh.” I’ve never been big on Supes. He’s a difficult character to write for, and even otherwise good writers often have a difficult time pulling it off on a consistent basis, and that’s even before factoring in the editorial oversight and demands that go hand-in-hand with working on one of DC’s primary breadwinners. So there was no kneejerk fanboy reaction on my part… and there probably wouldn’t have been this post at all if it wasn’t for the kneejerk reaction of various fanboys.
While they were by no means the majority of the comments I read, there were the expected comments about this being a “plot” by America-hating liberals etc. Also the usual comments about how comics shouldn’t be political, and why isn’t Superman punching bank robbers in the head, bitch, whine, cry.
Given that one of the tasks of this blog is to articulate comicbooks as loci for philosophic engagement (that’s the fancy philosopher way of saying “you can learn philosophy from comicbooks even if you’ve never read a philosophy text in your life”), I’ve pretty much no sympathy for those individuals who want comicbooks to be nothing more than mindless entertainment. Actually, I generally have no sympathy for people who want mindless entertainment in general. More to the point, these people have been wrong for a long time now… actually barring a brief period in the “Silver Age,” I’m not sure they were ever right. Comicbooks have long been a venue for political and social messages, some of them rather offensive (if you don’t believe me go and actually read some of the stuff from the early days of comics; not only was Batman a killy fucker, but racist stereotypes were abundant).
As for the people claiming that we are entering the age of Anarcholiberalcommucapitalatheofascist Superman, I have the following to say: bwa ha ha ha! I mean really, folks, really? First, there’s not the slightest indication that Superman is going to behave at all differently, with the exception that he would no longer be operating under the stricture that he is a symbol of one particular nation and its policies. Second, even if he was criticizing America with this action when, exactly, did that become un-patriotic?
The United States has, quite frankly, been involved in some shitheel antics in the past (a history of racism and misogyny, being the only country to actually employ atomic weaponry, etc.). As far as that goes it’s involved in some shitheel antics right now (nonsense about Planned Parenthood, continued engagement in immoral military actions, not instantly speaking out in support of people protesting for liberty, and any number of other offenses spring to mind). Yet if we question this behavior we are accused of being un-American. Last time I checked, folks, stifling dissent, particularly when valid critiques are being made, is pretty much the opposite of what being a “free” society is supposed to be about. I, for one, would cheer if the reason Supes was giving up his citizenship was in public protest of the way America consistently violates the very ideals it claims to uphold. Of course as someone who has suckled at the teat of Nietzsche I’m a big believer that, “He serves the state best who opposes the state most,” and as always I’m not talking about nonsense like demanding to see an elected president’s birth certificate (and it doesn’t matter if I agree with his policies or not).
Of course DC is unlikely to do anything so interesting with the character. That would likely alienate the people doing all the whining, and might hurt their bottom line a little too much. Which is a shame, really, because doing something like having Superman actually start to stand for the values he claims he stands for, and in doing so challenge a status quo that frequently only pays lip service to those values, might actually be enough to get me to read Superman titles on a regular basis again.