Osama bin Laden Dead: Was ACTION #900 a Case of Bad Timing?

20 Random Thoughts on ACTION COMICS 900

In the media, timing is everything.

And with Americans cheering the triumph of good over evil with Osama Bin Laden's death, Superman's move to distance himself from the "American way" comes at a really bad time.

"Great timing, Superman," wrote one Hollywood blogger this morning, commenting on Bin Laden's death. "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

"I guess Superman won't be celebrating with the American people and military today," said another.

This isn't the first evidence of ill timing for Superman. Last week, just after President Barack Obama produced his birth certificate to counter questions about whether he's an American citizen, Superman announced that he would renounce his U.S. citizenship. The juxtaposition of the two events created the type of contrast the media loves, and several national news organizations picked up the story.

The declaration may have been made in a relatively small, nine-page story that was tucked into an Action Comics issue nearly 100 pages long. But Superman's rejection of his former loyal patriotism aroused a debate about whether the American way represents good against evil anymore. At the height of the controversy, even Mike Huckabee weighed in, questioning Superman's new change of heart.

The timing of last week's comic was one thing, but today, with the announcement last night that Osama Bin Laden has been killed, the thought of an iconic superhero like Superman distancing himself from America smacks of another odd contrast.

Americans are celebrating Bin Laden's death, both on the streets and across social media, complete with waving U.S. flags and patriotic slogans. The nation today has a clear idea of "evil."  And the American way appears to have prevailed on the side of good.

But instead of echoing the nation's current feeling of moral clarity, Superman is flying in the opposite direction.

That doesn't sit so well with many political watchers. 

"When did our flag- waving, crime-fighting superheroes become a bunch of Muslim-friendly, politically correct, US-bashing weasels?" columnist Andrea Peyser wrote today in the New York Post.

In response to all the attention, DC released a statement on Thursday from co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio, saying Superman "embodies the best of the American way."

"Superman is a visitor from a distant planet who has long embraced American values," they said. "As a character and an icon, he embodies the best of the American way. And though Superman will 'put a global focus on his never ending battle,' he remains, as always, committed to his adopted home and his roots as a Kansas farm boy from Smallville."

Yet the fact remains that, in last week's Action Comics #900, Superman said the American way isn't "enough anymore," stating that he planned to appear before the United Nations and inform the world that he's renouncing his U.S. citizenship.

This isn't the first time the political stance of superheroes has been questioned in the media. Last year, Captain America #602 caused a bit of an uproar when an association was implied between an evil fictional group and the Tea Party political movement.

And last year, the Los Angeles Times questioned a statement from Joe Johnston, the director of this summer's Captain America: The First Avenger. "We're sort of putting a slightly different spin on Steve Rogers," Johnston said during Comic-Con International in San Diego. "He's a guy that wants to serve his country, but he's not a flag waver.

“And it’s also the idea that this is not about America so much as it is about the spirit of doing the right thing,” the director said. “It’s an international cast and an international story. It’s about what makes America great and what make the rest of the world great too.”

This global friendly move by superhero movies and comics might sell well oversees, but will it resonate with readers in America? Now that the U.S. is celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden, which message reflects the culture? Does the American public want Captain America and Superman to be "flag wavers?" Or globally concerned superheroes that distance themselves from the U.S.?

That remains to be seen. But the response on most blogs and columns over the last week make it clear that the political world is not happy to hear that Superman will renounce his U.S. citizenship.

"I thought it was a well-intentioned but, through no one's fault, badly timed message," former Superman writer Mark Waid told the comicbookmovie fansite.

Bad timing indeed. But then again, some retailers are reporting "brisk" sales for Action Comics #900. So maybe bad timing isn't so bad after all.

DC Comics also may have the opportunity to reverse or erase Superman's new stance on his citizenship in the coming months. A DC Comics line-wide event "Flashpoint" kicks off in just 9 days. That series, which introduces an alternate version of the DC Comics world when a supervillain goes back in time and alters the past, may leave DC’s fictional universe dramatically changed at the conclusion of the storyline. DC could in theory restore Superman’s status as a U.S. citizen and his views as to his place in world affairs in the now post-Bid Laden world.

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